Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 4, 2011

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The reading group met at the North Village Library on Steck on Monday, April 4, to discuss Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. Fourteen people attended. Thirteen started the book, and nine finished reading it. Two people had read this author’s work before. Seven people intended to read the next book in the series. Many said that they would have enjoyed it in their adolescence also  (the targeted age group).

Everyone seemed to enjoy the book on some level. Many added the phrase “for a YA” to their compliments; only one person declared himself to be a fan of Young Adult books. People listed the following irritations:

  • The world or premise was not believable.  (How did Darwin unravel DNA so fast? How did the Germans advance so fast mechanically?) (3 readers)
  • The biotech, with its invention and use of animals, was repulsive, on the level British colonialism. (3)
  • Thin characterization or dislike of one or the other protagonists (3)
  • British society did not feel British. (2)
  • Some scientific details were not accurate. (Mercury is not red. Hydrogen does not smell like bitter almonds, although hydrogen cyanide does. Fencing illustrations were wrong.)
  • An escape plan that involved heavy gold bars rather than banking arrangements in other countries seemed doomed (and dumb).
  • Like unfortunately too many books, the ending was abrupt, with no sense of resolution. (4)

However, everyone mentioned that despite these complaints, they kept reading the story. Several described it as a real page-turner. Others mentioned the wealth of sensory detail made them willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story anyway. Scott Westerfeld seems firmly established with us as a good steampunk (or biopunk) writer.

The sequel Behemoth has been published, and its sequel Goliath is scheduled to be published later this year. Westerfeld has another YA series published (the Uglies) and several adult novels as well.

—Madeleine Reardon Dimond