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
My taste vary. I love a good, blood stained horror, but also a well written kids story. Lots of Sci-Fi, but also Hist. Fiction. No boring!!!
Fabricated beasts, poisonous barnacles and steam spewing mechanical monsters are all things I enjoy. BARKING SPIDERS, I should have enjoyed this. This is my third Westerfeld novel and I like the subjects he writes about. I just could not get into this book. When you write in this genre, you need to keep coming up with new monsters, new inventions, new wow stuff and or have well developed, well loved or hated characters. I found this book too be almost exactly the same as book one, only a different location.
In this book, I lost all respect for the main characters. Darren would rather climb a tree and tell a lie, then stand on the ground and tell the truth. Every time she turns around she commits treason. The British Military is not only oblivious to the fact that they have a girl masquerading as a boy, they never catch her in her many treasons. Every time she thinks she has been caught they promote her and give her more responsibilities. Alex's life and his nation depends upon his ability to keep a secret. The phrase, he couldn't keep a secret to save his life, is so apt here, but Westerfeld lets him get by with it. I know this is a YA novel, but that does not excuse making these characters so stupid or the British Military so ignorant.
Most fun audiobook I've listened to yet! The story sucked me in. I think any girl who's been underestimated can relate to Daryn.
I loved his accents and voices! As each character spoke you heard not just their accents but the character. He was really playing about a dozen roles and he made them all come alive!
Yes! I think I did :)
Leviathan left me with baited breath- wondering what the Barking Spiders was going to happen! Behemoth is a great follow up - and I'm about to start the third book now! In short - if you like well written historical fiction - this is a great series.
Once again, Alan Cumming does an excellent job as the reader. I also appreciate the author's afterword breaking down the history from the fiction.
Alan Cumming is the man of a million voices - a great narrator for a series with characters from all over the globe. The books have an exciting, fast moving storyline that makes for good commute-listening.
Dr. Barlowe, Alec, and Deryn are my favorites. I also like the perspicacious loris.
All the great accents. He really helps develop the characters and the plot with his reading (especially the really exciting scenes!)
The cliffhanger ending really makes me look forward to listening to the next book in the series. Off to download it now! These books are a little bit short but definitely worth the credit.
I love this series! The writing is creative and extends the imagination. The narration is fabulous and brings the characters to life. Leviathan had me hooked, but Behemoth is even better. Don't miss this one!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gamon
No I haven't
I didn't want the story to end.
Alan Cumming has really done a great job with this one. All the characters are distinct, and he reads clearly and with emotion. As a sequel Scott Westerfeld has kept it interesting; I guess it is really more of a continuation.
This is in it's own category; sort of cross-genre alternative historic novel steampunk thriller. So, I don't have a comparison.
The chase scene in Istanbul, with the Germans chasing Alec through the streets and he meets his new allies.
It made me laugh when Darren thought to use the spices to attack the hijacker; reminds you to be creative and observant.
I was worried that the second book in the series would not be as good as the first. But I am enjoying it just as much and looking forward to the third.
Tell us about yourself!
Living machines and reworked history....the concept was a little bizarre at first but it worked.
not all books can make the leap to audio and still work well. this one does. great reader.
Teen book that is a good adult read too.
Audio books are the best :)
I've been listening to this trilogy mainly because I love the main characters' relationship and want to see how it ends up, ya know with one of them being a girl acting as a boy in the English militia, scandalous! ;)
It's incredibly imaginative and well written and BEAUTIFULLY performed but overall it's not my favorite genre and thus didn't get a super high rating from me. It's also very very detail and description oriented so sometimes it's hard to get a good mental image of all the exotic creatures Westerfeld has created.
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