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Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (audio)

Unabridged audio book on 6 compact discs, 6 hours, 59 minutes. Read by the author. Scholastic Audio, 2010.

In the London of the future, lives a fourteen-year-old orphan named Fever Crumb. She has the privilege of being the only female member of the Order of Engineers because she was adopted by Dr. Crumb, who found her in a marsh. He decided that the only rational thing to do was to bring her back to Godshawk's Head. Head? Yes, head. It was part of an enormous unfinished statue of Oric Godshawk. Godshawk was the leader of the Scriveners, the ruthless race of "homo superiors" who lived well off the labors of lowly homo sapiens. Those lowly homo sapiens revolted and overthrew the Scriveners and in the rioting and looting that ensued, the Order of Engineers were displaced and the head was the most logical place to settle. 

Fever's services have been requested by an archaeologist named Kit Solent and she's both thrilled and terrified (although both emotions are completely irrational) to travel outside of the head and do her own work. She gets lost along the way though, and her shaved head and mismatched eyes are viewed with suspicion by the residents of this rough neighborhood. She's rescued in the nick of time by Kit, but she's marked and soon there is a skinner on her trail. Skinners are the heroes of the uprising, having effectively eliminated the Scriveners. 

Kit is welcoming. He introduces Fever to his young family and tries to make her feel at home. Fever feels uncomfortable because all this family stuff is new to her and, well, quite irrational. She's really eager to begin work. But when she does, curious, totally irrational memories nearly overwhelm her. But she doesn't have time to sort things out calmly and rationally because events are about to spin out of control and Fever is in the middle of it all.

There's plenty of action and suspense in this, um, I was about to write page-turner, except that I read this one with my ears. The world-building is quite vivd. Although the London of the future feels a bit Dickensian and Medieval, what with a return of Guilds and apprenticeships. Technology has become quaint; relics that are studied by dusty intellectuals, archaeologist and people called "technomancers." I also found myself utterly entertained and occasionally laughing out loud by the "cursing" and the word-play. But, there is violence in this world where the oppressed now rule with as much an uncompromising worldview as the Scriveners. The racial hatred spewed by both sides is chilling. 

The story is not just plot-driven. The characters are memorable from the endearingly imperfect, Fever and Dr. Crumb, to the hiss-worthy.  Kit Solent was intriguingly ambiguous. His experience still sticks with me as I write this review a week after finishing the book.  I expect it will for some time to come because Reeve drops quite a few moral dilemmas into this story. No solutions, mind you, but eerily familiar.

The performance by the author was terrific. Not many authors read their work well. Reeve managed to keep an objective distance. The humor is understated. He let it speak for itself. When the action became intense, he changed the pace without letting the material get away from him. There were no distractions, such as overly long pauses between tracks, changes in quality or vocal tics/ breaths or the like. 

Of course, this was another title that had been languishing on The Monster until I came across it on audio. Two good things came out of waiting and reading with my ears: first, the audiobook has some bonus materials. Reeve read a chapter that was edited out of the finished book. I could see why, but at the same time, I really enjoyed the glimpse that it provided into the rest of the Order of Engineers. Then Reeve spoke a bit about Fever and the series, which is always interesting. I am assuming that these are not included in the book. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I don't have a copy handy.

Secondly, I don't have to wait very long for the next installment, Fever Crumb: A Web of Air, which is due out on October 1. I see that the audiobook is releasing on the same date. Philip Reeve has a way cool web site, which includes a neat trailer for Web of Air on the home page. I'm a bit confused though, because it has a different release date at the end of it. Such is the world of publishing sometimes.

Lastly, some thoughts on the covers: oops, not now - LiveJournal has gone wonky - again. Maybe I will try again later. It won't allow me to upload my photos. LJ seems to be rather glitchy lately.