Science Fiction, Young Adult

Leviathan and Behemoth

I miss my old book group.  They were great at introducing me to new things that I never would have tried otherwise.  When I moved, we were getting ready to read Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld.  He’s the same guy that wrote The Uglies series, which people are always surprised to hear that I haven’t read yet so I guess I’d better get on that.  Having not read any of his other work, I don’t know how this particular trilogy compares.  I thought the ideas were interesting, but the writing was a bit simple, which might just be because it’s geared towards a younger audience.

I don’t know if steam punk exists as a literary genre, but if it does, Leviathan would totally qualify.  It’s also a form of alterna history, where the writer crafts a story around an alternate version of history than the one that really happened.  (Thanks, Megan, for introducing me to that term.)  The story takes place during WWI, but includes futuristic technology like massive war machines and genetically fabricated creatures.  The story follows a young woman, Deryn Sharp, who manages to pass herself off as a boy in order to join the British navy.  She ends up on the great airship Leviathan, sort of mix between a whale and a hot air balloon.  Alek is the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, who joins forces with Deryn’s group in order to escape dangerous enemies within his homeland.  There is action and adventure and friendship, as well as the hint of budding romance — at least on Deryn’s side, since Alek thinks she is a boy — all against the backdrop of trying to prevent all out war.

In Behemoth, the story continues along a similar vein.  Deryn is on a secret mission in Istanbul to pave the way for British Empire’s new kind of water beast, the Behemoth, rumored to be even more formidable than their fierce krakens.  When her mission goes wrong, she is left behind and joins with Alek to help a rebel force trying to take back control of the Ottoman government.  In both stories, the illustrations contribute a lot since sometimes I was lost with the textual descriptions.  Leviathan was particularly heavy on explaining ideas, and I felt like the story barely got going at the end.  Behemoth was able to move the plot along a little more, but I still didn’t feel like it was a really gripping story. Until after I’d finished it and I found myself thinking about it and wanting to keep reading.  So apparently it piqued my interest more than I thought.  Enough, at least, that I’m sure I will finish the trilogy when the third book, Goliath, comes out this fall.


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