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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Behemoth -- Excellent characters, good conflict, and an amazing world

Westerfield, Scott.  (2010) Behemoth.  New York:  Simon Pulse

     The plot is intriguing, the story moves, the characters re interesting and multi-dimensional, but what makes Behemoth (and its predecessor, Leviathan) excellent books is author Scott Westerfield's ability to create and immerse the reader in a world which is familiar to us, but entirely different from our own.
     Some people might refer to this book as dystopian or steampunk, but both designations are wrong.  This series tells the story of Deryn, who is a girl posing as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.  She is assigned to the living airship Leviathan during a time when war between England, Germany, and other countries seems inevitable.  Britain, following the practical theories of Charles Darwin has figured out a way to genetically create living biological weapons. 
     It is also the story of Alek, a Prussian prince who is left without a country following German's annexation of his native land.  Unlike Britain, Germany has put its defense in the hands of gifted mechanical engineers, who have designed giant walking tanks and other weapons. 
     When the story opens, Alek and his small entourage are being held captive aboard the Leviathan, which is on its way to Istanbul to try to convince the Turkish leader not to support the Germans.  When Alek and his men escape, Deryn needs to figure out how she can help Alek, same the peace mission, defeat the new German electrical weapon, and figure out how to help the rebellion against the Turkish leaders. 
     And I'll tell you what, it is a fun story.  But the most amazing part of it is not the plot or the character development or the suspense (though it has all of those).  What makes this an excellent book is the way Westerfield lets us explore cultures that we are sort of familiar with, but that have changed due to the circumstances of this alternate history.
     Look, it is really fun, okay.
     Excellent fifth grade readers might be able to make it through this, but it is really probably for sixth grade and older.  The book has nothing objectionable that I noticed.  Check it out.

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