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Leviathan (Leviathan Series #1)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

A Futeristic Trip Through History

Leviathan

Have you ever experienced that exhilarating rush of relief on the last day of school? The realization: no more anything, no more homework! Suddenly, your teacher stands up to make an announcement. They blubber on, you're growing up so fast, blablabla, an...
Leviathan

Have you ever experienced that exhilarating rush of relief on the last day of school? The realization: no more anything, no more homework! Suddenly, your teacher stands up to make an announcement. They blubber on, you're growing up so fast, blablabla, and she tells you that you have to read a history book. History? You know you're going to be bored. But you don't have to be. The Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, is fantasy/history, so make sure to stock up on some snacks for the hours in bed you're going to spend snared in the adventure!
There are two sides to this story, but we'll start out with Aleksander Ferdinand, the 15 year old prince of Austria-Hungary. While he is in the palace, supposed to be sleeping, he steals away with the Master of Mechaniks, Otto Klopp, and his Fencing Master, Count Volger, into a Cyclops Stormwalker, a huge war machine, after learning that his parents were assassinated in Serbia, a Darwinist nation.
Darwinist nations include Russia, France, Britain, Algeria, and Serbia, and they employ fabricated beasts as their weapons, while Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire are Clankers; they rely on their steam driven war machines. Alek is no exception, as he flees in his war machine. The risk of the new reign sending his assassins to destroy the threat (Alek)is too great.
With the aid of his small crew, they pilot the Stormwalker through enemy Clanker lines to Switzerland, which is neither Darwinist nor Clanker. Therefore, it remains neutral in the coming war driven by his parent's death, and conceals a castle full of provisions for Alek to wait out the war.

The other side of this adventure is the perspective of a young 15 year old Darwinist girl named Deryn. She has always dreamed of being in the Air Fleet, but only boys are admitted. However, she disguises herself as a boy and gains entry. When she gets there, she, along with her peers, has to take a test to rule out the squeamish. This involves riding up in a Huxley, a hydrogen breathing air-jellyfish. As she floats up (totally unafraid) a storm blows her and the Huxley away, and they become stranded in the sky.

Lo and behold, a savior appears-the Leviathan! The Leviathan is a huge, living sperm whale that turns its food into hydrogen, keeping it aloft. It has blimp-like parts, including walkthrough innards and a metal compound on its belly. After securing Deryn as part of its crew, they touch down to pick up a mysterious woman with an equally mysterious clutch of eggs in tow. Then, as they enter the Swiss border, they are shot down by Clanker zeppelins, and are stranded on the ice. Deryn loses consciousness when she is thrown from the hull on impact. Alek appears from the snow, determined to help this enemy crew, and ultimately saves her from frostbite. Even though they don't often agree, Deryn is grateful that he rescued her:

"Yes," Alek said, "a frostbitten bum would've been unfortunate." page 236

The Leviathan is less fortunate. Without food, it will never survive and heal. Alek has the required quantity, but will he give it up? Even if he does, will the wounded air ship heal in time to escape a hungry fleet of Clankers waiting to finish them off? Find out in this incredible adventure that will forever change the way you think about history.
But first, will you like this book? It is shrouded in conspiracy and high vocab, so I would recommend this book sixth grade and up; adults will like it,

posted by TheCre8R on March 1, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

Enjoyable Read

Before all the teenage steampunk fans crucify me for the perceived low rating, let me explain my system. Five stars would mean this is one of the best books ever written, one that I'll re-read multiple times over my life. Four stars means an excellent book that I'll l...
Before all the teenage steampunk fans crucify me for the perceived low rating, let me explain my system. Five stars would mean this is one of the best books ever written, one that I'll re-read multiple times over my life. Four stars means an excellent book that I'll likely re-read one or more times. Three stars means a good book that time permitting I may read again sometime, or in the case of a series, I will definitely read the next installment. So, three stars is really a pretty good rating. I just think that, like grades in school, ratings can get awfully inflated to the point that they become meaningless.

