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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Official Scott Westerfeld Website
Official Leviathan Page with trailer, excerpt, artwork and more
Order Leviathan HERE
See a (superb) Europe Map cca 1914 based on Leviathan


Introduction:
I have read about this book somewhere online some months ago and it strongly intrigued me despite its YA bent. When its trailer linked above appeared, I got hooked and once I read an excerpt and found the prose enjoyable, the book became a buy and read on publication. And I have to say that "Leviathan" delivered all that I expected and more, the only complaint is that I have to wait for the sequel which is now a big asap book of (hopefully) 2010.

Overview/Analysis:
In an alternate Earth cca 1914, where the Great Powers are separated in "Darwinist" and "Clankers" following the "real history" pattern, Charles Darwin discovered both evolution and DNA and he and his disciples learned to splice genes and create astounding animals that are now used in day to day life - will leave to the reader to find out more, but Leviathan of the title is just one of the superb creations of the novel.

On the continent, the German engineers built powerful machines and using the Darwinist inspiration for form and function, they built sort of mechanical analogues - kind of like a steampunk Star Wars kind.

When Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, his 16 year old son Alek becomes a hunted person and he tries to escape in a powerful "walker" with the help of loyal Count Volger and several retainers.

Young Deryn Sharp used to enjoy her "tomboy" life with her father, but when he dies in an accident, she seems destined to a "woman's fate" unless with the help of her older brother Jaspert, junior officer in the Royal Air Force, she will manage to become "Dylan" Sharp and get admitted as a "midshipman".

However at the middy trials, things do not go quite as expected, though "Dylan" keeps "his" head and manages to stay alive in a flying misadventure, only to be rescued over the Channel by Leviathan of the title; since "he" was brave and the rest of the exams are easy with "his" preparation - the flying part has always been the make or break - Dylan remains aboard Leviathan as a middy and later when the ship is sent on a grand mission, Dylan becomes ship guide, cabin "boy" and all around gopher (including "not-quite-dog" walker of pet Tezza) for mysterious scientist Nora Barlow who seems to command a lot of power and influence "despite being a woman".

And so the adventure begins and it's a non-stop page turner to the end, with great inventiveness and superb illustrations that accompany the text. Both main characters are plucky and endearing and their adventures will keep you turning the pages and wish for more. The plot so far is somewhat predictable but the inventiveness of the novel, the superb and clear prose style and of course, "Dylan" and Alek make "Leviathan" one of the best lighter sff novels of the year and one the big positive surprises of the year for me.

In many ways reading like one of the many superb Jules Verne novels that enhanced my childhood, but with prose, sensibilities and "inventions" reflecting our current 21st century, I highly, highly recommend "Leviathan".

4 comments:

The Reader said...

Hi Liviu

There's 1 wonderful illustration about the map of europe and the warring countries on WWI namely the Allied group & the Central Powers. I loved that quite a bit.
http://www.craphound.com/images/ententemap1914.jpg

Mihir

Liviu said...

I added the link before the review since yes that amp is superb and I did not quickly see it in the artwork linked in front of the review

For some examples of the superb artwork check that link

Cari said...

Leviathan sounds really interesting. I recently read a new fantasy book by John Brown called "Servant of a Dark God" that I really enjoyed. While it's not a "real history" novel, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes any SF/F books. You can get more information at http://johndbrown.com/novels/

Liviu said...

We have a dual review of Servant of a Dark God here:

http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2009/09/servant-of-dark-god-by-john-brown.html

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