Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld and illustrated by Keith Thompson

Do you ever get a book you just want to savor? This book kind of felt like the last Harry Potter book for me. I wanted to read it super fast and find out all that happens; yet, I also didn’t want to read it too fast because I didn’t want this fantastic series to be over. Goliath is the final book in the Leviathan trilogy, a series I rank up there with some of my all time YA favorites.
This series is about two people: Alek and Deryn. But before I can even delve into them at all, I need to explain a little of the awesomeness of Westerfeld’s steampunk world. The book takes place during WWI, and like how the war really started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that’s how it starts in this series. And while there are plenty of things I don’t remember about this war (from my AP European History class), I do remember all the crazy allegiances that were made, and that definitely happens in these books too, although the major differences here are the two sides: the Clankers (who are all about the steampunk machines) and the Darwinists (who are all about creating new species of creatures).
Much of all three books takes place on the airship: the Leviathan (which is pretty much a collection of ton of different animals combined to make one sort of space ship/pirate ship, hot air balloon. I really cannot describe it better. Thankfully, the books are layered in beautiful illustrations. Really, these pictures are gorgeous, and I’m so glad they are there because sometimes it feels like Westerfeld gets so carried away with his awesome ideas, that he doesn’t explain things adequately, and the pictures then come in handy because it’s super hard to imagine an airship like this without a little visual help.
Any way, Alex is a Clanker. Actually, he’s the son of Archduke Ferdinand, and the series begins with his escape. Eventually he meets up with Deryn, a girl pretending to be a boy so she can be a midshipman (aka: flying soldier). And she’s actually really good at it. There are a million scenes of her doing insane stunts (all a thousand miles up in the air).
This book starts right after book 2 finished. And one of the reasons I was anticipating this book so much was that Alek still didn’t know that Deryn was a girl –who also happened to be in love with him…And thankfully, the best friends share all their secrets in this one (and close to the beginning!) Fans will not be disappointed in this respect. I feel like book 2 focused more on Deryn, and this one was more about Alek and all the major, royal decisions he had to face.
We’re introduced to a new character, Mr. Tesla, an inventor claiming to have created the weapon that will end WW1. There’s a lot of ethical questions about whether ending a war and saving possibly millions of lives was worth the lives of hundreds or even thousands. This reminded me a lot of the nuclear debates that began with WWII, but not quite the same. The characters pretty much travel the world in this book, going places like Russia, Japan, Mexico, and New York City. And it was fascinating to see Westerfeld’s versions of these places. The characters travel, reveal their darkest secrets, save inventors, carry on secret weapons, rescue reporters, get filmed flying around the Leviathan for “moving pictures” (aka: movies), argue politics, get sabotaged by movie producers, and get offered amazing new jobs.
Everything really concludes in this book. And most of the characters get much-deserved endings. Though, the war isn’t over yet when it ends. America has joined into the chaos after there’s a German attack in NYC, in effort to get Mr. Tesla’s supposed peace creating weapon.
Alek does so much growing up. I didn’t always like him. In fact, I didn’t really like him at all until midway through book 2. He was a whiner. Granted, both his parents were just assassinated, but still, he was just too ignorant and spoiled for me to quite understand why Deryn liked him so much. In this book Alek has become brave (going into the air, literally, with Deryn), negotiating diplomacy, standing up for what he wants, and actually building his own opinion for how things are and should be. I always loved Deryn, as a boy and a girl. And I loved getting to se her be a tiny bit girly around Alek in this one; it’s such a contrast from her normal, spitting, punching self. I loved how the animals/Darwinist creations developed more in this book too. Their good friend, Bovril, really has learned to do more than just repeat things, and can even say whole sentences by the end of the book.
And most of all, I love how this amazingly creative world centers around very real concepts and history.  The only real negative-ish thing I can say here, again is how Westerfeld has this tendency to get carried away with crazy, but amazing ideas, and then not describe them properly. And it always takes me a little while to get sucked up into this world when I start reading. I have to adjust to the language and world. But, once that adjustment is made, all I could really do was just savor it. It gets a 10/10. If you liked Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, you’ll probably like this.  Really, it’s just such a unique, fun, series. I highly recommend it.

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