Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld - Review

Oh, can I sing the praises of the YA god that is Scott Westerfeld! I was looking forward to this steampunk series from him ever since I heard about the first book Leviathan coming out last year, and over the weekend, I just read book II in the trilogy, Behemoth. Westerfeld's Uglies series was so fabulous-- everybody talks about The Hunger Games as starting the dystopia craze in YA, but it was totally this series that was first written and became popular. And they had great covers, and a great underlying theme, and romance, and were so well written. Yes, I can gush and gush about this man. He seems pretty awesome as a human as well, and is married to the fabulous Justine Larbalestier (How to Ditch Your Fairy). In my head I envision them as this awesome funny creative couple.

SO! On to the Leviathan series! It's basically a revisioning of WWI, but steampunk, so the opposing armies are an army with mechanical creatures against an army using gigantic animals (some of which are filled with hydrogen and are turned into organic airships!). He's created a world so much more complex and complete than most YA storyworlds, down to the very language that his protagonists use. All of their sayings relay culture, making the alternate reality he creates feel real. There are pictures every so often, which I thought was a little dorky when I first saw it in Leviathan, but then realized was necessary because of all the crazy contraptions and creatures he describes--you seriously need pictorial representations to figure out what the crap some of these things are supposed to look like. But soooooo cool.

The books are very episodic, and there's so much going on in each episode, it was a little harder to feel hang on to larger storylines going on. But the characters and their motivations and feelings are always clear. I'm always a fan of too much complexity rather than too little. Reading this book felt SO different from the normal YA fare--Westerfeld just takes it to a completely higher level on all accounts. Reading the book was like a mini master class on how books should be written. I'm trying to hijack some of his methods for culture building to make the storyworld in my novel fuller and more realistic.

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