Now, to the critique. The story's concept is interesting enough--combining traditional steampunk (if steampunk is even old enough to have a tradition) with genetic engineering. The genetic engineering part, making ships and such out of altered animals, isn't a new concept--see Harry Harrison's West of Eden, published in 1984. But, this is well-conceived for the most part and adds an interesting element of conflict to the story, more so than just two cultures with the same "Clanker"-type technology. The story line too is interesting--the young girl masquerading as a boy in order to be in the air service, and the young prince caught in a political struggle for control of an empire. Prince Alek's situation is neatly tied in with the actual historical assassination of the Archduke that led to our real-world World War I. The main characters are fairly well drawn and likeable. Some of the supporting characters are a bit one-dimensional but it's not a serious flaw.

The book has one rather egregious technical error, which while it doesn't really affect the story, is also one that would have been easily avoided. Several references are made to the odor of hydrogen, including a scene in which Dylan/Deryn chides Alek for not being able to recognize it. The trouble is, neither should Dylan or anyone else, because hydrogen is odorless. This could have easily been solved by having the hydrogen tagged with a marker gas (like methane--that vaguely fart like smell is not actual methane, which like hydrogen is both flammable and odorless). Or, more in line with the genetic engineering theme, would be to genetically engineer the sniffer dogs so that the presence of hydrogen in their noses would create another chemical they could smell. Or both--the sniffers could be engineered to detect very low levels of hydrogen that wouldn't be picked up by the humans even with a tag gas.

Other weaknesses include the heavy reliance on altered beasts to perform jobs on the airship. With the emphasis on weight that is so important for a lighter-than-air ship, one would think that having to keep dozens of hydrogen sniffers on board plus their food would make the air service think seriously of coming up with something a bit more mechanical that would take up less weight, space, and not need food. It's not too hard to conceive of a mechanical device to sense hydrogen leaks. Likewise the birds and bats used for defensive and offensive purposes--the range seems limited, and birds and bats will fly much slower than bullets. It would seem to be pretty easy to develop attack tactics for the Clanker airplanes to stay out of range of the birds and bats and blast the whale airship with incendiaries.

All of these nits aside, the book was an entertaining read, and I will most likely read the next one in the series.

posted by Mark_J913 on January 12, 2012

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  • Posted January 12, 2012

    Enjoyable Read

    Before all the teenage steampunk fans crucify me for the perceived low rating, let me explain my system. Five stars would mean this is one of the best books ever written, one that I'll re-read multiple times over my life. Four stars means an excellent book that I'll likely re-read one or more times. Three stars means a good book that time permitting I may read again sometime, or in the case of a series, I will definitely read the next installment. So, three stars is really a pretty good rating. I just think that, like grades in school, ratings can get awfully inflated to the point that they become meaningless.

    Now, to the critique. The story's concept is interesting enough--combining traditional steampunk (if steampunk is even old enough to have a tradition) with genetic engineering. The genetic engineering part, making ships and such out of altered animals, isn't a new concept--see Harry Harrison's West of Eden, published in 1984. But, this is well-conceived for the most part and adds an interesting element of conflict to the story, more so than just two cultures with the same "Clanker"-type technology. The story line too is interesting--the young girl masquerading as a boy in order to be in the air service, and the young prince caught in a political struggle for control of an empire. Prince Alek's situation is neatly tied in with the actual historical assassination of the Archduke that led to our real-world World War I. The main characters are fairly well drawn and likeable. Some of the supporting characters are a bit one-dimensional but it's not a serious flaw.

    The book has one rather egregious technical error, which while it doesn't really affect the story, is also one that would have been easily avoided. Several references are made to the odor of hydrogen, including a scene in which Dylan/Deryn chides Alek for not being able to recognize it. The trouble is, neither should Dylan or anyone else, because hydrogen is odorless. This could have easily been solved by having the hydrogen tagged with a marker gas (like methane--that vaguely fart like smell is not actual methane, which like hydrogen is both flammable and odorless). Or, more in line with the genetic engineering theme, would be to genetically engineer the sniffer dogs so that the presence of hydrogen in their noses would create another chemical they could smell. Or both--the sniffers could be engineered to detect very low levels of hydrogen that wouldn't be picked up by the humans even with a tag gas.

