I don’t just write books for young adults–I read them, too! Lots and lots and lots of them. I confess to being a serious and dedicated nerd and geek. Science fiction? Bring it on. Fantasy? Um, yes. HUGE THICK FANTASY? Yes!! I also love contemporaries, horror, good middle grade, wickedly cool picture books, and lots of supposedly “grown up” novels, too. My half-hour commute to and from work gives me time for a glorious indulgence, which is audiobooks. I’m currently listening to Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan series, so I thought I would share my impressions of Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath.
Genre: Steampunk, Alternate History
Summary: The year is 1914, and the world is sharply divided between Darwinists, who use genetic manipulations to create fantastic ecosystems that function as machines, and Clankers, who rely on old fashioned gears, gas, and engines. In this alternate World War I landscape, genetically fabricated airwhales powered by bacteria and bees compete with zeppelins and terrifying mechanical walkers, and warships armed with terrifying canons that fire lightning into the sky. Young Prince Aleksander, the rightful heir to the (Clanker) Austro-Hungarian throne, wakes to find his peace-loving and protective parents slaughtered and his own “allies” trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp, a young girl in Britain who lost her father in a terrible ballooning accident, leaves her former identity–and her gender–behind to join the (Darwinist) British Air Service. When fate brings Alek and Deryn together, they join forces to try to save their own lives . . . and the world.
My Reading/Listening Experience: Before I finished the second CD of Leviathan, I had ordered Behemoth and Goliath. The narrator is brilliant, the characters completely alive to me, and the story–action, action, action! I am lost in the world, I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I’m finding excuses to drive around and sit in my car just to get five minutes more.
Really Cool Stuff: Genetically modified bats that poop flechettes to rip mechanical aircraft to ribbons, message lizards, a wild count protecting the prince who seems to be the son of Count Dracula and James Bond, a strong female heroine with a big heart who is NOT over-the-top kick-butt . . . but who will still kick your butt, stormwalkers shaped like Hindu deities, neurotic giant jellyfish who serve as living hot air balloons, a classic love story drifting along in the background and breaking my heart, and –and–AND–the Perspicacious Loris. I need me a Perspicacious Loris in the worst way.
Would I Let A Younger Kid Read This: Yes, nothing offends my neurotic giant jellyfish parental sensibilities. The strongest swear-word is “blisters.” Well, “barking spiders” might rate, too. I don’t think the German word for stupid-head counts.
Would I Give This Book To My Daughter Who Reads Everything But Is Way Pickier Than Me And Gripes If I Give Her Something Boring: YES. I will probably buy them for her in hardback.
But I Don’t Like This Genre: Read these anyway. They rise above any category label you might want to pin on them. Great story + great characters = it doesn’t get any better than this.
Read more about them at http://scottwesterfeld.com/books/leviathan/ .