Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman, but her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way... taking them aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever. (from inside flap)

I have literally been reading Leviathan since the beginning of October. I read most of it, but then suddenly I had all these books for school and review that needed to be read. I put Leviathan aside until now, and just finished the last one hundred pages yesterday. I would not recommend doing this with any book, but luckily I was able to remember most of what was going on.

Leviathan is a really cool novel because it's steampunk and the first steampunk book I've ever read. For those who don't know, steampunk is historical fiction with futuristic elements, with an emphasis on machinery and industrial kinds of things. I also loved that this whole novel was an alternate World War I, with a lot of the historical facts the same, just the technology was totally different. Knowing a bit about WWI helps, but it's not necessary in order to understand Leviathan.

Scott Westerfeld is one of my favorite authors, and his ingenius creations continue to amaze me. In Leviathan, the British took the work of Charles Darwin and "fabricated" animals to help them in war. There are lizards that relay messages like telephones, and a giant airbeast that flies like a zeppelin. I was astounded by the creativity of this and loved the illustrations that helped me to picture these new animals. On the other hand, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians are kind of boring and just have really huge tanks that walk on two legs like a person would do. Still pretty cool, though.

I really enjoyed reading Leviathan because it was just so different from anything I've ever read before. The story, however, wasn't as exciting as I hoped. The novel also read a little like middle grade and think that this may be because the characters are a little younger, like fourteen or fifteen. The third person narration made it hard for me to actually get into the character's heads, too.

I'm not dying to read the sequel, Behemoth, but I am curious as to what happens with Deryn and Alek. I also really want to see what happens when Deryn reveals that she's actually a girl - that should make for some interesting moments. Regardless, fans of steampunk and alternate realities will definitely enjoy Leviathan.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: bought.

2009/Simon Pulse/440 pages.


Emily said...

This sounds absolutely fascinating!

Andi said...

I loved Leviathan! I've also read Behemoth and I actually thought it was better, so you should consider checking it out. Great review!

Anonymous said...

That's what made me buy it-the steampunk. I loved the plot of alternate history, and this book being a fiction versin of WWI was definitely cool. I think this review is very accurate. :]