    Other weaknesses include the heavy reliance on altered beasts to perform jobs on the airship. With the emphasis on weight that is so important for a lighter-than-air ship, one would think that having to keep dozens of hydrogen sniffers on board plus their food would make the air service think seriously of coming up with something a bit more mechanical that would take up less weight, space, and not need food. It's not too hard to conceive of a mechanical device to sense hydrogen leaks. Likewise the birds and bats used for defensive and offensive purposes--the range seems limited, and birds and bats will fly much slower than bullets. It would seem to be pretty easy to develop attack tactics for the Clanker airplanes to stay out of range of the birds and bats and blast the whale airship with incendiaries.

    All of these nits aside, the book was an entertaining read, and I will most likely read the next one in the series.

    16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    Leviathan

    Title: Leviathan
    Author: Scott Westerfeld
    Genre: YA Steampunk alternate history
    Publishing Information: 440 pages; September 22nd, 2009 by Simon Pulse
    Series: Leviathan #1, followed by Behemoth and Goliath

    Where I got it: Borders liquidation sale

    One sentence: In this alternative history of World War I, the lives of Prince Aleksander of Austria-Hungary, on the run from his own country, and Deryn Sharp, a common girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service, become intertwined.

    Themes: Alternate history, World War I, steampunk, girl in disguise, illustrated, war

    Main characters: 3.5/5
    I wasn't sure about the characters at first. While I know they are young, these protagonists came off slightly immature. However, as the novel progressed, both matured into their changing circumstances and developed into likeable characters. How refreshing too that there was no hint of romance during the first book! And I absolutely adored Deryn and Aleksander's first meeting. Both characters had clear and unique voices that rang clear in the alternating point of views.

    Secondary characters: 2/5
    Unfortunately, none of the secondary characters really jumped out at me. The crew members aboard the Leviathan seemed to jumble together, and Aleksander's supporters were the same. The only secondary character who intrigued me was Dr. Barrow, whose mysterious ways and aims fascinated me and made me inordinately curious: how did she come about her companion? How did she get the items she brought upon Leviathan?

    Writing style: 3.5/5
    I LOVE pictures in books. Isn't it nice when you're in the middle of a big block of words and bam! there's a random picture? That's how I felt about the illustrations in Leviathan- right when I was confused what this massive airship looked like, or how these Stormwalkers worked, I turned the page and there was a picture. The only thing was I didn't feel like the cute pictures matched the slightly more intense writing and plot. Westerfeld was adept at switching the focus from Deryn to Aleksander and back again while keeping the plot moving, however, I did feel that most of the book was exposition and I wished that it accelerated more quickly.

    Plot: 4/5
    This is the first alternate history and first steam-punk I think I've ever read. I wasn't sure about the genre until I actually sat down and read it: I was blown away! I absolutely adore history, so the different take on World War I was fascinating, particularly the conflict between the British Darwinists, who create fabricated beasts, and the German Clankers, who attack with steam-powered war machines. I loved the combination of this alternate history with the 'steampunk' aspect. Further, the plot itself was entertaining and full of action, although slightly predictable.

    Ending: 2/5
    Hmmmph. Another series book that ends with more questions than it begins with, and with none of the conflict solved.

    Best scene: Deryn's first experience with the British Air Service.

    Positives: Realistic and unique main characters, writing style, fascinating plot

    Negatives: Slow introduction, slightly more childish than I would have liked, boring secondary characters

    First Line: The Austrian horses glinted in the moonlight, their riders standing tall in the saddle, swords raised.

    Cover: I wasn't a fan. It doesn't look like the kind of thing I would normally read and it didn't draw me in.

    Verdict: The premise was intriguing, and although there were a fe

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2013

    Thrilling

    Only on the 11 th page and im all ready loving it! Great book so far. Glad my teacher made me read it for lit circles.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    It was ok.

