A Jesuit priest experimenting with flying machines in Lisbon just after 1700 successfully demonstrated an operational model to the King of Portugal. In the hands of Azhar Abidi, this kernel of truth grows into a tale that blends fantasy with period science fiction.

Passarola Rising follows the priest, Bartolomeu Lourenco, and his younger brother Alexandre as they complete and test a full-size airship. The Inquisition tries to arrest them and destroy their ship, but they escape in it to the Versailles of Louis XV. Some of their subsequent adventures are scientific or military but others take them into stranger realms.

Abidi is a Pakistani-born Australian writer and this is his first novel. Its lyrical simplicity and uniqueness of vision make Passarola Rising a pleaure in its own right as well as an impressive debut.

Penguin, $24.95

Review added Jan 2008
(originally published July 2007)
Page updated June 2008