Saturday, January 23, 2010

Leviathan, my first foray into Steam Punk

So sometimes I can be a bit thick, or maybe I'm just being a bit out of the loop, un-cool or what-have-you. But sometimes new genres mystify me in that strange way where you just think, I don't have a clue what these people are talking about.

Emo was like that, I just can't understand the whole "oh they're soo emo" I mean, emo is short for emotional, but uh, isn't all song writing emotional? or poetry? so how come you can refer to, a band for instance, derogatorily as being emo? Isn't that like gripping about the sun being "sooo yellow"?

Anywho, steam-punk was a bit the same for me, a mystifying term that didn't really give me any idea of what it meant outside of the obvious look of the thing (which is sort of artistic amplification of Victorian machinery). So after thoroughly enjoying Leviathan, and belatedly realizing that it qualifies as steam punk (HEY! don't laugh I just explained I was mystified by the term!), I thought I better become a little more informed on the subject. Scott's beautiful website (uh-humph, someone promised me beautiful art for my website, RYAN, not to name names) pointed me in the direction of a concise little article in Time magazine that laid it out for me.
"Fork the timeline. Imagine if computing technology had developed along the lines of Babbage's vision: brass and steel instead of silicon and plastic; clockwork instead of electronics. In fact, imagine if all the great technological revolutions of the past 100 years hadn't happened. Our world would run on Victorian tech--it would be a handmade, steam-powered world, finished in leather and mahogany. It's an elegant, romantic vision. And it has a name: steam punk.
Steam punk has been around for at least 30 years, with roots going back further.
". So there I had it, it basically means what it looks like, Victorian technology artistically amplified, punked if you will.

But back to the book! Part one of a series, Leviathan tosses you into the world of Clankers VS Darwinist Europe in those fateful summer days of 1914 which were to become the outset of world war one, both for them and for us. If you're up on your history you know that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot while in a motorcade and killed, (if you're super nerdy like me you probably read the same article i did when you were ten talking about cursed cars and have always wanted to see the Double Phaeton they were shot in, as well as the Porsche spyder James dean died in which honestly went on display after he died...what can i say? I was a morbid 10 year old, who, incidentally, had a lot of nightmares), which was the instigating factor that started world war one. The same is true in Leviathan, and the story starts with Alek, their son, and his escape via Cyklop Stormwalker with two of his fathers loyal subjects. A large proponent of the story is the escape and Alek's gradual discovery of the situation surrounding his father and mothers death, but intertwined with that is the equally enthralling story of Derwyn (aka Dylan) a young girl eager to join the male only ranks of the British Air Service. Alek is a "clanker", ie: believes in everything mechanically engineered, where as Derwyn is a Darwinist, ie: all things are genetically engineered and are thus all living creatures. And obviously they will be thrown together by circumstances, which is really why you should read the book, so I won't go into it here!

One of my favorite things about this book? Other than the Spectacular art By Keith Thompson? The freakin' great slang used by Derwyn!
"Even if they were fancy-pants boffins and being reminded of the barking obvious happened to annoy them" or "Don't worry, beastie. I'll get these bum-rags sorted for you."
Barking Spiders is my new favorite curse.

It'll take you a chapter or two to figure out the whole clankers and darwinist terminology, Scott doesn't baby anyone with one of those boring this is what this is and that is what that is, explanatory beginnings. But the reward is to launch full blown into a fast paced story with some lovable characters. The art is to die for, and like i say, the language is oh, so much fun. But be warned there is a killer cliff hanger, and you will have to wait till October 2010 for part two: Behemoth.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Published by Simon Pulse, October 2009

For other reviews see the following sites:
Tamora Pierce's Live Journal

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