Monday, October 13, 2014

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

I have the habit of choosing books based on the title and the cover. I rarely take the time to read the back cover or inside flap blurb. One reason is because I'm usually in a hurry when I stop at the library, and another reason is because I think it's interesting to be surprised by what's inside.

The Boundless was certainly a surprise of the most pleasant kind. The cover does reveal a number of interesting bits. It depicts a train traveling through a snowy darkness, with a full moon shining in the distance. What's interesting about the train is the mammoth size of it. The cars are double-decker, and the engine has three levels to it. I'm pretty sure I've never seen a train quite that large. Additionally, the silhouettes of two figures are leaping across the tops of these double-decker train cars. Those details give me a clue that something interesting is happening here.

Next we have the addition of a key. Keys are always fun. They indicate numerous possibilities. Perhaps there is a treasure hidden away. Or a secret car or compartment somewhere on the train. And I've read enough to know that sometimes whatever is secreted away behind that key is not the surprise we are expecting. Or, it could be a different type of key. After all, the figures jumping the car roofs are a boy and a girl. The key may signify something about their relationship. Keys are fun.

But, when you look closely at the cover, there's something else to grab your attention. Scattered throughout this dark, snowy landscape surrounding the train are eyes. Hmmm. There's no way to tell if these are friendly eyes are those of potential enemies. The combination of all these details was enough to convince me I wanted to read this book. When I began reading and discovered the main character's name was Will Everett - the same as one of my favorite uncles - I knew I had to find out what happened to that young boy.

I couldn't put it down. Even with all those clues right before my eyes, I was still unprepared for what I found inside this remarkable tale. A combination of adventure, murder mystery, science fiction, historical fiction, and steampunk. The action is non-stop, whether the main character is running for his life from the bad guys or the Sasquatch. And then there's the little matter of exactly WHO are the bad guys.

The tale is admittedly far-fetched, from the colossal size of the train, to the equally colossal characters. It was tempting to find myself scoffing. But the author bestows such lifelike traits into the characters that I found myself loving them and hating them so well that they became real to me.

The story involves a train's maiden voyage across Canada, carrying the remains of the man who made it all possible, along with a carload of treasure that instigates the train robbery and most of the adventure. Young Will becomes embroiled in the theft plot, and is determined to warn his father of the danger. Unfortunately, he's at one end of the train, and his father is miles away in the locomotive. Will faces many dangers, adventures, and conflicting emotions as he makes his way to his father.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the inclusion of Mr. Dorian, the owner of the circus that is traveling with the train and is heavily embroiled in the plot. I love the fact that the author uses that particular name. Have you ever read The Picture of Dorian Gray?

I liked this one, and highly recommend it for those who love never-ending tension. And I'm very pleased that the author managed to keep the reading clean throughout. There are some close calls as far as language goes, but he doesn't succumb to the growing popularity of vulgarity. Thank you for that, Mr. Oppel!


Cordelia Dinsmore


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