Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

I read this one in a day, then loaned it to my 14 year old brother. He stumbled into the living room in the morning, blinking blearily, and demanded the next book. I was then forced to tell him that it was not written yet, which caused us both much sorrow. But we have pledged to wait for Behemoth, which we are already laying surmises about. “It’s the eggs! The eggs!” “No, the Emperor!” “There are no fabs in Constantinople, it’ll be smoky, right?” “Eggs!”

Which is to say that we enjoyed the book greatly.
I read the uglies/pretties/specials/extras series, by the same author, about a year ago. And I loved it. And a big part-that-I-loved of that series, I saw and loved in this first-book-of-a-series as well! (Those of you who have read both are staring at me and shaking your heads right now, and possibly quietly dialling the men in the little white coats. But I’m SERIOUSSSSS! *cough*) Anyways. Yes, there is a connector between a dystopian-future SciFi series featuring 16 – 18 year olds, and a Steampunk-WWI SciFi featuring 14 – 15 year olds. (Other than the SciFi thing and the teenager thing. Look, don’t be so picky! I have a point with this, I promise! And the point is…) It’s the world-building!
Truly phenomenal world building. I mean, jaw-dropping world-building, once you really think about it. A year later, I still use “happy-making” in conversation and -la as a pet-suffix. (Look, just read the Uglies series. You’ll thank me, and then you’ll understand.) Everything is thought out and gracefully used, from slang to hierarchies, and governments. It’s just GOOD.
I am clearly marvellously coherent. I must talk frequently, or something.
But yes. World-building, FABULOUS. Okay, how many of you people know the story of world war one? Show of hands…. Right. I didn’t really know the story of WWI until I was about fifteen, because I thought it was just a minor skirmish before WWII, and also there were no heroic children’s stories about people in danger being smuggled to safety. (ACRONYM, you guys. That’s, like. This is LITERALLY the book I tried to find by reading the entire historical fiction section in my library when I was fifteen. *incoherent flailing of joy*)
Ahem. Basic story of the Great War. WWI for Captain Dummy-Dumb. A minor Austrian-Hungarian noble is shot by rebels in Serbia, and the Austrian-Hungairian Empire declares war on Serbian in revenge. Then Russia springs to Serbia’s aid, and Germany to Austria-Hungary’s, and France to Russia’s, and the British Empire (we’re talking Sun-Never-Sets-On-The-British-Empire type of deal, a MAJOR world power) comes to the aid of France. Presto, the bloodiest war which we have stats on. I think 11% of all soldiers who went to war didn’t come back, not counting wounds and PTSD. The USA joins the brawl several years later, when it gets tired of having its peaceful commercial traffic selling supplies and Iron to Britain sunk by German U-boats. And after having the better part of a generation decimated, the world crawls away to lick its wounds and have fun with prohibition, and learns not to make treaties which say “if you go to war I’ll totally follow you, lol.”
There’s the history. Now for the ALTERNATE history. The period of time before the Great War was a time of spectacular scientific achievements. (Tis true in real life, too.) But as is their wont, certain countries and groups supported certain types of SCIENCE. The German/Austrian-Hungary block (Clankers) supported mechanical walkers and guns, and everybody else supported the fabrication of living weapons. (These people are the Darwinists.) There’s an awesome map about it here. Um, it did strain my belief a little bit at the beginning, to think that that level of science would be possible without the level of, say, electricity that is available today. But I was enjoying the book too much, so I just hit the I-Belive button and went with it. And I’m glad I did. ^_^
Oh yeah, and there’s a plot too. Gosh, I need to get these posts under control. TOO MUCH RAMBLING. Um, yes, Plot. Everybody is on the brink of war, but two kids in particular aren’t really noticing it. One of these is Deryn Sharp, who is determined to enroll in the British Air Service. She wants to fly, despite the seemingly prohibitive fact that she’s a girl. But a girl can fight and swear and spit with the best of them, Eh? Also, in a very different world, Prince Alek is learning tactics, fencing, languages and dignity from his tutors in Austria-Hungary. And then he’s woken up in the middle of the night by his fencing instructor, to run away in a walking tank, and rumours and treason are flying everywhere, while on the other side of the world Deryn is getting blown away as she’s strapped to a hydrogen-burping jellyfish.
I could go on about the plot, but really, it’d only spoil it for you. And you already want to read it, don’t you? Let me say again. Tank. Which Walks On Legs. With Machine Guns. also. Flying Jellyfish Used For Free-Ballooning. Nuff said. I gave it five stars out of five.

P.S. It has pictures in. See above picture of living air ship? You want more, don’t you? Yes you do. Go buy the book immediately, so you may own the pictures for your very own.


6 thoughts on “Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

  1. Yep, this book is good.

    Did you read the Afterword? He's all like YO IT'S STEAMPUNK in answer to your complain about the tech.

    And I really feel, more than ever, that you need to read His Majesty's Dragon.

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