Westerfeld, Scott - Leviathan - Vol.1
With the murder of Aleksandar's parents in Sarajevow the eve of the first world war has begun. The boy is little aware of this when he is being taken from the castle in the middle of the night by Volgor, a close confidant of his father.
They board a Walker, one of the great creations of the mechanical inventors, and escape. As the only son of the designated heir of Franz Joseph I., Aleksandar is becoming a big booty. Despite his not acceptable descent (his parents had to give up the inheritance for the children because of the socially unacceptable connection) they will chase him and try to get their hands on him.
At the same time Deryn, who has disguised herself as a boy, thas achieved the goal of their desires: She has become member one of the Army Air Force and is on board of one of those huge air ships, which were created by scientists and biologists of the British Empire.
On board the Leviathan (the name of the airship) is a mysterious woman with some no less strange eggs that are to be transported. Deryn is surprised. Such trouble for some eggs, containing perhaps only a few more "Beasties"?
Then everything goes very quickly: War breaks out, the Germany-Austrian Empire and England face each other, and in neutral Switzerland the two young people meet completely surprised and unexpectedly. And in order to survive they have - and all who stay there with them - only one chance: they have to work together.
An abstract, which concerns only one aspect of this story, and focuses especially on the plot. However, this is much too thin for the story Westerfeld unfolds.
Europe is at a crossroads. After the assassination of the heir to the Austrian emperor's crown - it is not clear which of the political parties of interest has to answer to it - war seems inevitable. The crucial question will be who will have the better of the two major parties Arms: The Clankers or the Darwinists.
"Clankers" are called the (mainly German-Austrian) who rely on machines and place their trust on diesel, roaring engines, gears and hydraulics. They develop more martial weapons, including so-called "Walker", fighting machines with up to eight legs, which are able to shoot their way.
On the other side there are the Darwinists who build their inventions on the findings of Darwin. They trust genetics and the ability to change, mixing and combining of known species to new creatures - and their use as lethal weapons. Also Leviathan is one of those creaturers, a huge airship, which consists of a seemingly infinite amount of Beasties, summarized in a ship.
The ideological broder draws not only through Europe, even within nations there are different views, and so it is a closely guarded secret, that the woman with the bowlerhat is on board the Leviathan to fullfill a mission.
First, however, the main aim is to survive, because the struggle for supremacy in Europe is already in motion.
Again, this is one way to describe what Scott Westerfeld has set in its startup volume of the trilogy.
The result is a book for young people, which I liked exceedingly well, and which I have read with great joy. Some reviews criticize the fact that Westerfeld's beasties and mechanika simply are not possible and would never work and therefore are absolutely absurd actually. This meant no problem to me, though, I found it interesting and inspiring on the contrary, even if he may have been very resourceful concerning certain individual inventions or creations.
... Deryn snorted. A few people - Monkey Luddites, they were called - were afraid of Darwinist beasties on principle. They thought that crossbreeding natural creatures was more blasphemy than science, even if fabs had been the backbone of the British Empire for the last fifty years (S. 31)
More or less sedate at first, there are only few lengths, the book gains speed, and both Aleksandar and Deryn experiences, thoughts and feelings are understandable. I never had the feeling that lead Westerfeld had to install a "deus-ex-machina" in the order to keep the story moving, and the idea of "alternate history" is a mind game that fascinates me.
Some refer to Leviathan as a "steampunk"-novel, something I wouldn't really agree with, because much of what I would expect in Steampunk, can't be found there. The fact that the story is placed ahead of World War I to me is not enough to justify this. If you have to put a label to it, I would decide on "Dieselpunk" - and then I see the discussion begin about whether you can look at Dieselpunk as a literary form of its own, whether it is or is not a subgenre of steampunk, whether this is meaningfull at all, and whether ... Honest answer? This discussion does not really interests me at this point - conerning the review on this book anyhow. This does not mean I would regard this discussion itself as insignificant - especially given the fact that both periods of the 19th and early 20 Century arouse an increasing interest among authors and book publishers and I, being tired of the classic fantasy with long sleeves, am more than happy to get such books.