Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
I love steampunk! It's just one of the coolest styles and art forms currently in existence with the unique and awesome ability to make the past the future and the future the past. This book is a great introduction to that idea. Set right at the start of World War I but each side equipped with technology far beyond its time, it's a great adventure with some great characters.
The story is of two young soldiers. Aleksander Ferdinand, son of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, and Deryn Sharp, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. Europe is divided into two separate and yet equally powerful groups, the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers, which make up the countries of Germany and Austria-Hungary use enormous technological creations made of steel and iron. Britain, France, and Italy, however, are Darwinists, who use machines made up of advanced living creatures (usually sea creatures) making airships and living weapons of the beasts. In the midst of the war between the two powers, Alek and Deryn find themselves fighting together in a bitter struggle for survival.
If you might not have gotten it from what I just told you, this is a very advanced and clever book. The designs and ideas behind these things are ingenious and very much the steampunk style. It is, however, a good thing this book comes with pictures because I had a heck of a time trying to figure out what these things looked like on my own (while I can deeply appreciate the art and style of steampunk, the mechanics of it are a little beyond my tiny brain). While most of the book reads fairly simply, the science is so advanced that some people just aren't going to get it. Makes it a bit harder to pinpoint the real target audience this book is going for. Still, just the idea that somebody could turn an honest-to-goodness living, breathing whale into an airship and have people live in and walk around inside it is just an amazing idea.
The characters in this book are also great to read about. Alek is strong-willed and a deeply-minded Clanker who believes that the Darwinist creations is blasphemy, yet he's young enough to be open minded and allow himself to be helped, even if it's by is supposed enemies. Deryn is also a great character, an excellent pilot who just wants a chance to prove herself, even if it means keeping a huge secret. She's often torn between what she wants to do and what a man would do in her position. She and Alek manage to become fast friends, despite the obvious differences, and make a good team that can make logical decisions in a time of crisis.
The plot it fast-paced and the book doesn't shy away from the fact that this is a war. People die and do not come back, brutal attacks take place, and our characters often face real peril. It doesn't reach Thin Executioner levels of "this is hopeless", but each moment is felt and you feel the rush of the on-going battle around our heroes. There's also just enough actual, historical fact in this book that people can learn from in. The moment Alek started talking about his parents going off to a parade I was like "Uh, oh. I know what that is." That's another fun thing about this book, you can go along with history and figure out what comes next and so forth. It all comes together in a great story full of science, action, intrigue, and friendship.
This was just a great book that any steampunk fan is going to enjoy. It's something for everyone and I'd say that it's absolutely worth your money at your local bookstore!
Did you read the book? What did you think? Are there any other good steampunk style stories out there? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next Time: Allons-y!