Twelve year old Arthur Mumby lives at Larklight with his older sister, Myrtle. They are Victorian children of the British Empire. Their mother is dead, their father is a mad scientist type and Larklight is no ordinary house; it floats in space, as a matter of fact, not far from the moon. When the house is invaded by huge spider creatures and their father captured and presumed dead, the children flee by way of an escape pod and end up on the moon. Here they run into all kinds of problems not least of which is being captured by a Potter moth and imprisoned in jars. Their rescue comes courtesy of Jack Havock, a teenage pirate, and his gang of weird and wonderful followers. He sweeps them away on his pirate vessel and they and up on Venus where Myrtle is captured by the spiders and whisked away to Mars. Although there's no love lost between Art and his sister, Art is desperate to rescue her and, oddly enough, so is Jack. Their quest takes them all over the solar system, into much swashbuckling danger, and Art eventually discovers the secret of his home, Larklight.
Philip Reeve has created a weird and wonderful alternate universe in this, the first of his Larklight trilogy. The setting is Victorian times but not as we know it. Space travel is possible and famous travellers of the age, such as Richard Burton, are space explorers not earthly ones. The moon, Mars, and Venus have all been colonised and the 'power' of the age is The British Empire.
This author also produced the Mortal Engine series for slightly older children, of which I've read two, and I wondered if there would be similarities. There are in the shape of um... not sure how to put this... the engineering, mechanical kind of feel to the books. In Mortal Engines, whole cities move around by way of amazing engines; in this series ships float through space by way of a 'chemical wedding'. It's all very imaginative and 'different' and I must say I like Philip Reeves's writing very much indeed, even if it's not really aimed at my age group! The style is very tongue-in-cheek; the two narrators, Art and Myrtle (by way of her diaries) are very Victorian in their speech and attitudes but there's a delightful dry wit on display. The book is beautifully illustrated by David Wyatt who, like Mr. Reeve, also lives here in Devon.
Two more books follow this, Starcross and Mothstorm and I'll definitely be reading those when I see them in the library.