This month’s Feature Article will be examining Scott Westerfeld’s steampunk novel Leviathan, and while there may be no such thing as a flawless novel, Leviathan certainly gets very close to that mark. This is one of those effortless stories that reads so quickly that you forget you are even holding a book. Now there may have been flaws in Leviathan, but Westerfeld’s story is so engrossing, and his prose is so smooth, that any flaws are never even perceived. Westerfeld has taken an extremely imaginative idea and coupled it with great storytelling, and the result is pure entertainment, which I will argue is the entire point of a book like this.
The story opens on the eve of the Great War, and while Westerfeld uses the historical events more as a backdrop than an accurate retelling of history, the events leading up to the war will be familiar to most readers, as will the alignment of the powers. The imaginative scope of the novel comes with the splitting of the two camps technologically: the Darwinists of England, France and Russia rely on genetically modified creatures for their war effort; and the Clankers of Germany, Austria and Hungary rely on the use of more traditional mechanical steampunk devices. This adds an intriguing cultural layer on top of the political, but more than that, we have each camp making use of some very interesting devices.
I immediately fell in love with the two main characters, Alex, the son of assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, and Deryn Sharp, a sixteen year old girl masquerading as a boy who serves in the Royal Air Corps aboard the Leviathan. I won’t get into any plot details here lest I spoil the read, other than to say that by the time our two young protagonists meet, you certainly will have fallen in love with them.
One final comment other than the simple directive to just read this book. If Leviathan in not made into a movie, I would think Hollywood would be missing a blockbuster here.