Sunday, 5 June 2011

Cloud World

Cloud World by David Cunningham was one of those random grabs from the library. I have to say, I was attracted by its cover, (it's by David Wyatt) which is really rather gorgeous and appeals to the ever present 'other worlds' fascination I've had since the age of five when I started school, was told to draw a picture, and drew aliens from another planet. I did think that this book might be YA fantasy and could be read for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge, but as I started to read I quickly realised it is in fact YA science fiction.

Marcus is fourteen and lives in Heliopolis. His father is the king which naturally means that Marcus is heir to the throne. His life is rather a lonely one. His father is away a lot and the two people he's closest to are Asperia, his tutor, and Titus, head of the army, who is training Marcus in everything to do with combat.

The city of Heliopolis is one of a number of citadel city states that exist above the clouds. The cities look out on a sea of cloud that is so dense that no one knows what lies beneath it. Those who have tried to find out have never returned.

The king's return from a state visit is long overdue. Eventually a messenger arrives to say that his ship was destroyed and plummeted into the clouds. It is not known how this happened. Two ships are sent to investigate with Marcus and Titus aboard one of them. There's not much hope but perhaps someone can be lowered down far enough to spot wreckage. Various ropes and pulleys are assembled but Titus, oddly, leaves Marcus's ship for their companion ship. The cage is lowered when suddenly the other ship opens fire and a battle ensues. The ship Marcus is on is damaged badly enough that it plummets from the skies, through the cloud layer, and into the sea below.

Just a few of the crew, including Marcus, survive and are washed ashore onto an alien landscape. Marcus is devastated at the betrayal of his close friend, Titus, and also still grieving for the loss of his father. As heir to the throne the survivors are wary of Marcus, unsure how they'll survive themselves let alone keep a prince alive. Marcus has a lot to prove. He must try to blend in with the crew, be as useful as possible, but most of all they must explore this place they've come to... and find a way to get home and reclaim Heliopolis.

Quite a little gem this one. I was most taken by the world building, fascinated by the idea of these cities above the clouds, interacting, warring, the heirarchy that exists etc. The mystery element - that they have no idea how they got there, why the cities were built *or* what lies beneath the clouds, is extremely intriguing. I personally love the mix of science fiction and mystery and it's well done here. Possibly I would have liked more about the other cities and the technology, as it appears they were all different. I can see that if this had been an adult science fiction book a wonderfully complicated and long series might have ensued that was imaginative and challenging. I think I might have liked that but as a YA book it works well and is not a problem.

Characterisation in the book is fine... but not brilliant by any means. You don't get a huge sense of who these people are and what makes them tick. Some male authors don't seem to go in for making their main characters well rounded people: the mix of good and bad that we all are is often not well represented. And other characters that I can't go into for fear of spoilers are a little cliched in my opinion: too black and white. I'm not sure if authors are told to write this way for children or what, but it does seem a shame not to write people as they really are.

All that said, I still enjoyed this book very much. It's very imaginative and the final chapters, which obviously I can't describe, had me on the edge of my seat they were so full of suspense and excitment. This is a two book series so there is a sequel - Cloud World at War. Annoyingly, Devon libraries doesn't have a copy anywhere in the county. Did I enjoy this book enough to buy the sequel? Yes, I think I probably did... although I might try putting in a request to my library to actually get book 2 first.



DesLily said...

that sounds like a sci fi fantasy and should count! But either way at least you liked it!! I can't even imagine getting books from the library and have my tbr pile go down, when as it is I always read what I have here and my tbr just keeps growing! Now up to 148!!!!

I did something out of my comfort zone and read a few short stories and then wrote it all up as my "final" post for OUaT.. so now that waits for June 20 to post lol.. I think I am ready for something other than fantasy..I did 10 bks so that's not too bad.

animewookie said...

Oooo darn! Drives me crazy when I can't get a sequel. I tend to read much faster when books get suspenseful....and stay awake reading much later then I Glad you enjoyed it

Cath said...

Pat: Indecisive as usual I just can't decide whether to use it as a OUaT book or not. lol

Yeah, I was ready for something different too so have just started a mystery set in 1920s Cape Cod. I think I've done 6 books for OUaT and will maybe try to read one more if I can fit it in. You've done really well at 10 books!

Kelly: I was well over halfway through when I realised the sequel was not available at the library. My fault... I usually check before I start.

Yeah... I know that feeling of reading later and later into the night because you can't put a book down. lol.

DesLily said...

too funny... you read books that take place in America and I like books that take place in old England! lol...

Cath said...

Pat: I know. lol. Your heart is obviously here in England and mine is over there! Like you said... too funny.

fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

There's the characters in your book, sat above the clouds, wondering what, if anything there is below them; whilst we down here on earth are busy wondering what there is out there above the clouds!! Maybe it's best that we just never know!

Interesting that you drew pictures of aliens from an early age. I'm afraid that I was still drawing houses and countryside scenes, from down here on earth!!

Cath said...

Yvonne: I'm the sort that *always* wants to know, especially when it comes to weird stuff. LOL.