Number 92: Leviathan
Leviathan is written by Scott Westerfeld, an author that has more than one book on NPR’s top 100 books for teens ever list. This book is fun and creative and fast paced, also it is part of a trilogy. It’s an alternate history steam-punk/science fiction version of world war one wherein the allies are Darwinians and use the science of evolution to create animal/machines.
So, they are living machines instead of just mechanical. The axis powers use technology and machines, like mech warriors. All in all pretty cool, but I still feel like this is an average book. Yeah, it was a fun read and yes it was creative, but nothing really lingers in my mind. This is just what I expect out of a book. It needs to be readable, creative, and have fun characters. That doesn’t mean it is a top 100 book, it just means it deserves to be published. This is also a book that I feel is barely teen oriented. The main characters are 12 years old, but I guess the themes and some of the moments in the novel are meant for an older audience. So it fits, but just barely.
There is also some great artwork in the book, and I love books with artwork. Not enough adult/teen books take advantage of great artists, and I feel like it can really add to the story. They really bring Westerfeld’s descriptions to life. The illustrations are by artist Keith Thompson.
There are two major problems I have with this book. The storyline and the blurb on the back of the book.
First, I’ll start with the storyline. Some story lines are familiar and whenever someone sees them in a movie or reads them in a book, they know what is going to happen. Some of these are OK, some are cliché, and some I just don’t like. The one found in Leviathan falls into the category of “I just don’t like.” The plot device is that the female character dresses up as a dude to fit in. Since girls aren’t allowed to serve in the military, she has to fake being a guy in order to do what she is good at. That’s fine, but the staple of this plot line is that she meets a guy and likes him, but she can’t tell him because the guy thinks that she’s a dude. The problem comes in when the two characters have cute moments that the reader thinks are romantic and so does the female character, but the guy character just thinks it’s friendly. Or maybe he doesn’t and he is gay. Or maybe he’s not gay but he feels himself experiencing emotions that he’s never had before toward another man and now he’s questioning everything. Not to mention, the setting in the book is the early 20th century, so not only are those feelings unusual to the male lead, but they are basically forbidden by society. There is a lot of psychological tension going on and it never gets addressed in these types of stories. It feels awkward and I can never enjoy these plot devices.
Now for the back blurb.
This seems to be a problem with YA books. On the back blurb it says that Alek and Deryn (the two POV characters) are thrown together aboard the mighty airship Leviathan. This is very informative and makes me intrigued to read the story…the problem? This doesn’t happen until the end of the book. It takes all of the tension away from the story. When I was reading the story I felt everything leading up to them on the ship together as the prologue. I was waiting for it to start. As the story moved along I just wondered when the hell they were going to get together on the ship. The blurb said that they were together, so obviously the story doesn’t really start until they are together (this is how my mind works). The blurb spoiled nearly all of the thrill this book could have held. And, they literally aren’t on the ship together until the final couple of chapters. Think about it. So every time the characters are in danger or the author wants you to think that they are going to give up or something, but that holds no tension for you because the back of the book has already told you what will happen. Will they survive? Will they get captured? Will they get in trouble and have to be held in a prison cell? No. They are going to meet up on the Leviathan and fight side by side, just wait until the prologue is over, you’ll see.
As I mentioned, I’m not sure this book belongs on the list. It is very creative and the world is vivid, brought out further by the artistic skill of Keith Thompson. But, this is just your typical adventure story with the characters getting into trouble and having to scrap their way out of it. It was a decent and easy read, but it’s what I think is just an average book. This book meets my standards for something I would sit down and read, but it doesn’t fit into my top books list, but judging by everything else I’ve read on NPR’s list, it definitely fits within NPR’s parameters.
Wife: meh. If you’re having a slow month with shit else to do, go ahead and pick up this book.