Author: Scott Westerfeld
Narrator: Alan Cumming
Audiobook Length: 8 hours, 20 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.”
Thoughts: In Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld combines the popularity of steampunk with history to create an intriguing alternative to the beginnings of World War I. Alternating between Alek’s escape from Austria and those who want to end the possibility of him taking the crown and Deryn’s experiences aboard the Leviathan, the action is non-stop as both are impacted by the looming war.
Unfortunately, in spite of all the drama and tension, the book fell flat. There are relatively large jumps in time that are jolting to the narrative and leave rather gaping holes in the plot. At the same time, the reader does not get the chance to truly get into the minds of either main character. Both Alek and Deryn remain fairly one-dimensional, leaving it difficult for the reader to summon up any sympathy for either of their plights. Adding to all of this is the repetitiveness of the dialogue. While it is understandable for a girl pretending to be a boy to use curse words to help with her “transformation”, the use of the same epithets repeatedly becomes tiresome and difficult to bear. In light of such redundancies, Deryn’s dialogue quickly became irritating and greatly detracts from one’s overall enjoyment of the story.
Thankfully, Mr. Cumming’s performance makes the entire novel worthwhile. I have always admired his ability to capture so many different accents, and Leviathan showcases this ability perfectly. He also shows a true enthusiasm for the story itself, breathing extra emotion and tension into an already action-packed novel. He definitely makes up for the inability to view the drawings that are incorporated in the print version.
Leviathan is fun alternative to the true past. Mr. Westerfeld incorporates enough actual fact to render the majority of the novel plausible, even if the science-fiction portions take some suspension of belief and time to adjust and absorb this alternative world. While Leviathan did not rock my world and leave me awed by its awesomeness, it was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.