Tag Archives: scott westerfeld

Book Review: Leviathan

9 Jul

Last September, I posted the very cool trailer to Scott Westerfeld’s then-forthcoming novel, Leviathan. A fan of his Succession novels and totally won over by Leviathan‘s high concept*, I requested that Cornell buy a copy and eagerly awaited its arrival.

And then totally forgot to check it out. Luckily, our friends Mike and Kerri in Boston were willing to lend their copy. And it is, in fact, an awesome YA book that even As a bit less Y should enjoy.

While the high concept described below** forms an excellent backdrop to the novel, the main action revolves around Deryn, a young Scottish woman who pretends to be a man to join the British Air Service, and Aleksander, the apparently disinherited (but still notably hunted) son of the late Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Their stories and development drive the plot, and they — along with an excellent supporting cast — are what kept me turning pages, even moreso than Westerfeld’s engaging worldbuilding.

That being said, Alek gets an armored mech, and Derwyn serves on a giant bioengineered airship based on a whale that comes with an entire fabricated ecology. Which is just damned cool. With this alternate Earth, Westerfeld does a wonderful job of not just taking the scientific liberties inherent to steampunk to great heights, but also applying those same liberties to the Darwinists’ genetic experimentation. Either could’ve worked as a sufficient background for a novel; weaving both together along with not one but two fascinating coming-of-age stories is formidable, indeed.

The only complaint I can levy at the book is that it’s clearly the first in a series, and thus its ending left me cursing the fact that Behemoth won’t be out until October. A book release that I’m now far less likely to forget about.

* An alt-WWI waged between the genetic engineer Darwinists (aka the Entente) and the steampunk Clankers (aka the Central Powers)? Sold.
** You do read the footnotes as you go, right? If not, what are you doing right now?***
*** And why does writing about this book lead me to include to so many footnotes?

Matters of interest to the literate

3 Sep

Yesterday I discovered through various means two links, each detailing a forthcoming work from an author to whom I’ve taken more than a passing fondness.

The first is from Scott Lynch, who many of you may know from The Lies of Locke Lamora and its excellently piratical sequel.* While he’s working on the next Lamora book, he’s also publishing a serial planetary romance novel for free on his website, called Queen of the Iron Sands. It’s tough to say which bit of the previous sentence sold me on the project, but initial testing indicates that it was somewhere around “also”.**

The second is from Scott Westerfeld***, author of The Risen Empire****. His new book is called Leviathan, and it’s set in an alternate WWI being waged between the Clankers of Germany and the Darwinists of England. But the reason I’m writing this is to link to very keen video trailer that the publisher’s produced to promote the book:

I’ve already requested that CUL get a copy. I’m not made of stone.

* I first got to know his writing when he did a very cool supers RPG called Deeds Not Words, but that’s neither here nor there.
** There’s some margin of error.
*** Huh, two Scotts. I feel like I should’ve leveraged that into a pun for the title of this post.
**** Which I’m definitely going to review at some point, I promise.*****
***** Fine, here’s the review: The Risen Empire (and its sequel, The Killing of Worlds) doesn’t just walk the line between “hard sci-fi” and “space opera”, it slams down the line at .1 light speed firing nanoweapons and accounting for relativistic effects. It’s got solid characterization, an engaging far-future setting, and heroes trying to make sense of a conflict waged between post-human AI-worshiping cultists and the undead. Highly recommended.