Friday 22 September 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd September 2017 - "Black Light Express" by Philip Reeve and Ian McQue (Oxford Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week continues a series I've completely fallen head over heels in love with. The sizzlingly brilliant "Black Light Express" by Philip Reeve...
Those very kind folk at Oxford Children's Books have saved my mortal soul. Over the summer I put "Rail Head" by Philip Reeve on my holiday reading list, and became completely hooked on this book universe filled with amazing characters, stunning world-building and galaxy-spanning trains. It comes as no surprise to find that "Rail Head" has been shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017.

Introducing the street-thief character of Zen Starling, "Rail Head" had me rapt from page one and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next for Zen and Nova after the cataclysmic events of the first book.

Spoiler Alert: This review will talk about "Rail Head" a little bit, so if you're new to the series, skip to the end...!

"Black Light Express" is the action-packed follow up to "Rail Head" beginning where the last book left off, with the creation of an entirely new K-Gate and a train that becomes Zen and Nova's new rail-riding home. Zen, once a mere street thief but now an important cog in a galaxy-wide mystery that may completely change the universe is still unsure where his destiny lies. Nova, his Motorik companion, now realises that their feelings for each other are deeper than they thought. Though they are now reunited, they are still far from safety.

They're fugitives from forces who want justice and vengeance for the terrible atrocities that unfolded at the hands of Raven, a manipulative and charismatic terrorist hell-bent on shaking up the entire universe, challenging preconceptions about The Guardians - the mysterious beings responsible for the galaxy-spanning rail network.  Now Zen and Nova, the runaway star-crossed lovers discover that the artefact that wrought a new K-Gate may have massive and dangerous consequences for everyone.

"Black Light Express" ramps up the sci-fi smarts and the tension in equal measure, once again creating a breathtaking story that pushes all the right buttons for me. I absolutely love how Reeve steadily throttles up with each chapter, just like a speeding train, before slamming you right into the buffers with cataclysmic cliffhangers at every chapter end. Honestly, if nothing else, this book will shred your nerves to pieces, it's so flipping tense at times. I loved all the pop culture nods and references (particularly in some of the character names), Reeve definitely is one hell of a cool guy.

Anyone who has previously loved Philip Reeve's other amazing sci-fi series Mortal Engines will know what to expect as he expertly delivers yet another scintillating series that really does deserve massive success (and, hint hint to any movie execs out there, a damned fine movie deal just like Mortal Engines got!)

Tightly written, brilliantly imaginative, wholly original, and so utterly satisfying, once again it's an easy Book of the Week choice. Apologies if I sound a little over the top about this one, but so far this series just gets better and better.

(By the way, without spoiling too much, rest assured that Book 3 will be with us sometime next year, bringing this stunning series to a conclusion! I don't know whether to be happy or sad about that, I really don't want it to end!)

"Black Light Express" by Philip Reeve (with cover and inside illustrations by Ian McQue) is out now, published by Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review).