Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I really enjoyed the first three books of the Uglies series by Mr. Westerfeld, so I was very excited to read another of his works. Though I really enjoyed the other books, I was a bit unsure about this one. Steampunk has a very different pace than other forms of science fiction and I wasn't sure if his writing style would translate well into the new genre. I have to admit, I picked this book up partly because he wrote it and partly because the book is so beautifully designed. I've converted to mostly reading e-books (I love the convenience and the savings.), but if publishers would create more bound books of this quality, I'd buy both versions instead of just one. The dust jacket, the map on the end covers, and the illustrations are brilliantly executed.

The story starts off with the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, who is survived by his 15 year old son Alek.This diverges from the history that we all know. Austria and it's allies are the Central Powers, Clankers, people that rely on mechanical technology. In fact, Alek is awoke in the middle of the night by his father's loyal retainers. He thinks they are going on a night training exercise since his mother is out of town and does not approve, when in reality his parents are already dead. Alek is on the run from his own countrymen as well as his country's enemies.

Deryn Sharp is a young girl pretending to be a boy, Dylan, in order to enter the British Air Service. Britain is a part of the Entente Powers, aka the Darwinists. The Darwinists genetically engineer creatures to serve as messengers, weapons, and transportation.

The Clankers and Darwinists are strongly at odds politically, and scientifically. The Clankers consider the genetically mutation animals to be abominations against nature and God. While the Darwinists consider the Clanker's machines clumsy and wasteful.

Both Deryn and Alek are dealing with the loss of a parent, or both parents. They are adjusting to their new place in the world, and learning new skills. The action is fast paced from the very beginning, I don't think I ran into a single slow spot in the whole story. Westerfeld's descriptions of the creatures and machines are vivid. There is good character development, especially considering that it is the first volume of a trilogy. My only frustration was the sudden ending. I was not expecting the story to end so abruptly, the cliffhanger ending was deliberate. I really wanted the tale to continue, luckily the second volume is due out next month.

If you enjoy steampunk, or if you enjoyed the Uglies series, I'm sure you would enjoy this book.