Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl 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 the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way - taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.
©2009 Scott Westerfeld; (P)2009 SImon & Schuster
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Though a young adult novel, Leviathan is one of the most fun books I've read in a while. Its alternate universe version of Europe on the eve of World War One imagines the major powers equipped with cool steampunk technology. The British and their allies have fantastical genetically-engineered creatures, such as living airships, on their side, while the pickelhaube-clad Germans clank about (naturally) in giant, armored walkers. Such concepts have been done in fiction before, but Westerfeld creates a thoroughly enjoyable world, filled with likable characters, drama, wit, sci-fi speculation, and some real history. It's written on a level accessible (and appropriate) to middle school-aged kids, but I think many adults will like it just as much. Can't wait for the sequel! PS. If you get the audio version, be sure to check out the grotesquely cool map of Europe on Westerfeld's web site.
Alan Cumming does an excellent job of narrating and I quickly fell in love with the characters. However, it wasn't until I bought the book as a present for a friend that I realized how much I'd missed--the illustrations in the hard copy are simply breathtaking in their detail and of course, you don't get them with the audiobook. I highly recommend listening to the book, but if you love it as much as I did, don't forget to buy the book as well.
Most of the reviews talk about how outstanding the story is, and I agree wholeheartedly. I didn't know about the steampunk genre when I picked this up, and it is an excellent introduction. And I want to say that the last I learned about WWI was in ninth grade (more than 15 years ago) but I still knew what was historical fact and what was made up.
But I thought proper tribute needed to be made to Alan Cumming, the narrator. For the most part I use audiobooks as a way to pass the time. I work with words, so I prefer to see them. But this story was significantly enhanced by having it read to me by a European man. I hate to admit it, but it is because I am from the United States and not well traveled - that's why I love books. I don't know how accurately Cumming is doing these different accents (Austrian, various Brittish and I can only assume that Russian will come later) but they are a hella lot better than I could do them on my own head if I were reading the novel. He even gets the differences between the common Brittsh and "posh" Brittish.
I will say this about the author's work. As I said, I work with words myself, so I find the slang of the mid-shipman protagonist highly entertaining. Is that true Brittish slang of the time or did the author make that up as well? I don't know, but I love it. "Barking spiders!" and a "rattled attic," all without uttering what we would consider profanity today, which we all know sailors are prone to doing.
Two masters of their craft come together to create a truely imaginative work. HIGHLY recommended.
Whether or not you are a fan of steampunk, this book is a windfall. (If you were a fan, this book would surely be a *must*.) Loosely based on fact, spruced-up by Westerfeld's dynamo imagination, the examination of a WWI-era Europe full of huge, complex machines whipped up by German engineering, and artfully bizarre 'Darwinist' creations in England will hypnotise you. Considering the further into this book you go, the better the characterization and the plot grows (not to mention the more fascinating the Leviathan becomes), I have extremely high hopes for a follow-up Audible book in this series. It's a fun five-star reading!
Special props to Alan Cumming's Austrian accent and to Westerfeld for speaking for himself in the afterward (it's great to hear from you)!
I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.
From time to time I do enjoy a "young adult" listen (particularly the excellent City of Ember series, as well as His Dark Materials) but generally I don't expect too much in terms of story, setting, and character. Here is another fine exception to that expectation. "Leviathan" was amazingly brought to life here by Cumming, as we follow the stories of Aleks (a prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the run for his life) and Deryn (daughter to a ballooner, she enlists in the British Air Services as a boy in disguise) at the outbreak of The Great War as set in a wonderfully detailed and re-imagined alternate history, where "Clankers" (steam-powered mechs) power the German forces, and crossbred animals (tiger-wolf hybrids to pull carriages, amazing engineered jellyfish and whale airships) are the basis of the "Darwinist" forces of England.
All in all a thoroughly satisfying listen which I enjoyed immensely.
This was my first Scott Westerfeld book. I was a bit worried about getting into a kids book, even though all the reviews said it was a good adult book as well.
And, indeed - it's funny & intelligent, and although the characters are young they don't act like bratty little kids.
I loved the world that is invented with the beasties and cray walking machines. The adult characters are a little flat in comparison to Deryn and Alek, and sometimes seem to behave in crazy ways just to drive the plot, but those are are minor complaints. You will be drawn into the story and barely notice.
audible listener!! :o)
Great story! Scott Westerfield writes really wonderful characters who carry everything.
The plot was nice but a bit simple. So I liked the world he invented (all the beasties!) and the characters the best. The dialog is hilarious!!
Oh yeah, and then I bought the next two in the trilogy!!
This is a wonderfully fun story in a deeply imaginative world with engaging characters. But I agree with the other reviewers who say that it is the narration that makes this a truly excellent audiobook. Alan Cumming is a genius... his expressive reading and facility with accents gives the characters depth and consistency. This first book in the series is a little slow getting started-- but only b/c it is laying the groundwork for a longer series. By the end of the book (which I'd originally downloaded to entertain a teenaged friend), I rushed to download the sequel, and now am waiting with baited breath for the 3rd book.
Environmental engineer with a SciFi/fantasy addiction.
This is my first time writing a review since becoming a member a year ago. While I've thoroughly enjoyed many of these audio books, this is one of the first that completely pulled me in. I'd been trying to multi-task and take care of the dishes as I listened to the book, but gave up after the third time I found myself standing there with a dish suspended over the sink for 5 minutes. I've really enjoyed the other two Scott Westerfeld series I've read (Uglies, Peeps), but this is by far my favorite!
It takes a highly engaging story to keep me still for more than a few minutes ~ and even more so to keep me up well past the witching hour.
I really loved hearing Alan Cumming's deliberate and enchanting character voices. Daryn's personality came across so crisply, even while switching between "he/she" references as a girl airman. And Dr. Barlow - what fun!
For those who've enjoyed other books by Westerfeld - you won't be disappointed. For anyone who enjoys a good steampunk and/or alternate history genre - I'd highly recommend this as well. Heck, if you have even a squig of interest in concepts pertaining to biomechanics or fabricated animals - read up!
Well developed main characters. Secondary characters were developed just enough without wasting time and words on unnecessary paragraphs. The story and technology are well thought out and interesting. It's YA but an entertaining diversion from reality.
This was my first experience with narrator Alan Cummings. His performance was very good. It did not grab me right away but I warmed up quickly. His characterizations make each person easily identifiable. He narrates all three in this series and there is excellent continuity on narration (I've listened to series before where the same narrator actually pronounces proper nouns differently from book to book in the same series! Very annoying).
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