In Ken Oppel’s Starclimber, Matt Cruse goes to the next level of aeronautics: space. Invited to train for a scientific expedition on the Starclimber, he takes up the offer in a second. (The pay would easily fund his final years at the airship academy.)

Longtime…acquaintance Kate de Vries is invited as well, to go as one of the two zoologists. She makes up her mind to change her parents’ one way or another.

The Starclimber isn’t exactly what Cruse is expecting. Rather than being a self-lifting craft, it is a space elevator, similar to the ones imagined by science fiction authors like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. A cable runs between the Earth and a counterweight launched into space, held taught by the Earth’s centripetal force. The Starclimber ascends the cable like an elevator of sorts.

As the Canadians climb past the reaches of the Earth, France’s ill-fated attempt at reaching the stars collapses and fails miserably, falling to Paris in a great explosion. Will the Starclimber meet a similar fate, be it from accident or sabotage?

Starclimber is a worthy addition to the Airborn series, though I’m not sure if I like it quite as much as Skybreaker.