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Oppel - Starclimber Coverart.png
Starclimber first edition cover.
Author Kenneth Oppel
Country Canada
Language English
Series Matt Cruse series
Genre Fantasy, Alternate history novel, Steampunk
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
August 26, 2008
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 356 pp (first edition)
ISBN 978-0-00-200745-0
OCLC 213525892
Preceded by Skybreaker

Starclimber is the third book in the Matt Cruse fantasy series, written by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel.

"-Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries go higher than ever when they take part in the very first expedition to outer space -- and the journey turns out to be even more thrilling, perilous, and deadly, than imagined.-" Kenneth Oppel

Plot summary[edit]

Matt Cruse is piloting an aerocrane for France's Celestial Tower where he narrowly survives a terrorist attack by the Babelites, a group of people who are opposed to humans reaching the heavens. After the incident, he meets with Kate de Vries, and is saddened to hear that Kate will soon return to Lionsgate City.

Canada's Minister of Air wants Canadians to be the first in space, and invites Kate to join the expedition as an expert in aerial zoology, while Matt is offered a chance to become one of the world's first astronauts on board the Starclimber. Matt decides to visit his mother and sisters. While he is there, he accepts a party invitation sent by Mr. and Mrs. de Vries. During the party, Matt is informed that Kate's parents will probably marry Kate to James Sanderson. Upon hearing this, Matt seeks out Mr. Sanderson during the party.

Matt is enrolled in the astralnaut program and becomes friends with fellow astralnaut trainee Tobias Blanchard. Three people are chosen to be the first astralnauts, but Matt is not amongst them. When he leaves the room, Kate follows him to try and cheer him up. When she takes his hands, Matt finds an engagement ring on her finger. Matt leaves, heartbroken, and goes to a bar with the rest of the rejected astralnauts-in-training. The other astralnauts tell him that he deserved to be chosen. The next morning, Captain Walken tells him that one of the men they chose broke his leg, and offers Matt a spot on the space trip as a replacement. Matt accepts, even though the thought of seeing Kate again is painful.

When the crew is at zero gravity, Tobias is chosen to be the first man in space. He is enthralled by the endless vista of space in front of him and threatens to unclip his harness, provoking Matt to rescue Tobias. That evening, they discover a problem in the cable that endangers the crew. They quickly come to the conclusion that the rocket that pulled the cable up did not reach the proper altitude because of a blown fuse. The team successfully relaunches the rocket, and Matt rescues Captain Walken along the way. Later on, they discover a new creature -which Kate names "etherian"- a limbless creature having baleen that moves by ejecting bursts of air from various holes in its body and emanates light like a firefly.

During the journey, Matt discovers a letter from James Sanderson to Kate, leading him to believe that Kate really is preparing to marry James. That night, he tells Tobias his feelings for Kate, hoping that he can help him with his troubles. Tobias suggests that Matt propose to Kate. When he does, Kate attempts to change the subject, only to provoke Matt into claiming that she is lying to him about breaking off her engagement with James Sanderson.

A few days after Matt's failed proposal, the Starclimber is homebound. However, unexpected astral barnacles are discovered on the cable. The cable snaps, Shepherd is killed, and the Starclimber is left drifting in space with no way to return to the surface. The remaining members of Starclimber are left in orbit around the earth when Matt develops a crude but brilliant brainstorm using an emergency oxygen tank as a propellant and using the toilets' flush mechanisms as maneuvering jets, giving the crew only one chance to reenter the atmosphere. The beginning launch is successful, but Captain Walken is knocked unconscious, and Matt and Tobias are left as the only members of Starclimber's crew who are able to pilot her. Together with Kate and Dr. Turgenev, the four manage to guide the Starclimber into the first stage of reentry. While they are falling, Kate throws away her engagement ring and confesses her love for Matt. However, Dr. Turgenev reveals that everyone already knew, adding that it was "painfully obvious". The Starclimber, after a turbulent fall, successfully lands in Cairo.

Kate receives a telegram from her mother, saying that James Sanderson had eloped with another woman. Once Kate and Matt are alone, she apologizes to him. Matt then proposes to her again, using Sanderson's engagement ring, and she accepts, though they both know that getting Kate's parents' consent will be difficult.

Real world people[edit]

Publication history[edit]

  • 2008, CAN, HarperCollins ISBN 978-0-00-200745-0, Pub date August 26, 2008, Hardback
  • 2009, US, Eos ISBN 978-0-06-085057-9, Pub date February 24, 2009, Hardback
  • 2009, UK, Faber & Faber, Pub date March 2009, paperback

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pantaleo, Sylvia (September 26, 2008). "CM Magazine: Starclimber". The Manitoba Library Association. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  • [1], HarperCollins (Canada) 2008; HarperCollins U.S. (Eos imprint); Faber & Faber (UK, Australia, New Zealand)