Scott Westerfeld – Goliath
Read By: Alan Cumming
Length: 10h 35m (543 pages)
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate History, Steampunk Sci-Fi
Started: 27 September 2011
Finished: 05 October 2011
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’ve been waiting with bated breath for this to be published since roughly thirty seconds after I finished Behemoth.
Deryn doubts that a
new weapon has the power
to *stop* a world war.
Summary: After the events of the Ottoman Revolution, the great airship Leviathan heads east, although not to Tokyo, as midshipman Deryn Sharp and the rest of the crew initially assumed, but into the wilds of Siberia. They’re there to pick up the scientist Nikola Tesla, a clanker scientist who has invented a weapon – Goliath – that is so powerful that it can level entire cities. Tesla plans to use Goliath – or the threat of it – to stop World War I, a motive that is dear to the heart of Alek, heir to the Austrian throne, who feels the war is his family’s fault. But Deryn’s got more on her mind than scientists and weapons, since she’s been masquerading as a boy to serve on the airship, and she doesn’t know how much longer her true identity – or her feelings for Alek – can remain a secret.
Review: I had somewhat of a mixed reaction to Goliath: as a continuation and end to the Leviathan series, it was wonderful; as a novel in and of itself, I don’t think it’s Westerfeld’s best.
Let’s deal with the second point first. All of the books in the series have been thoroughly action-packed, and Goliath is no exception. However, in the other two books, the action was central to the main plot of the story, while in Goliath‘s case, the plot was more character-centric. That’s not a bad thing, at all, and the character development and emotional core of the story was excellently done. But it did have the effect of making the novel feel somewhat episodic and disjointed, more like a string of set pieces than a single flowing chain of events. Each piece was well-done, and things moved along at a good clip, but I did occasionally find myself thinking things like “Wait a minute, weren’t we just in a battle with Japanese sea monsters? What are we suddenly doing in Mexico?” Westerfeld’s inventive world-building is one of the best things about this series, but it did feel like Goliath was rushing a little to make sure that the entire rest of the globe got its due.
But the good news is that, on the whole, I was much too absorbed in Deryn and Alek’s story to mind the occasional jumps in the action. With this series, Westerfeld’s done one of my favorite things: he puts sympathetic characters in an impossible situation, one that I can’t possibly see how it can be resolved satisfactorily, and then pulls out an ending that is unexpected, entirely satisfying, fits the story, and doesn’t feel cheap. Deryn’s been a great protagonist from the start, confident and capable, but I thought Alek really came into his own in this book. Watching their relationship grow and change has been one of the pleasures of this series, and Westerfeld handled it excellently as always – particularly important, since it formed the central plot of this novel, more so than the others. I’m sad to see the series end, of course, but if it had to end, this was a great way to do so.
Finally, while I did miss the illustrations, I’m so glad that I listened to this series as audiobooks. Alan Cumming does a great job with the narration, his skill with accents really bringing all of the characters to life… plus I love his interpretation of the Perspicacious Lorises. (Also, I just love the Lorises in general. Missster Sharp! They’re totally going on my Christmas List.) 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Readers of Leviathan and Behemoth will likely not need my urging to read Goliath as well; newcomers should start at the beginning, but the series as a whole is wonderful imaginative fun that should appeal to historical fiction and steampunk fans alike.
First Line: “Siberia,” Alek said. The word slipped cold and hard from his tongue, as forbidding as the landscape passing below.
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