Sunday, January 24, 2010

Leviathan (2009)

Scott Westerfeld has created an alternate history where Europe has two facing sides; the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers, from eastern Europe, have developed mechanical machines that mimic the movement of animals and the Darwinists, from western Europe, have fabricated animals to be their war machines.
But Deryn's favorite lectures were when the boffins explained natural philosophy. How old Darwin had figured out how to weave new species from the old, pulling out the tiny threads of life and tangling them together under a microscope. How evolution had squeezed a copy of Deryn's own life chain into every cell of her body. How umpteen different beasties made up the Leviathn - from the microscopic hydrogen-farting bacteria in its belly to the great harnessed whale. How the airship's creatures, like the res of Nature, were always struggling among themselves in messy, snarling equilibrium.
Alek finds himself orphaned, his father Austrian Duke Ferdinand and his less-than-royally born mother have been killed. Alek is spirited away by two of the Duke's men who take him to a hideaway in the Alps, set up for just an occasion. Deryn is a young English woman who disguises herself as a man (Dylan) to enter the British Air Service and gets a position on the Leviathan, a fabricated whale with the ability to generate enough hydrogen to take it aloft. When taking a secret cargo to the Ottoman Empire, they are attacked and crash in, you guessed it, the Alps.
Deryn had always reckoned herself a tomboy, between Jaspert's bullying and Da's balloon training. But running with the other middies was mroe than just punchups and tying knots - it was like joining a pack of dogs. They jostled and banged for the best seats at the middies' mess table. They taunted each other over signal reading and navigation scores, and whom the officers had complimented that day. They endlessly competed to see who could spit farther, drink rum faster, or belch the loudest.
It was bloody exhausting, being a boy.
This exciting action is enhanced by illustrations by Keith Thompson which help the reader get a vision of the size and complexity of the machines described. There will be a sequel to continue the action. This is a real page turner with nonstop action. I highly recommend this book to science fiction and war fiction readers.

My rating for this book: ++++

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