You'll have to forgive me, but I don't think I've ever gone from Adult to YA with an author before and its a fascinating transition. I'm not sure how many people who enjoy YA would also like Ian McDonald's adult books. There's an added value though in being aware of his earlier stuff when reading Planesrunner. I kept noticing things like how the nanoblade was reminiscent of the Q-blades of [b:Brasyl
269900], the street brawl that smelled faintly like a scene in [b:River of Gods
River of Gods
2440580]. Then there's the overall geekiness, the use of foreign slang, creating a whole new pop culture (the effort he puts into describing how the cool kids would dress in another universe is adorable to me), and of course use of multiple universes. McDonald has his go-to tropes, and somehow they never get old.There's also a lot of fresh stuff, like the steampunk aspects (or electropunk as Everett Singh mused, which reminded of when McDonald remarked in an interview that we've kind of gone overboard with the whole “-punk” thing), and the light-hearted youthful atmosphere. This is very much an action-adventure. It's quick, it's fun, and Everett's fast brain doesn't dwell too much on melancholic thoughts. He's the type of character that's alive with possibility. When he figures out what his father has asked him to do - venture alone into an alien universe, carrying an impossibly valuable piece of technology while being chased by a conspiratorial order lead by a blonde-haired demon in a pencil skirt, all to rescue him and protect the multiverse - I don't think it every occurs to him that he can't do it. He's a boy genius, an ace goalie and a damn good cook too. Why shouldn't he be able to save the world?In his adult works, McDonald doesn't waste time on exposition, and generally leaves his readers to their own devices in trying to figure out the futuristic slang, politics and cultural cues. Here, he takes a bit more time. For Everett, this is a whole new adventure, the same way it is for us as readers, so everything feels fresh and shiny, and you get to see Everett working at understanding this new world. You feel how exhilarated he is, and also how overwhelmed. McDonald's paints this new, zeppelin filled world with a patient and thorough brush, and the results are utterly engrossing.McDonald also lets Everett go on about his Punjabi roots, and I loved seeing that side of him, how important his heritage is. Diversity is always a big part of McDonald's books, and he doesn't take it for granted. He's not afraid to discuss how this new Earth that Everett lands on is divided racially, how Everett feels when he's kicked out of a restaurant because he looks Airish. It provides the texture of the setting, the reality and stakes, as well as giving the main character roots and depth.The prose is rich, but fast, and if you're not paying attention you'll miss some technical details. Perhaps it's because I don't think in three dimensions like Sen and the crew of the Everness, but I had a hard time picturing the inside of the airship that becomes Everett's home away from home. That only became a big deal towards the end when a lot of the action involved the ship and how it functioned, but I was able to keep up and still found it exciting, so I can't complain too much.What I think makes this stand out against other YA works is along with its fast pace and action, its also ridiculously well researched. It doesn't feel like swallowing a bag of marshmallows - tasty, but ultimately hollow, like a lot YA I read is - it's got substance and solid ground to stand on. More meat, less fat. Win, win.