Monday, March 15, 2010
published October 2009 by Simon & Schuster
440 pages (hardcover), MG/YA
This will not even vaguely resemble a review. For those of you (like me) who have never read or maybe even heard of steampunk, no explanation or summary I could give you would prepare you for the wonders in this book. My head is still spinning. There are links to proper reviews at the end of this post if you'd like such a summary, but please do come back to review my reflections and reading experiences.
I suppose I should start by saying that I'm not really a fan of science, science fiction, history, or historical fiction. These things make my brain hurt. I blame it on my public education, what with its reading and math rules the world philosophy. But even though I do not enjoy such subjects, which this book could not exist without, I loved Leviathan. Because Scott Westerfeld is more talented than I can comprehend. I can imagine that it may be very easy for a science/history buff with an imagination to write a steampunk novel, but what's not so simple is to write a steampunk novel that is accessible (and enjoyable!) to the least technologically, scientifically, historically inclined (raises hand) of us. This is the reason that Leviathan was so amazing to me - and probably why some steampunk fans were disappointed. Apparently, the audience for this book is the middle grade and younger YA set, but if you've never read in this genre before, age limits aside, this may be your gateway book.
I won't lie, Leviathan is filled with technical and scientific jargon - and even some great, made-up slang. (Because Westerfeld loves to play with words, and we love him for it.) Although most of the descriptions of war vehicles and living aircrafts were completely lost to me, I enjoyed getting to know the characters - which has actually been a criticism of the book by some, that the characters were not developed enough. I assure you that the only reason I continued reading this book was because of the characters - I felt sorry for Alek having just lost both of his parents and needing to flee for his life to Switzerland, and I fell in love with Deryn who had to learn to talk and act like an insufferable boy (and she was darn good at it) in order to pursue her dreams of flying. When the two meet, there must have been stars in my eyes. Not because of the romance which would inevitably brew, but because they have such different personalities and worldviews, which make their interactions hilarious and heart-warming. I sped through the last 150 pages of this book, wanting more of those interactions, more of the clashing of worlds, more of the misunderstandings and secrets and delicate friendships. And at the end, after 440 pages, I wanted more.
Again, I failed to do my research. Leviathan is the first book in a trilogy. Behemoth, the second book, is due out in October 2010. You can bet that I'll be re-reading Leviathan before I get my hands on Behemoth for a number of reasons. 1. I'll understand it better the second time around. 2. The writing is wonderful, and I'd like to star some passages. 3. I'll need to be reminded of what happened in the first book.
By the way, I finally decided to read Leviathan because it's featured on readergirlz this month. Lots of great discussion questions and extra content on the blog + a live chat with Scott Westerfeld this Wednesday, March 17 at 9pm EST. Check it out!
Others said it better:
Book Gazing; Guys Lit Wire; One Librarian's Book Reviews; Fyrefly's Book Blog; Book Nut; Laura's Review Bookshelf; A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy