After a murder is committed, Will finds himself in possession of a key that has the potential to unlock the train's hidden treasures. Together with Maren, a gifted escape artist, and Mr Dorian, a circus ringmaster with amazing abilities, Will must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead. With villains fast on his heels and strange creatures lurking outside the windows, the train hurtles across the country as Will flees for his life. His adventure may have begun without his knowing...but how it ends is now entirely up to Will.
The Boundless is published by David Fickling Books today in the UK, and I'm very happy to be part of this blog tour! I'm hoping to read it really soon (this week, fingers crossed) and I'm sure I'll like it!
Many thanks to Kenneth for writing this post for me!
The Boundless: An Introduction
by Kenneth Oppel
Every story begins with a spark, and for The Boundless it was simple: a boy witnesses a murder on a train and must get from the very back of the train to the front. But my train would be an eleven-kilometres long rolling city. And my heroes Will Everett and Maren Amberson have to travel through, below and across the shuddering, jolting top of this Titanic of trains. Imagining the train itself, with all its exciting little worlds, and intriguing people, and fascinating secrets, was my favourite part of writing this novel.
Embarking on its maiden voyage across the continent, The Boundless pulls over 900 cars and more than 6000 people. It carries tycoons and newly arrived immigrants, famous inventors and murderous charlatans. It contains opulent lounges and staterooms, a swimming pool, a cinema, a raucous saloon and a shooting range.
It pulls hundreds of freight cars -- and another eighty belonging to the world famous Zirkus Dante. Inside are acrobats (including Maren Amberson), giants, stilt-walking Siamese twins -- and other wonders of the world, including a sasquatch.
And right behind the massive locomotive is a funeral car containing the remains of the rail baron whose dying wish was to travel forever back and forth across the continent on the train and tracks he masterminded.
* * *
When I was growing up, stories always seemed to take place somewhere else. For me, it was usually England or the United States. Stories could happen in the English countryside, or London, or in New York City, or in Utah or in Mammoth Falls, Wisconsin, but they never seemed to happen much in Canada. It’s changed a lot now, but I still think, as Canadians, we’re not so great at telling our own stories. And especially mythologizing our stories so that they lodge in our memories and even psyches. I used to think history was boring. It had nothing to do with me. Over the years I’ve come across lots of amazing things about our country.
One of them was the building of the national railway. Canada is huge. It’s incredibly wide. Imagine building a railway from coast to coast. Truly, Canada might not have existed as we know it, without the railway. It stitched the country together. Not only that, the path of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) had a huge hand in deciding how the country was going to be settled and the where the major western cities would rise.
The building of the railway was a truly epic undertaking. Explorers and surveyors spent months and years finding the best routes. Then came making the road, and then laying the steel. They had to blast through the endless Precambrian rock of the Canadian Shield north of the Great Lakes.
And then there was the muskeg, hundreds of miles of it, land so boggy that ton after ton after ton of gravel fill just disappeared into its watery wastes, The muskeg ate gravel and steel. Whole trains were sucked into the depthless morass.
Then there were the trestle bridges to cross river valleys. And then came the Rockies. Work slowed down in the mountains. There were cliffs and gorges and avalanches, dynamite and blasting. There were terrible conditions for the workers, especially for the Chinese workers who were brought in and paid much less than the white men, and given the most dangerous jobs.
But they did it. Despite all the hardships and inequalities, the work was finished in 1885.
This was the real history of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and it was one of many inspirations for The Boundless. But as Will and Maren embark on their odyssey from the caboose to the locomotive, they encounter many fantastical things. In my world, for example, the sasquatch is as much a fact of the mountain landscape as a cougar or grizzly. The muskeg contains a mysterious hag who lures people off the train to their deaths. And there are time zones, just newly invented because of train travel (this is true) which seem to have curious effects whenever you cross through them. There is also, as I already mentioned, a travelling circus, whose ringmaster may or may not be a real magician -- and a painting, which may or may not have miraculous properties. I leave a fair amount up to you.
I won’t tell you much more about the booby-trapped funeral car, or the murderous brakemen who pursue Will and are intent on breaking into the funeral car.... there’s simply too much story to tell, and I’d rather you read the book.
I hope very much you enjoy its maiden journey!