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?