Airborn for Airship Lovers

Here is a link to the website for the young adult fiction ATL of Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Since I'm reading the book right now I can identify a few things that are different and luckily I read the interview with the author to figure out an important point.

The time is the early or mid 20th century, most likely the 1930-50s there is no indication of a Great War or Second World War yet. There appears to be a British Empire, know here as the Angleterre. There is mention of Kanada and the American colonies. The Aurora, the passenger airship upon which the story is set with 15 year old Matt Cruse as the hero, plies the airways between Sydney and Lionsgate City, OTL Vancouver.

The last bit, Lionsgate City, certainly had me guessing for a while, however its important to keep in mind that this AH is from a Canadian point of view.

http://www.airborn.ca

One can't help thinking about the world of Oswald Bastable in The Warlord of the Air.
 
Very interesting... There are a couple pretty subtle timeline hints if you read closely on that website.

-There is a city called New Amsterdam. This could mean a couple things- the English never grabbed the Dutch colony, or they never renamed it. But on the world map, the city is shown as New York. This could just be an error on the author's part, or it could mean New Amsterdam is a different place altogether.

-Another fact learned from the world map is that Istanbul is still called Constantinople. Surviving Ottomans?

All in all, it seems like an interesting book.
 
Pretty impressive site. I sometimes think newspapers such as shown on this site are the most efective way of conveying an alternate timeline. Much better than turgid dialog between boring characters. I might have to check one of the books out out and give it a read.
 
Mmmm...Airships and AH...drool...

Hmm, I also noticed on the map that, while Moscow is clearly labeled, St. Petersburg/Petrograd is not. This might mean something, or it might not. Won't know until I get a hold of it.

Looks like Oppel's going the pseudo-Edwardian route. Well, no one's ever lost money by doing that.
 
Just finished the book and have to say it was a very nice read. I've been reading so many books on Russian and Soviet battleships lately that this little young adult fiction book was a relief. I'm looking forward to the next book which is set in the same ATL. Very good descriptions of life aboard an airship.
 
tetsu-katana said:
There is a city called New Amsterdam. This could mean a couple things- the English never grabbed the Dutch colony, or they never renamed it. But on the world map, the city is shown as New York. This could just be an error on the author's part, or it could mean New Amsterdam is a different place altogether.
Well, there is a New Amsterdam in Guyana (that's the British Guyana). I've haven't seen it mentioned yet, so I'll refrain from further commenting until I finish the book.
 
Ivan Druzhkov said:
Well, there is a New Amsterdam in Guyana (that's the British Guyana). I've haven't seen it mentioned yet, so I'll refrain from further commenting until I finish the book.
There is a map of the world on the website. I think its shown over there.
 
Okay, I've finished the book. First off, I have to say it was a pretty good read. The plot clips along nicely, and the visuals are pretty impressive. Pirates, zeppelins, cryptozoology, and high adventure; there's something here for everyone.

Now, on to the AH...

Unfortunately, I can't determine the POD from the text. The English language seems to have a few odd variations, yet nothing completely out of recognition from OTL, save the UK being named "Angleterre" for some reason (oddly, the word "British" still exists).

Most major settlements in OTL are there too, though quite a few have archaic names (i.e. Tasmania is known as Van Dieman's Land, and Nuuk, Greenland is known as Godthab).

While I didn't glean much of their history, I noted that there was a "Great Immigration from Europe to North America about 15-20 years before the book starts, and that there is a artistic style known as "Depressionist" art. To me, this suggests that there may have been a war, but I can't draw any conslusions.

As for technology, I did find out that airships (no "zeppelin" in this TL) have been in service for about 50 years before the book starts. Furthermore, they have working ornithopters (flapping-wing aircraft), something I don't think we ever perfected. There appear to be no fixed-wing or rotored aircraft, and almost all technology seems to be pre-WW2 level. No cathode-ray tubed monitors or radar here.

There does seem to be a geological POD: there is a gas, known as "hydrium" that is used by the airships, chemical configuration unknown. It's found in underground vents, usually near volcanoes, and it is even more bouyant than hydrogen, but without any of the flammable properties. It doesn't a lot of refining to be used, and appears to be very common. We don't appear to have any hydrium on OTL's Earth. I doubt we could find an ounce of it in our universe.

Oh, and if anyone wants to work back the date of this story, an volcanic eruption of Mt. Mataurus occurs in the middle of the book. If we check the records, I think we could get a possible range of dates.

Well, that was certainly fun.
 
That's a cool website, and I have to like that the most luxurious accommodatiopn on the airship is the Topkapi Suite. Not exactly an Ottoman airship, but pretty close.

I do have to say that giant mirrors in the staterooms is not very realistic - very, very heavy. But let's not let minor quibbles get in the way. I will have to read this.
 
Ivan Druzhkov said:
Oh, and if anyone wants to work back the date of this story, an volcanic eruption of Mt. Mataurus occurs in the middle of the book. If we check the records, I think we could get a possible range of dates.
Scratch that. "Mt. Mataurus" doesn't appear to have that name in OTL; I don't know what mountain it actually is.
 
Abdul Hadi Pasha said:
That's a cool website, and I have to like that the most luxurious accommodatiopn on the airship is the Topkapi Suite. Not exactly an Ottoman airship, but pretty close.

I do have to say that giant mirrors in the staterooms is not very realistic - very, very heavy. But let's not let minor quibbles get in the way. I will have to read this.
You could have invented those plastic multilayer mirrors earlier. They have very little weight. It's not impossible. Can't say I know how to make them with steam technology, though.
 
I read this and enjoyed it very much - it's not often (actually, not ever) that you read a book that centers on a Zeppelin. I understand he's writing a sequel.
 
Ivan Druzhkov said:
There does seem to be a geological POD: there is a gas, known as "hydrium" that is used by the airships, chemical configuration unknown. It's found in underground vents, usually near volcanoes, and it is even more bouyant than hydrogen, but without any of the flammable properties. It doesn't a lot of refining to be used, and appears to be very common. We don't appear to have any hydrium on OTL's Earth. I doubt we could find an ounce of it in our universe.
Something more bouyant than hydrogen? It'd have to be chemically lighter than hydrogen... Hydrogen gas is two hydrogen atoms, so hydrium would have to be a single hydrogen atom (there can be no atoms lighter than hydrogen, which is a single proton/electron pair). In our universe, hydrogen is only stable as H2...

This would not be a geological POD but rather a chemical POD, starting at the beginning of the universe... and if H1 was stable that would have pretty profound impacts on organic life, what with no hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen would be a noble element... inert.
Willing suspension of disbelief would not be possible for me, though I suppose as young adult fiction it is reasonable. I would have enjoyed a book like that 10 years ago before I took chemistry.
 
Alright Mr Party Pooper, I don't have to be a chemist to know there's nothing lighter than hydrogen, but I still liked the book. Just pretend that hydrium is just what they call pure hydrogen instead of not quite pure hydrogen.

What does hydrogen smell like? In the book it had a mango smell, but I must admit I've never breathed it, not wanting to suffocate and all.

rewster said:
Something more bouyant than hydrogen? It'd have to be chemically lighter than hydrogen... Hydrogen gas is two hydrogen atoms, so hydrium would have to be a single hydrogen atom (there can be no atoms lighter than hydrogen, which is a single proton/electron pair). In our universe, hydrogen is only stable as H2...

This would not be a geological POD but rather a chemical POD, starting at the beginning of the universe... and if H1 was stable that would have pretty profound impacts on organic life, what with no hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen would be a noble element... inert.
Willing suspension of disbelief would not be possible for me, though I suppose as young adult fiction it is reasonable. I would have enjoyed a book like that 10 years ago before I took chemistry.
 
rewster said:
Something more bouyant than hydrogen? It'd have to be chemically lighter than hydrogen... Hydrogen gas is two hydrogen atoms, so hydrium would have to be a single hydrogen atom (there can be no atoms lighter than hydrogen, which is a single proton/electron pair). In our universe, hydrogen is only stable as H2...

This would not be a geological POD but rather a chemical POD, starting at the beginning of the universe... and if H1 was stable that would have pretty profound impacts on organic life, what with no hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen would be a noble element... inert.
Willing suspension of disbelief would not be possible for me, though I suppose as young adult fiction it is reasonable. I would have enjoyed a book like that 10 years ago before I took chemistry.

Well, Jules Verne had no trouble imagining a metal which blocked gravity and allowed flight to the moon. Personally, I have no problem enjoying fiction based on a physical impossibility, as long as it is internally consistent. Plus, it allows better airships!
 

Tielhard

Banned
Well not wanting to leave poop at a party and being boringly techie. Nothing is indeed lighter than hydrogen. Nothing is exactly what you use if you want an airship with a higher lifting capacity than an hydrogen airship. In other words you evacuate the envelope whilst keeping its volume constant. Unfortunately you need a completely different structural design as the whole thing has a one atmosphere pressure difference in the opposite direction to a traditional airship. Generally speaking most designs and proposed designs use advanced composites, engineering plastics and super plastic formed metals all high strength to weight so not something you could easily build with pre WWII technology.
 
I'm not sure ANY technology could produce a structure which is simultaneously strong enough to withstand the outside air pressure in a "vacuum ship" and also be light enough to be boyant.

How about some type of super-futuristic metallic or composite material which, at the molecular engineering level, is honeycombed with voids in which hydrogen or helium molecules are pesent at a 1 to 1 ratio wit the structural material. This structure is both strong and at least partly bouyed up by its own material, allowing much more structural strength and lifting capacity for airships (and HTA craft as well, I suppose).
 
zoomar said:
Well, Jules Verne had no trouble imagining a metal which blocked gravity and allowed flight to the moon. Personally, I have no problem enjoying fiction based on a physical impossibility, as long as it is internally consistent. Plus, it allows better airships!
Pardon me, but thats totally incorrect. Cavorite was a creation of H.G. Wells. Verne used the great cannon caste near Tampa, Florida.
 
David S Poepoe said:
Pardon me, but thats totally incorrect. Cavorite was a creation of H.G. Wells. Verne used the great cannon caste near Tampa, Florida.
D'oh! Ever since my "Classics Illustrated" days I couldn't keep those guys separate.
 

Tielhard

Banned
"I'm not sure ANY technology could produce a structure which is simultaneously strong enough to withstand the outside air pressure in a "vacuum ship" and also be light enough to be boyant."

's been done. Manned I have no idea but for models and autonomous vehicles.
 
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