Whoa, what an awesome ride of a book! I've been waiting for the 3rd book in Kenneth Oppel's Victorian steampunk tale of adventure in the skies for months, and it definately did not disappoint.
Matt Cruse, pilot-in-training at the Airship Academy, is spending the summer in Paris piloting an aerocrane helping to construct the Celestial Tower, an incredible tower that the French hope will be the first to space. Kate de Vries, zoologist extraordinaire (and the girl Matt hopes to marry), is also in Paris, where she hopes to exhibit the exotic aerozoan specimen (it's sort of an electric sky jellyfish) she and Matt discovered on their last voyage.
When the pair are asked to join a top-secret Canadian space expedition aboard the Starclimber, a brand-new type of ship, they are entranced by the idea being the first to journey to the 'heavenly ether.' Though, much to Matt's irritation, Kate is guaranteed a spot on board as a scientist to study the astral flora and fauna, he is asked to compete with 99 other young men for a spot as a pilot. For two weeks, he competes with test pilots, Olympic athletes, and even an underwater welder through a series of terrifying airborn and underwater tests. When he succeeds (but with a twist!), his euphoria is dampened by the fact that Kate has announced her engagement- to another man.
Will Matt and Kate make it to the heavens aboard the Starclimber? With terrorist threats, new and terrifying astral life forms, and seriously scary equipment failure at 25,000 miles above the surface of the Earth, the real problem may be making it home...
When you've got your heart rate back down to a normal level after this action-packed page-turner, check out Matt and Kate's other two adventures in the sky, Airborn and Skybreaker!
(now reading A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb)