Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Cover image for The Boundless
William Everett's father works on the Canadian Transcontinental Rail Road and William happens to be in the right place at the right time so he is able to be the one to nail in the last spike.  Three years later William's father has risen to the position of head engineer on a new super train, the Boundless, and William gets to be on the maiden voyage.  William gets tangled up with a group of thieves that are trying to rob the train and finds himself at the very end of the 7 mile long, 6000 car train in the caboose car.  The rest of the book, he is making his way toward the the front of the train, trying to evade the cutthroat thieves that are trying to stop him and get the key to the treasure car that he happens to have in his pocket. Along the way William seeks help from a group of circus performers, including a lovely and talented young tight rope walker, and the mysterious circus owner Mr. Dorian.

Everything in this book is larger than life.  The train is longer, taller, and more amazing than any train in real life. The circus performers are more skilled and magical than any could be.  Creatures from Canadian folklore are real in this book, including the Sasquatch, the bog hag and others. Even the Canadian landscape, though based in real places and geological formations, is super sized and fantastical.  There is a theme running through the book of what is real, and what is not.  Several times the main character discovers that things he thought were folk tales are real, so that by the end he, and the reader, are not sure what to believe or not believe. The plot is tightly crafted, and the characters are interesting and complex.  It is action packed and unpredictable.  There was quite a bit of fighting but very little death, "on screen".  People get thrown off the train, and the reader doesn't know if they died or not, for example.  I was a little disappointed at the end, therefore, when someone gets their head pulled off by a Sasquatch.  I didn't think that was necessary. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to those who like action/adventure. (332 p)

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