The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon

SS Taylor's The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon is a fantastic YA novel that manages to hearken back to the golden age of kid-detective novels while still telling a thoroughly contemporary story. It's set in a strange, hybridized alternate world where computers arrived on the scene much later than they did in our timeline, and then, inexplicably (and mysteriously) failed, plunging the world into a dark age from which a kind of dictatorial dystopia has emerged.

The new dictatorship is based upon the "New Age of Exploration," a strange golden age in which new, unmapped and unsuspected lands are regularly discovered by explorers who find that the old, computer-generated maps are wrong, omitting vast lands. These lands are ripe with natural resources for plundering, and if the occasional indigenous population gets in the way, well, that's nothing a few jackboots can't take care of.

Kit, MK, and Zander are the children of Alexander West, a storied explorer who is missing and presumed dead. Though they are orphans, they have been left to fend for themselves in the rambling old house in the explorers-only neighborhood where they were raised. They scrape by on what little they were left, selling the family possessions for food.

But when Kit receives a mysterious book and it leads him to half a treasure map, the chase is on. The children's father has sent them on a kind of high-stakes scavenger hunt from beyond the grave, and the secret police and the establishment they represent are keely interested in the outcome, which may or may not be a treasure-trove of ancient Spanish gold.

The Expeditioners rollicks, twists, turns and chases through canyons and arroyos, along airships and gliders, through boxcars and crumbling mansions, and on the way the heroes uncover all sorts of fabulous mysteries through their own cunning and bravery. It is a thoroughly smashing read.

It's published by McSweeney's and as you'd suspect, it is therefore gorgeous. Lavishly illustrated, with amazing printed boards and endpapers as well as a gorgeous dustjacket, it hearkens back to the great illustrated novels of my parents' generation, but with all manner of up-to-date settings and scenarios and a million clever gadgets. Best of all, it ends with the promise of more volumes to come!

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon