At the moment I’m reading the second book in the Leviathan series, called Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld. The style is described as steampunk, and its good once you get into it.
Initially I was totally uninterested in the book, as it appeared to be another re-hash of “young teen hero saves the day”, and since Harry Potter and all the similar stories since I’m kind of burnt out on that plotline. Yes, yes, novels have always had a good child star every few years since forever, I get that. It is just that HP just turned the frenzy up twenty five notches, to where anything with 13 year old, a wizard, or a pet magic rock makes my skin crawl. But that is not why the book is blog-worthy, actually its the direct opposite which makes me write about it.
The series is worth a read as they are aimed at a young audience, but have something for adult readers to appreciate. Unlike the Harry Potter series, which bluntly projects the plot, and assumes the reader is a dim-whit; Westerfield gives you a story where you cannot see around the corners. I like that. The story can evolve in a manner which is logical to the setting, but also not lope from scene to scene until the final dialog draws out from the box text you read on the back cover.*
Whilst reading the books I could not help but ponder what the series might have been like if the main two characters had been 24 instead of 14 years old.The plot could be essentially the same, and it would not be an altogether poor read either.The characters have flaws, they make shitty choices, and they push their own boundaries. Everything that you’d want from a set of misfits trying to escape and evolve in a hostile setting. I found myself liking the story a lot.
The setting also has potential to be a none too shabby RPG setting. The history of the setting is all mucked about, and that comes easy to accept when you consider the drastic changes which would occur if we could actually genetically engineer or construct the war machines that are the basis for the setting. It reads like the Rifts RPG, set in Darwin’s time (got your interest didn’t it).
Of course if it was re-written by an old hack like me a few more changes would be made.
I’d love the fear of the “Naturalist” movement to be heightened to the next step where the issue of human experimentation/interbreeding is introduced. In fact both sides (a war between genetic engineering and mechanised enhancement) could bring forth a human augmentation arms-race. Bring on the cybernetic soldier, using cog-wheel tech and steam power. Or a recently mauled wartime survivor opting for bio-enhancements which are separate living creatures, which co-habitat his body so he can seek a dreadful revenge.
Maybe in another series, or another novel out there. I’m looking forward to the end of the second book, and particularly to how the two major characters will deal with the death of their close followers; which is an untested theme in the story so far. I suspect Westerfield will do an excellent job.
*ps. If this blog reads like a Harry Potter bashing session, please understand that I like those books. They needed to be better edited and less predictable; but then I’d not compare my opinion with Rowling’s achievements either – she’d win hands down.