Jack Black discovers a plot to wreck his father’s airship but is swept overboard before he can warn anyone. Rescued by a passing ship, he must try to persuade the oddly reluctant captain and his mixed bag crew to help him warn his father, helped by Beryl Faversham the adventurous aviatrix and hindered by Gadfly who has only his own ends in mind.
A surprising throwback: an adventure story set in a determinedly undetermined time and place and peopled with traditional types with no apparent deference to modern sensibilities. It’s an era when to be a captain in the airship fleet is to be envied. An era when solo aviators (and aviatrixes) are heroes whom young lads like Jack worship from afar. An era when Russian engineers create mechanised warships which run amok and when the dastardly do everything to plot against the virtuous short of actually twirling moustaches.
The characters engage, and while several are effectively archetypes they have enough to them to make you want to follow their path. It’s Jack’s story, and he moves from being a naive youngster, longing for a trip on his father’s airship and building a newspaper-clipping shrine to daring airmen, to recognising that things are seldom what they seem and that “put yourself first” is not the best motto.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.