I’ve been meaning to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld for a while now, and I finally got around to it. I wish I had read this one sooner. It was absolutely wonderful. Westerfeld seems to excel in whatever genre he chooses to write in, and his foray into steampunk is no exception. (If you don’t know what “steampunk” is, check out this link from Wikipedia. This is an amazing complete definition.) Leviathan combines actual events that led up to World War I with Darwinist ideas and sophisticated technologies. As Westerfeld stated in the novel’s afterword, “That’s the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.” The world depicted in this book is at once familiar and terrifying, and it raises some ethical and philosophical questions that we struggle to answer today.
Alek is in the middle of a war. Actually, he is one of the reasons for the war. With the death of his parents, the world seemingly goes into a tailspin. Were Alek’s parents killed by enemies of the Austro-Hungarian empire, or did their allies, the Germans, betray them to start a war? Alek is really not sure, so he goes on the run to ensure his safety. A couple of soldiers, two trusted advisors, and a military Stormwalker are all that stand between Alek and certain discovery. If he is discovered, by either the Germans or their enemies, he knows he could share the same fate as his parents.
Deryn dreams of serving in the British Air Service. There is just one problem–she’s a girl. With the help of her brother and a rather convincing disguise, however, Deryn–or should I say Dylan–is able to join up, and she, somewhat unwittingly, becomes a midshipman on the airship Leviathan. But the Leviathan is not just any airship. It is a biological ecosystem. The ship is made up of many different fabricated species working together to keep the “ship” aloft and on course. Deryn is thrilled to serve on this mighty beast. She gets to fly and be a part of something great.
Things don’t stay great for long. War is coming to Europe, and both Deryn and Alek are right in the middle of it. When the two meet, it becomes clear that they will have to work together to survive what is coming. Can both of them keep their secrets in the midst of everything going on around them? Can the Leviathan prevail against the Germans’ war machines, or Clankers? And how will these two young people impact the world as they know it? Read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and imagine the possibilities.
I really, really, really enjoyed this book. For one thing, not many young adult novels are written about WWI, so that was a nice change of pace. For another thing, I like weird stuff, and Leviathan had a lot of weird stuff in it, especially the fabricated animals. (By the way, Keith Johnson’s illustrations were especially helpful in bringing these beings to life. I don’t think my imagination could do any better.) I urge readers to take a look at the book’s afterword so that they can learn how much of the book is based on actual events.
I can’t wait to see where Westerfeld takes us in the next book, Behemoth (which is already out), and the third book, Goliath (out in October). For more information on the Leviathan series and other books by Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/. It’s an awesome site!