Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Reviewed by Noelle: February 20, 2013
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 1, 2009
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Blisters, I'm rusty at reviewing! Good thing Leviathan is going to make it pretty easy for me: I mean, any time you can give me action and adventure--most of which takes place in the belly of an airborne whale? Just show me where to sign at the dotted line.
Leviathan has one of the more interesting steampunk set ups I've encountered in my forays into the genre. Usually I've found that Steampunk worlds are split up into us and them--the people gung-ho about the new steam-related technological advances and the people who want nothing to do with the new-fangled inventions (which I understand fear of the unknown but as someone who is still waiting for a robot to do my laundry, I don't have much patience for.) In Leviathan's world basically everyone is on board with the technological advances, they just can't agree on the best way to go about it.
In one corner you have the Clankers, which are the more traditional steampunk pioneers who focus their advances on mechanical based innovation such as machines, walkers, weapons etc. In the other corner you have the Darwinists who use genetically modified hybrid animals--hydrogen whale airships, messenger lizards and other beasties--for their advancements. Leviathan starts with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and veers into it's alternate steampunky history from there. The Clankers and Darwinists find themselves on opposite sides of the impending World War.
That brings me to another thing that made Leviathan so easy for me to love: it has three of my favorite tropes. Now, tropes can get a bad rap but they are tropes for a reason--they are classics! And when used correctly (which Westerfeld does) result in a reading experience enjoyment that clicks into place like clockwork (steampunk pun!)
Trope Fave #1: Uptight sheltered prince who gets dumped into the real world and has to survive by his previously unused bootstraps.
Trope Fave #2: That plucky middle class rough around the edges steamship crew member is actually a girl! (The girl disguised as boy thing not as much as the girl who's crew member of a steamship and could mop the floor with your Clanker boots thing.)
Throw them together and you get one of my fave tropes of all time (I may have mentioned it once or twice): Buddy Cops of Convenience. Two wildly different personalities/upbringings/cultures who would NEVER work together usually but get stuck together in order to complete a common goal. Banter, reluctant teamwork and mutual respect ensue and I am pretty much guaranteed to love every moment of it.
Add in adventure, intrigue and expertly written action scenes and you get a book that is practically tailor-made for me to love. I can't wait to see where the series takes me next. Rating: 4/5 stars.
This book was chosen by me by Heidi for my 13 in 2013 Book Resolution so thanks for Heidi for such a fun choice! Only 12 more to go.
ALSO why don't more books have illustrations? It was wonderful flipping the pages to see an illustrated scene. Then again I'd make every novel have them if it were my choice.