leviathan – guest post by ginny of ginnylou studio

Friday, September 21, 2012 |
Today’s guest blogger is Ginny of GinnyLou Studio (my sister, in other words).  She paints her nails obsessively and has an overly large accessory collection.  She’s also my best friend.


hi--it's Cecelia's favorite sister (never mind the only part) here with a post about steampunk.

why, oh why, would Cecelia ask her crafty sister to do a post?  


'cuz i'm a teacher.

of kids.

in the english language.  and various historical events.

and i'm smart.

(even though the last few sentences may have painted me in an unflattering light.  and please disregard the fact that i wrote the aforementioned sentences.)


or it might have something to do with the fact that i really like steampunk literature and have actually read quite a few books that fit the category.

yeah, that must be it.  okay, back on track here.

leviathan by scott westerfeld book cover
so i'm going to share a few of my thoughts on one of the first steampunk books i ever read: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

see, back when my sister lived in Washington (state), we went to this book signing/ book talk event because she was still a book nerd back then.  i was her plus one, because let's face it, i'm the best plus one EVER, and i'm pretty sure she told me we could have food on the way up.

so, we went to this event and saw THE Scott Westerfeld, listened to him promote his book, saw the book trailer, asked questions, got in line for the book signing, got a picture with him, and walked out of the store with a free cardboard cutout of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days."  it was fun.

it was also my first exposure to steampunk.

i was impressed.

if you haven't seen the book trailer for Leviathan, you should really check it out.  it's one of the best book trailers i've ever seen, and i know legitimate school librarians with real school jobs who use that trailer when they talk about books to kids.

there's this combination of sound effects/ music that makes the video engaging, and somehow all of it unwittingly piques your interest in the entire world that Westerfeld creates.  it's mesmerizing.  you see and hear and can almost smell the machines clanking around the screen.  go watch it.  *phew* and i haven't even started talking about the illustrations.  (well, i guess now i've mentioned it.)  

so the book not only has a stellar author in Westerfeld, but also an amazing illustrator.  i'm not talking doodles with stick-like figures.  these pictures are full blown, 24"x36" print-worthy illustrations.  these illustrations give life to the machines and beasts and contraptions, and imagery in the steampunk book.  (please also note that the following two books in the series sport their own full page pictures as well--AWESOME-SAUCE!)  some of the illustrations pop up in the book trailer, but they're really best seen in person in the pages of Leviathan... they stand out when you're flipping through your book, reading little captions below pictures to see what's coming ahead (but not in a "give it all away" type of way).

i must admit, i think Leviathan was the perfect introduction to steamunk.  it has the pictures, it has great story elements (more on that later).  AND, it just happens to be historical fiction (albeit extreme historical fiction).  basically, right up my alley!

lots of things i liked about this book:

1.  action scenes.  this book isn't too heavy on the expository sections... Westerfeld shows us the world, but he also doesn't bore us to death with detail-overload.  the action scenes were fun for me because i've always been a fan of war movies... my dad used to borrow war movies from the library and i swear i've probably seen 3/4 of all the war movies ever made.  the action wasn't gratuitous either, i mean, the setting of the book is a war.  it's the clankers vs. darwinists--machines vs. beasts.

2.  there's a good mix of fantasy/ history.  the Darwinist animals in this story are some of the most interesting elements in my humble opinion.  not that i don't enjoy a piece of machinery as much as the next guy, but Westerfeld made the 'beasties' likeable even if they were those attacking bat/ bird things.  and the title "Leviathan" actually refers to the name of the Darwinist ship, a huge honking whale/ blimp.  it's awesome.  and like the book trailer says, it's 1914, Europe is close to war, but this story is a re-working of the history of WWI... it both follows the main points, yet doesn't.  sorry for being cryptic.  you should just read the book.

3.  there's this awesome guy/ girl thing.  it's that painfully truthful representation of girls... or one girl in particular: Deryn (who poses as a boy so she can work on the ship).  she over thinks her relationship with Alek, the son of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  and she doesn't just do a little bit of over thinking, she does the adolescent version of over thinking.  i know this because it sounds just like the kids i teach in school.  *le sigh*  and then there's Alek... he's a typical guy--he's still figuring out life, he doesn't know what he thinks about girls, or his role in the war, and he's clueless.  there are plenty of hints throughout the book that point towards the truth about Deryn.  does he pick up on them?  of course not.  he's a guy.

4.  the occasional caper-ish type of scene.  this is different than the action scenes.  i guess it's more about the main characters actually acting like teenagers.  Westerfeld must have a really good model to study in terms of teenaged behavior, because he does a really truthful telling of what they're like.  almost painfully so.

all in all, i guess i didn't really hit on too many "steampunk" elements, but don't worry, this book is squarely/ firmly/ concretely in the steampunk genre, and will be for a long long time.  but never fear, there are tons of fun steampunk-y slang phrases ("Barking spiders!" and "You're a bum-rag" which is really just an insult, not a steampunk phrase...) and there are also lots of gadgets too... guns, tools ,machines, that type of thing.

recommended for: adventure fans, coming-of-age stories, slight romance lovers, gadget geeks, and other people that are easily swayed by book trailers, fancy covers, offers of food, and book blogging sisters.  so pretty much everyone.

leviathan by scott westerfeld book cover
It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. 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.

If you'd like to see more steampunk goodness, check out the Steampunk Week in September calendar of events!


Liviania said...

I think Westerfeld is a great example of anything. He always has a fun spin on genre.

Ginny Larsen said...

yay! i feel famous! thanks for letting me guest :D (also, is it just me or has everyone already read this book?)

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