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A Whale of a Good Time!

Posh reviews the steampunk awesomeness that is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

A Whale of a Good Time!

BOOK REPORT for Leviathan (Leviathan Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Barking Spiders!
Bonus Factors: Steampunk, Illustrations
Relationship Status: I'll Be Yr Wingman Any Time!

The Deal:

You know how, back in high school history, we spent AGES on World War 1, and it got kind of boring, and I never really understand why the archduke was so important, beyond the fact that his name went on to inspire a pretty cool band? Well, let's just say that if we replaced Ye Olde Textbook with a copy of Leviathan, the school history fair would've been a LOT more fun. In Westerfeld's version of 1914, the world is divided between countries who rely on machines (Clankers) and countries who manipulate living organisms to suit their purposes (Darwinists). If the latter sounds kind of weird to you, it should. BECAUSE YOU'RE A CLANKER, SUCKA! And Clankers and Darwinists do NOT get along.

Given that level of tension, it TOTALLY makes sense that when the archduke and his wife get assassinated, everything goes to shizz, aka welcome to World War Steampunk! Prince Aleksandar learns of his parents' death, and, subsequently, that his own life is in danger, as he's whisked away by his fencing teacher (Count Volger) and the royal mechanic (Otto Klopp-- ah yes, it wouldn't be a YA book without a weirdly named character!) in this huge spider-type tank known as a Stormwalker. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp (CAN WE PLEASE STOP THIS TREND OF BADLY NAMED YA CHARACTERS? PLEASE?) is sneaking into the ranks of the British Air Service by pretending to be a boy named Dylan, which really does not make sense to me cos Deryn sounds like a boy's name already but WHATEVER I AM SO OVER ALL INVENTED NAMES FROM THIS POINT FORWARD. After getting stuck in the air while test driving a "Huxley Ascender," which is basically hot air balloon made from a squid (dude, I know. Darwinists are strange), Deryn ends up on the Leviathan, a massive airship made out of... a whale. A living, breathing whale. So Leviathan ain't just a clever name.

I won't spoil the rest of the plot for you, but just know that Alek and Deryn's lives eventually collide against a backdrop of impending war, political intrigue and some really crazyass science.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Sk, so at the beginning of the book, I admit that Alek and Deryn both kind of annoyed the crap out of me. But I think that's intentional on Westerfeld's part, because as the story develops, both of them face some pretty extreme challenges and emerge as much more likeable people (not that I'm advocating for the enlistment of all annoying people. Wait, am I?). Deryn makes for a totally tough and scrappy heroine, and her commitment to the Air Service, in spite of the gender barrier, made me pump my little feminist fist in the air many times. She's impulsive, she's clever and, most importantly, she swears like a sailor! As for Alek, it took him a lot longer to earn my affection, esp. cos he's kiiiind of a spoiled royal brat. But the kid has heart, and he's always trying to do the right thing, so by the end, he won me over. Esp. cos hello SLUMBER PARTY AT THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN CASTLE!!!! Overall, I don't think these characters are as fully developed as I'd like them to be, but I'm pretty sure we have plenty of time to get to know each other over the course of this series (plus, like I said, royal slumber parties!).

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Y'all, I'm gonna be straight with you: there is no romance in this book. ZILCH. NADA. SMOOCHIE-LESS. But please don't let that stop you from picking it up! First of all, Westerfeld tried to do swoony in his Uglies series and wow, yeah, that was a major fail (in my opinion), so, frankly, I'm relieved that he stayed away from any semblance of romance (although I sense there may be some in the sequel). Leviathan is a fantasy adventure story, and in that realm, Westerfeld really thrives. So, when you're pulling a Fred Savage, aka "I hate kissing books!", give this book a whirl!

Talky Talk: Barking Spiders!

This book is totally lingolicious. And really, I should've categorized it as such, but "Barking Spiders!" is so much fun to say! Even though it still sounds really fake and comic book-y as an exclamation! So yeah, there's lot of terms to keep up with, from "boffins" (scientists) to "clart" (poop!!!). It gets a little much at times, esp. with Miss "I wish i was an Oliver Twist street urchin, guvner!" Deryn, but overall, the lingo illuminates Westerfeld's vision rather than diminishing it. The real strength of his writing lies in the wonderfully imaginative descriptions of the various Clanker machines and Darwinist inventions, and I was happy to escape my dreary regular world of plain cars and plain trains and plain planes (heh) for a few hours of submersion in such an amazing, awe-inspiring world.

Bonus Factor: Steampunk

Steampunk is so cool, you guys! It's like, all gadget-y and old fashioned but also TOTALLY HARDCORE. I could tell you more but the only thing you really need to know is provided by this image:

Bonus Factor: Illustrations!

It's not often that a YA book has illustrations, so you better BELIEVE I was excited when I discovered the lovely sketches that accompany this book. Not only do they really enhance the historical feel of the story, they also illustrate (as illustrations should) the various machines, organisms and environments dreamed up by Westerfeld.

Casting Call:

Casting Deryn was tough, cos I had to pick a girl who can pass as a boy. Fortunately, Mia Wasikowska totally rocks short hair, not to mention the fact that she's a fantastic actress with lots of spunk (a vital ingredient for Deryn/Dylan).

Mia Wasikowska as Deryn

As for Alek, at the risk of FYA overexposure, I still gotta go with...

William Moseley as Alek

Look, I still want him to be Peeta but the guy can work on two YA movies, right? I mean, we're talking potential blockbusters, so really, he should be thanking me. Preferably, in person.

Casting Dr. Barlow was easy as (delicious, delicious) pie.

Olivia Williams as Dr. Barlow

Dr. Barlow is a boffin (scientist!) who boards the Leviathan with a secret project, and she's totally smart and super cool. In other words, Olivia Williams!

Relationship Status: I'll Be Yr Wingman Any Time!

Hanging out with this book was a BLAST, and our adventures together totally blew my mind. Leviathan's not exactly best friend material, but if I'm looking to get into some trouble, I would definitely want it to be my partner-in-crime. Given the fact that I'm a huge weenie, I'll gladly rely on this book's mad rogue skills, and I won't even be jealous when it gets all of the action at the bar, because it deserves it!

So, dude, I'll see you when Behemoth comes out in October 2010! If there's any book that can get my mind off the ending of The Hunger Games (SOB), it's this one. cos FLYING WALES? Yeah, they're hella distracting. As is whiskey.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).