Leviathan: Genetic Animal Machines Meet Deiselpunk

Just finished Westerfeld’s Leviathan. Awesome book. Right up there with the Uglies series. I had my doubts. I’m not much for historical fiction (even the alternate history flavor). But three chapters in, I was hooked.

What Westerfeld’s done that I haven’t seen elsewhere is create machines out of genetically altered animals. He has lizards that deliver messages like talking telegrams. Fabricated elephants pull carts through London. And, the big daddy of them all, the Leviathan—an airship composed of a hydrogen-filled sperm whale.

I couldn't find the picture of the Leviathan itself. But here's another hydrogen filled beastie, a medusa jellyfish acting as a balloon.

The mechanical aspects are actually dieselpunk rather than steampunk. The difference, you ask? Fuel is the answer. Dieselpunk uses gasoline (or in Westerfeld’s case, kerosene) to fuel their machines. Here’s an example of the Austrian walker, looking like a cross between Japanese mecha, and the walker from Star Wars.

The plot bounces between two teens: the son of Arch Duke Ferdinand of Austria (now on the run) and Darren Sharp (masquerading as a boy to join the Royal Air Force). Of course just the hint of a romance develops between the two when they meet. The book, like the Uglies series, ends with a set up for a sequel. (Although the ending isn’t so infuriatingly cliffhanging like the end of Uglies. I was only lucky to have started that series after all four books had been published.)

I couldn’t find any information on the sequel, but given production times, the manuscript’s most likely complete. It’s probably only being marketed and ready for distribution in the fall (a year from Leviathan’s premiere). But I could be off on this one.

At any rate, certainly pick up a copy. The book is stupendous.

Tim Kane

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