Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath - A Steampunk Trilogy with a Teen girl disguised as a boy

It was great to talk with Scott Westerfeld about these books:

Leviathan, Behemoth & Goliath

Here's the synopsis of the triology from Scott Westerfeld's amazing website:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected ways, taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

All three books in this series are illustrated novels, full of incredible art (more than 50 plates in each book) by Keith Thompson.  Here are two of them:

Add your review of "Leviathan," "Behemoth," and "Goliath" in comments!


A.C.E. Bauer said...

I loved reading Leviathan and Behemoth, in no small part because the illustrations are gorgeous. There's a whole lot of cool steampunk, fascinating creatures, and I've always been a fan of airships. Westerfeld makes us wonder not only about the two main characters, but how people from different cultures think about each other--in this case the British who created strange creatures to advance their technology, and the Austrian/Germans who developed advanced mechanical machines/animals. I'm looking forward to Goliath.

https://booksthoughtsadventures.com said...

I have these and I just need to get to them!!!

Something to look forward to...

ivanova said...

I loved this trilogy. The steampunk-esque perspective on WWI was very fresh and interesting. I loved the English Darwinists with their modified animals, like the giant airships that are whales, and the German Clankers with their machines. Westerfeld always makes the slang from his worlds seem so natural and real (I wanted to start saying words like "boffin" and "clart.") I thought the two main characters were great, especially Daryn Sharpe, the girl disguised as a boy on the airship. And I liked that there were real historical figures in the books, like Nikolai Tesla.

Jazz said...

The Leviathan series is what a steampunk series should be. It is about subverting the aristocracy, and giving power to the people. Deryn is a brillaint character capable of great heroism on and off of the battlefield.

I wrote a detailed review of the trilogy in September if anyone cares to check it out: http://www.jazzsexton.com/2011/09/leviathan-trilogy-by-scott-westerfeld.html

The short version is that the series is fantastic, and you should read it.

Unknown said...

I haven't read these but they are on my list of books to read. They sound like great books.

Heather said...

I love these books and they're next up on the read aloud list at my house. (We're finishing up the Septimus Heap series first) The illustrations are incredible and the characters are wonderfully flawed human beings.

Rena J. Traxel said...

I love the drawings! The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade was the first steampunk book I've ever read and I'm looking forward to trying another. Who designed the header to your blog? (I love it)!

GatheringBooks said...

Hi, I've heard so much about Scott Westerfeld, I feel that I'm missing out on so much by not having his books - same with Maggie Stiefvater. *Sigh* so many books, too little time. :( Will make it a point to MAKE the time this year though - but will begin with the Chaos Walking Trilogy first. :)

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks All! Great reviews and comments... and Rexa, the header for this blog was designed by the amazing Jim DiBartolo - here's his website to see more of his art: http://www.jimdibartolo.com/

Anonymous said...

As everyone else has said, this series is amazing. It's very enjoyable to read, and it's most of the reason I got a good grade on my WWI final. When Derryn first signs up for the Air Service dressed as a boy, there's an interesting discussion of gender presentation and what kind of things people associate with different genders.

Kathryn said...

Y'know - I don't actually like the Leviathan books. They're dieselpunk (not steampunk - it's a minor quibble though), and... I don't know. I didn't find any of it that realistic.

It seemed as though Westerfeld didn't want to go into any details with how Deryn managed to avoid detection for so long, and I felt that any true LGBT themes were skirted around. If Deryn was a transman, I think I would have found it a lot better, but she wasn't.

Yeah, it plays a little with gender, but I honestly didn't feel it to go where it should have gone.

I'd recommend them still, as you can't fault Westerfeld's sense of humour, but I really did think that the Dylan/Deryn thing to not live up to any of its potential.

Kathryn said...

Apologies to the comments moderator, but I noticed some flaws with my comment.

"Realistic" is the wrong word, considering this is a World War One retelling involving genetic engineering, world-changing technologies and massive diesel-powered walkers. I should have clarified and said I didn't find the treatment of any potential LGBT themes to be realistic.

Westerfeld did his research, definitely, and he created a (potentially) brilliant trilogy, but I found the last book (Goliath) to be a massive let down due to some moments of bizarre character interaction (if anyone's read a certain scene with Deryn and the Lady Boffin, you'll perhaps know what I mean).

I read all three in less than a year, and have all of them in HC on my shelf, but I honestly struggle to recommend them from an LGBT point of view. As far as YA diesel/steampunk goes, there's not particularly a lot to choose from, and one could fairly easily term Deryn as a strong female character.

Jenna Devany Waters said...

I am late the game on this comment thread, having just finished the series, but I have to agree with Kathryn above - I was EXTREMELY disappointed in how the series handled, or more accurately, didn't handle, the queer subtext of the girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy likes boy-who-doesn't-know-she's-a-girl relationship. I expected the series to follow the cliche trope where boy likes boy-who-is-really-a-girl, but is confused by his feelings because (gasp!) he thinks she's a boy!, and does that mean he's (gasp!), but then (gasp!) she reveals the truth, along with a confession of love, and finally all bothersome questions of sexual orientation disappear because now it's all "ok." Which is gross and tiresome, but surprisingly not what happens in this trilogy.

Instead, what happens is far worse - these books erase the EXISTENCE of homosexuality entirely. Every time a character realizes Deryn is in love with Alek, they instantly realize she is a girl. Because apparently there is no other logical conclusion for her feelings. And Alek spends two full books without a hint of attraction felt toward her, until he figures out she is in fact a she, at which point, he can suddenly consider their friendship as something more. A million smaller character interactions reinforce this absence over and over.

Rewriting the realities of the world to erase the existence of homosexuality is a pretty big revision. On a ship full of SAILORS, no less. Despite the fact that I thought the actual premise behind the worldbuilding and much of the writing was pretty wonderful, I am really surprised to see this recommended on a queer reads blog.

Anonymous said...

I *LOVE* this trilogy sooooo much! I wish Mr. Westerfield would write a fourth novel. But, there's one problem with the trilogy's inclusion on this website: although Deryn Sharp is DISGUISED as a boy, she doesn't IDENTIFY as one, so the Leviathan trilogy doesn't really have any gay characters. It's still a great read, though! ^_^¿