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Group Read (April): Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld ***SPOILER thread***

The 11 in 11 Category Challenge

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1lkernagh
Apr 10, 2011, 11:26am Top

I didn't see a thread for this group read so I thought I would start one. No frills but it should still suit the purpose ;-)

2lkernagh
Edited: Apr 13, 2011, 8:13pm Top

Okay - I finished the book rather quickly mainly because I couldn't put it down and because I had a relaxing weekend that let me focus, to a large extent, on reading.

Love this one. I really like how Westerfeld twisted the history just enough to accommodate his story. I loved both the Clanker technology - all those fascinating mechanical weapons of war - and the Darwinist bio-engineered 'stuff'. I think the reason this story was so fascinating for me was it really hit home on different levels - the Clanker technology was a reminder growing up in an engineering family where I got to play with a Meccano set almost as much as I played with dolls - and the Darwinist angle as presented by Westerfeld - Yes, I have read Darwin's On the Origin of the Species but find this to be quite an interesting stretch on that theme. Not saying I have a problem with it but I am still puzzling over the nuances of the explanations provided in the book.

Loved both Aleksander and Deryn, and really wish I had Deryn's juts - I have this innate fear of falling from great heights. Walking around on the outside of an airship is not my idea of fun. Although I do love the Huxley's.... that would be such a cool ride!

I really think the illustrations were key to bringing across the story and I was surprised how quickly I was able to adapt my mental image of the story to line up with Thompson's illustrations.

Those are my initial thoughts. I am sooo glad this book was suggested for a group read, or I never would have picked it up. Thanks!

3GingerbreadMan
Apr 13, 2011, 5:04pm Top

Hi Lori, joining in here but treading lightly - still only about a hundred and eighty pages in, I'm wary of spoilers.

I like it a lot so far too. Interesting what you mention about the illustrations. I'm usually not fond of illustrations, as I feel they tend to sit heavily on my imagination. Here however, they seem to be a help in saving Westerfeld to have to go into too much detail about especially the huge hulks (like Leviathan and the Clanker dreadnoughts) and still getting the massiveness of them across. Still, I can't help to wonder about what I wolud have pictured without them.

Another thing I like is how Westerfeld tweeks language in the two story lines. While never written in first person, there's a clear sense of difference in language depending on who the chapter is about. It's much clearer when he writes about Deryn though - possible because he's writing in the character's own language then.

Actually, I kind of wish Westerfeld would have taken the german language thing just a little further. Details like the fact that it's a Cyklop Stormwalker (with a slightly ethnic k instead of a c) rather than a Cyklop Sturmgänger bugs me a little (very little) bit. But these are very minor complaints.

Most of all, as a sucker for world building, I think he finds the balance between plot and detail just right.

4lkernagh
Apr 13, 2011, 9:04pm Top

Hi Anders, I will keep comments vague and avoid any comments that might reveal the ending until more people have finished reading. As for the illustrations, I definitely pictured Aleksander differently in my mind - he seems, I don't know, younger and smaller (even though I don't like the use of that word, I am at a loss to find a replacement for it right now) in the illustrations.

I did find Dr. Barlow and interesting addition to the story, providing another female character to the plot.

5VictoriaPL
Apr 15, 2011, 7:23am Top

All done!

I loved the language. In fact, I might adopt barking spiders I like it so much.

Even though I knew it was a series I was still disappointed when things ended... the way they did. We can talk more details when Anders finishes.

6GingerbreadMan
Apr 17, 2011, 6:40am Top

Literally just popping in for a minute: I have 60 pages to go, expect to finish it tonight.

7GingerbreadMan
Apr 17, 2011, 6:25pm Top

Finished it a couple of hours ago. The review is on my thread. You're right Victoria, the ending was pretty blunt even for a book in a seres.

Also, I kind of wished Westerfeld would have dared to use the whole genderbending thing a little bit more. Deryl is starting to get some tingling bits after hugging Alek, but we hear nothing from Alek. A bit of "oh my gosh am I having feelings for a boy?" would have been interesting, I think. then again, the lad's parents died two days ago, so perhaps romance isn't really on his mind...

That being said, I look forward to seeing how Westerfeld plays this in the coming books.

Another thing I would've liked to have read some more about is religion. It's brushed on that the Clankers see the Darwinists as "ungodly" and that the Ottomans as muslims dislike them too - so religion is a factor in this alternate world. But what has the actual implications of such an early discovery of DNA been in terms of religion in Britain? That's not even mentioned in the book, I think.

8lkernagh
Apr 17, 2011, 10:28pm Top

Bounced over to your thread Anders to read your review - loved it!

I never twigged on the genderbending angle that was missing - good observation on your part! - but I think you are right in that Alek probably had other things on his mind.

I am glad you mentioned the religion factor vis a vis the Clankers views on the Darwinists and their 'creations'. While Westerfeld didn't go into it in any details - and I wish he had, there was a whole other plot angle that topic could have provided - I did get the impression that the British in the story were in too camps regarding the Darwinists themselves - whether they supported the Darwinists or protested against them, the 'Monkey Luddites' as the members of the British Air Service referred to them. St. Paul's Cathedral still stands in Westerfeld's London, along with other landmarks for readers to recognize but Westerfeld is silent as to whether the Cathedral is still a place of worship in this London. Is it possible that in this version of history, religion, at least in Britain, has taken a back seat to Darwin's teachings in natural philosophy? I do remember Deryn and the other middies receiving lectures aboard the Leviathan about natural philosophy, along with military history, navigation, and the airship's anatomy. That would place them at odds with the Clankers and Alek's family that still referred to the Pope as the supreme authority.

Need to think this one over some more.....

9VictoriaPL
Apr 22, 2011, 3:58pm Top

I also didn't think about that "genderbending" point. Maybe because I'm female and I hug other females all the time without thinking anything of it.

Anyway, I was glad Westerfeld let Alek cry when he mourned for his parents. He's a tough kid but he's not hard, know what I mean?

The religion/political bits reminded me of reading Dune in some fashion... I feel like I don't have a grip on the particulars. But I'm trying...

10GingerbreadMan
Apr 26, 2011, 9:11am Top

9 Oh, I hug other men all the time too! So it's not that in itself I'm talking about. It just seems a little bit of a waste to have a love story coming up (or so it seems), and not use the fact that one of the characters is presently thinking the other is of the same sex he is. But as I said, perhaps Westerfeld will use Deryl's secret more in the books to come.

@8 Interesting point about the monkey luddites! Then again, if I remember the real luddites correctly, they were more about saving jobs for the working man than condemning machines as ungodly. Again, looking forward to reading more about this. It definitely seems as if the opposing forces in WW1 in his version are neatly divided into Clankers and Darwinists (with the possible exception of the Ottoman empire?). Perhaps his version of WW1 is fought for completely different reasons - religion or lack thereof!

As for Alek, I almost felt he was made out to be too young in the beginning, with the toy soldiers and all. I understand about table top as a strategic concept, and yes, Warhammer and stuff...But playing with soldiers alone at 16?

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