Set during World War I, Behemoth tells a steampunk-esque alternate history. As in real life, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggers the conflict, but in Behemoth, the archduke has a secret heir whose life must be preserved at all costs. That is not the only historical divergence from reality, however not by a long shot. Behemoth features a familiar sociopolitical landscape but radically different scientific one. In this world, the British and other Allies are known as “Darwinists”, as their knowledge of biological sciences is super-advanced, to the point where instead of airplanes, they have giant, living airships (such as the eponymous Behemoth), and instead of something like walkie-talkies, they have messenger lizards. The Germans, meanwhile, are known as the “Clankers”, and they have eschewed the use of the biological creatures in favor of mechanical might; so where the Darwinists might have a giant, living airship, the Clankers would have giant mechs and other mechanical marvels.
Behemoth, the second book in the series (following 2009’s Leviathan), takes the protagonists British midshipman Deryn Sharp, and Prince Alek, heir to the throne of Austria to Constantinople, a city where the Darwinist and Clanker philosophies collide. There, the two are thrust into an explosive political machine that threatens to destroy all they’ve worked for, even as both Darwinist and Clanker factions attempt to sway the Ottoman Empire into joining their side in the conflict.
Every bit as full of a sense of wonder as its predecessor, Behemoth is a thrilling, masterful piece of fiction, a sterling example of what alternate history, steampunk, and speculative fiction is capable of. Peppered with enough details from real history to lend the book a rich authenticity, Westerfeld spins the story in wildly new directions at the same time. Although Behemoth is categorized as a young adult novel, it’s really a must-listen for anyone who enjoys speculative and/or historical fiction no matter their age.
Veteran and highly regarded actor of the stage and screen Alan Cumming’s performance is nothing short of enthralling. His Scottish brogue lightly accents his narration, but disappears or transforms into something else entirely when voicing the dialogue of the Austrian Prince Alek and the German Clankers and the other characters. Likewise, he does an excellent job portraying the teenage Deryn, a girl passing herself off as a boy. Somewhat subdued, without much vocal trickery, Cumming’s narration is simply a pleasure to listen to.
A brilliant book plus brilliant narration equals a surefire contender for audiobook of the year. John Joseph Adams
The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.
Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.
Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.
©2010 Scott Westerfeld (P)2010 Simon and Schuster Audio
Is he a dot, or is he a speck? When he's underwater does he get wet? Or does the water get him instead? Nobody knows, Particle man.
In case you hadn't noticed this series revolves around a love story, but a bit of an odd one. No surprise there for a YA book. The friendship between Deryn and Alek that began in Leviathan has unleashed feelings of a more complicated nature... at least for one of them. Deryn still manages to keep her gender a secret from Alek, but not from all others. And despite the obvious direction her feelings are leading her she continues her ability to conceal that particular secret from even herself.
Oh, and the world is still at war too providing an opportunity for further excitement. This time around the Clankers and Darwinists vie for the allegiance of the Ottoman empire. Our intrepid heroes find themselves separated for a time pursuing their own paths as they try to find their own place in the world as anyone their age longs to. Inevitably their paths reunite them in Istanbul. Here Westerfeld decides to take a further detour from history and throw Deryn and Alek into a hotbed of revolution that just may lead the Ottomans down a different path from the one we read about in our history books. Ever the loyal midshipman, Deryn focuses on finding a way to use the events to fulfill her duty to king and country while staying loyal to her friends. Alek seeks an opportunity to use what resources are left to him to aid a cause he can believe in.
Their enterprises are exuberantly related yet again by Alan Cumming, still one of the best readers I have had the pleasure to listen to.
The incredible characters were the best part of Behemoth. All the folks in Instanbul who Deryn and Alek meet are pretty cool, and the rebellion which they ferment is well brought off.
It fits right into the rest of the trilogy. Since each ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, you will want to listen to each one!
i rather liked Volger - he's rascally & pretty cool as narrated here.
On to book 3!
The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity. --Robert Anthony Contentment is, after all, simply refined indolence. --Thomas C.
Oh yes, I would happily listen again. This is a great sequel to Leviathon, which ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. Here we get introduced to Instanbul & Deryn and Alek's adventures in formenting revolution in the city and how they help the British Darwinists.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
If you're looking for some good young adult reading material, this is a fine series. Westerfield's setting is a re-imagining of the world at the time of World War I, but with the two sides armed with fantastical steampunk technology. The British and their Darwinist allies use fabricated (genetically engineered) creatures, such as living airships, while the Clanker Germans and Austrians rely on sophisticated machinery.
Behemoth, the second book in the series, continues at the same rolicking pace as the first, this time in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The story's two protagonists, a young British airman (who is actually a girl in disguise) and a deposed teenage heir to Austria's throne, are both appealing characters, and play off one another in a fun way. Westerfield does a decent job of blending the real-life history of World War I with his own world creation, using the ideological differences between the Darwinist and the Clanker powers as part of the story's backdrop (one wonders if his version of America, which apparently follows both paths, will feature in the next book). However, compared to its predecessor, this is a more straight-up adventure story, and I thought that a bit of the tragic historical resonance that I liked about Leviathan got lost among the gadgets and creatures.
Still, the young target audience is unlikely to mind. If you happen to be a parent looking for reading material for your children, there's no profanity or sex, and I can't say that the violence would get more than a PG rating. Also, the audiobook reader does a pretty good job with voices. His portrayal of Deryn's Scottish accent and Alek's Austrian one are now part of the charm for me.
I am a book junkie...I read and enjoy a variety of stories, so please don't "define me" by one book or review! :)
Here continues the engaging adventure that began in Leviathan...Aleks, Deryn and the others are vivid and winning characters. The writing is intelligent and informative but does not forget a sense of humor! Superb narration by Alan Cumming
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Great story! I grabbed this as soon as I'd finished up Leviathan as that one ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. Half way through, and the story is carrying on grandly! Can't wait to see what the perspicacious loris turns out to be & where Deryn and Aleks go next.
Alan Cumming is the one of the best narrators. He brings life and interest and accents to the characters that wouldn't be there either way.
All I can really think of was when Dillon/Deryn was messing with the kraken nets. Like, how crazy is that, just in general.
I heard the first book in this series read by Alan and he is just excellent.
I like how awesome and strong Dillon/Deryn is. She's just great and is always trying to do her best.
It's such a weird but familiar story. It's a good time.
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