    It was entertaining. It wasn't horrible but the ending kind of petered out. It was definitely steampunk. Which was cool but i've read better.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2011

    ???

    I am on about chapter 9 and its kind of boring and loses my interest very quickly. All of these reviews say how the book is a wonderful rewd but i am seriously not seeing it.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    More middle school than YA, but OK

    I really liked the overall concept of this book but something about it just didn't quite flow for me. The whole 'Clankers vs. Darwinists' was a really interesting idea, and I thought the pictures were a great way to assist your imagination with the 'beasties' because without them I might have felt like I didn't quite have a handle on it. That being said, all the descriptors and explanations as to how things worked got to be a little excessive and over-kill, especially once Alek arrived on-board and I felt like Westerfeld was repeating a lot of things we had already learned through Deryn. Again it was a very interesting concept/world, but I felt at times that the whole book merely served the purpose of describing said world instead of the story within this world. I did like both Deryn and Alek, but they seemed more like they were 11-12 years old as opposed to 15 and the book overall felt more middle school than young adult. I do have to say I was so bummed when Deryn got interrupted at the end because I was really excited to see how that reveal worked out! Anyway, I liked it and I may end up reading the next one, but I won't be on the edge of my seat waiting for it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I Still Can't Get Over the Giant Flying Whale

    This book was beautiful. No, not in the writing, in the presentation. I lovvvvve pictures. I would stare at the illustrations, and kept turning back to look at the map inside the cover. Even the pages were nice and snow white- especially rare since I got this book at the library. Presentation wise, I give this book an A. However, things aren't that simple.

    I like steampunk. It fascinates me, and if not for my extreme dislike for the feel of metal, I would love to live in a steampunk setting. Leviathan is no normal steampunk. It contains fabulous fabricated creatures right out of man's imagination. Messenger lizards, floating giant jellyfish, six-legged hydrogen sniffing dogs, and best of all- a humungous flying whale. That's right.

    Scott Westerfeld's imagination will never cease to amaze me.

    Then there is the more traditional eight-legged walkers and zepplins, you know the usual. These machines are created by the Clankers-Germany and Austria-Hungary, enemy of the Darwsinists- England and France. Both sides have reasons to distrust each other. The Clankers find the fabricated creatures unGodly and the Darwinists don't believe in the reliance on machines. Then World War I happens, and that's where the story starts.

    Aleksander is a prince from Austria Hungary and is on the run from the people responsible for the murder of his parents. Deryn Sharp is a girl disguised as a soldier aboard the Leviathan (the aforementioned flying whale). Of course these two main characters are very different, but there is no story unless fate drags them together.

    Then some action happens and the story ends openly for a sequel. I was a bit annoyed with that actually. I knew it was going to be a series, I just didn't expect such a cliffhanger. As for the action- there was plenty of it. It was confusing truthfully, and I would have been completley lost if not for the nifty illustrations.

    While I preferred Alek as a character, Deryn's story was much more interesting. Both characters, however, where written very young. I couldn't picture them as 15 year olds, but rather as pre-teens around the age of 12. That just seemed to fit their actions better and it suited the middle-school level writing. For being actioned filled, it went slow for me. I just couldn't get the motivation to read it.

    If you are expecting romance (as I was), prepare to be disappointed. There was hints of it, of course, but Alek doesn't even Deryn is a girl by the end. I have a feeling any romance in this book will be drawn out verrrrrry slowly.

    Overall, its not what I expected. It was an adventure novel for middle-school boys essentially. The pictures were my favorite part. As was the concept of a flying whale with people walking around in it (kinda biblical, ain't it?).

    I will most likely read the sequel and have only one demand....

    I WANNA MOVIE!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    It's a good read!

    Ever since I first saw it come out on shelves I wanted to read this book, just because the artwork on the covers looked so interesting and because the summary sounded like it would make for a good read. So, when I managed to get my allowance from my dad, I went to Barnes and Noble and got it. When I finally got home, I went to work reading it. I read the entire book in one sitting just because I couldn't put it down long enough to go to sleep.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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