Monday, July 26, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

An alternate history.  A possible future.  Regardless of how you look at Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, the conclusion is this: Whoa, cool book!

Let’s take a look at all three:

An alternate history – In 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated.  Their deaths, coupled with other circumstances in Europe, brought about the beginning of World War I.  Instead of three children, Leviathan gives Franz Ferdinand and his wife only one son, Aleksandar.  Whisked away in the night after his parents’ deaths, Alek dodges the pursuing Germans in an attempt to reach neutral Switzerland.

A possible future – Alek escapes in a Cyclop Stormwalker, a two-legged machine created by Austro-Hungarians and Germans.  Clankers, as they are known, have created all kinds of machinery including aeroplanes and fortified walkers, one an eight-legged, thousand ton frigate called the Herkules. 

Deryn Sharp, called Dylan, works for the British Empire who, allied with France, are called Darwinists.  They have harnessed and mixed different creatures’ DNA to create new “beasties” designed for specific roles.  Bats that fire ammunition, bees that provide food, and a whale that flies thanks to hydrogen filled sacs like jellyfish.  (Or something like that.)  This creation is Leviathan. 

Whoa, cool book! – From Alek’s late night escape (Is it a kidnapping?  A daring escape?) to Deryn Sharp’s transformation from fifteen-year-old girl to a sixteen year old boy enlisted in the British Service named Dylan Sharp, Leviathan is a fast paced adventure on two fronts.  Readers follow Alek’s dash for the Switzerland border, his crew’s thievery of necessities, and Alek’s own mistakes that nearly give him away as the son of the assassinated Archduke.  At the same time readers read about Deryn/Dylan’s enlistment, how she nearly sailed solo across the English Channel on her first day, and came to be a valued middy on the Leviathan. 

Eventually Alek and Deryn’s paths cross.  Just as Alek and his companions think they’ve reached safety from the war, the war comes to them.  Darwinists and Clankers are all around, each thinking their creations are superior and neither trusting the other.  Even more important is that Alek and Deryn must trust each other in order to survive and escape.

There’s a lot of reading here, and as the end of the book got closer, the end of the war got further and further away.  This bugs the heck out of me – thinking that a story simply cannot reach its resolution in the pages that are left while I’m still reading.  Turns out I didn’t know that Leviathan is the first book in a trilogy – Whoa, cool trilogy! – with Behemoth coming out in October 2010 and Goliath in October 2011.


  1. hmmm seems like a good read,
    like the idea of the artificially modified 'beasties'!

  2. I enjoyed getting drawn into a world similar to ours - some historic, some futuristic - without having to stop and think about what that world is like. The author creates a world that the reader can fully fall into.

    And yes, the beasties are awesome. I want me one of them message lizards.

    Thanks for stopping by the site and for taking the time to comment.



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