Youngviator Matt Cruse jumps at the chance to be one of the first men to travel into outer space, and his sweetheart, Kate De Vries, expert on high-altitude lifeforms, is set to go on the voyage too. But just before they set out, Kate reveals that she is engaged, and not to Matt.
Kate is somewhat manipulative and lies to her parents. Matt brushes someone else aside to get ahead, but the implications of this are explored.
A prayer to God is said over a dead comrade. There is a terrorist faction called Babelites who are set against both the Starclimber and a structure in Paris called the celestial tower, citing their similarities to the Biblical Tower of Babel
Some character death, guns, bombings and bomb threats.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Drinking and smoking. Drunkenness causes one character to behave foolishly and injure himself. One character gives up smoking to make himself more competitive, though Matt jokes about taking it up when his smoking friend beats him in an obstacle course.
Matt say he has trouble "keeping his hands off" Kate at one point. There is kissing.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
B*****ks. D**n. Bl**dy h**l. There's also a somewhat crude play on words that younger readers will probably miss. A rather rude monkey propels himself through zero gravity through gas, urinates in someone's soup, and throws excrement. Matt is called upon to help extricate a man whose posterior has gotten stuck in one of the space toilets.
Despite a tendency toward bodily humor, Starclimber is a diverting follow up to Oppel's previous works, "Airborn" and "Skybreaker". Though by no means free of flaws, Matt Cruse is an admirable hero in the tradition of Jim Hawkins (though older), and readers who liked the gentlemanly Captain Walden of Airborn's airship Aurora will be pleased to see him return to the helm for the Starclimber's maiden voyage.