Friday, March 20, 2015

Darwinist Vs Clankers

If this rambling is even more rambly and incoherent then normal, just blame it on the 36 straight hours I just worked...I'm gonna blame a lot of things on that :-).  I did however find time to finish a couple of books, so lets ramble shall we.  Today I will ramble about Goliath by Scott Westerfeld, the last book in the Leviathan trilogy.  This conclusion to our steampunk/alternate history series packed in a lot of stuff so lets get right to it.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
When we left our exiled Austrian Prince Alek and his friend midshipman Dylan Sharp (who is really a girl disguised as a boy by the name of Deryn) they had just gotten back on the Leviathan after helping with the Ottoman revolution.  They are now flying their big beastie across the world on a secret mission.  They end up in Siberia rescuing a Serb scientist and his guards.  The man turns out to be Nikola Tesla, the man behind the Tesla cannons from the last book.  He is convinced that the mass destruction of the Siberian forest they were rescued from was from his new mega weapon that he has dubbed Goliath.  Tesla convinces Alek that just the mere threat of a weapon that can completely destroy a city should end the war.  Alek (who still feels it's his destiny to end the war) decides to back Tesla and the captain of the Leviathan is instructed to assist him.  Along the way Alek (with the help of his perspicacious loris Borvil) finally discovers that Dylan is actually the girl Deryn.  After a bit of a falling out the two reconcile and agree to never have secrets again.  The Leviathan and crew head to America via Japan to bring Tesla back to his Goliath.  While in Japan, Deryn and Alek get to
experience a culture where both fabricated beasties and steam powered machines co-exist in a peaceful harmony.  The Leviathan ends up in California where they are greeted by William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper man with Clanker leanings.  We learn that America is another country that has both Clanker and Darwinist factions, but unlike Japan, they are frequently at odds with one another.  Hearst sabotages the Leviathan so that they end up crippled in Mexico.  Pancho Villa, the Mexican leader of a rebel group helps repair it...along with filming it.  Along the way Deryn get's hurt and the obnoxious reporter Eddie Malone discovers she is a girl and intends to reveal it in print when they arrive in New York.  Alek and Deryn discuss the future and how they are sad that they will part ways in New York, Alek staying behind to help Tesla and Deryn either continuing with the Leviathan or being punished for her deception.  Alek disembarks and after surviving an attack by the Clankers, convinces Eddie Malone to write about him being the heir to the throne instead of Deryn.  Alek and his company go with Tesla to perform a test/demonstration of the Goliath to the world to try and prove the vast strength of the weapon and hopefully get the world to end the war.  Aboard the Leviahan Deryn discovers that the Clankers are going to send a weapon machine to destroy Goliath.  Deryn convinces the captain to go back and defend Alek and company.  All sorts of chaos and action occurs and Tesla decides that he needs to actually destroy Berlin to prove his point.  Alek decides that he cannot justify the destruction of a city, along with the loss of countless lives, even if it does stop the war.  He and Tesla tussle and Tesla ends up electrocuted.  The Goliath essentially self destructs and a major disaster is averted. America finally enters the war, based on the Clanker attack on home soil.   Deryn finally gets through to Alek that he and his parents are not responsible for the war.  Alek decides to not become "king" of Austria, instead working with Deryn to help as many people as he can.  We end with our intrepid duo planning their next adventure and the fate of the world still undecided.
This book was very very full of everything.  We went all over the world, were introduced to a ton of people, saw beasties and machines everywhere, whew!  Overall I felt this book lacked a bit of focus that the first two had, but I could understand the author was trying to finish everything up as plausibly as possible, which I appreciate.  The author was also trying to impart a bit of flavor from everywhere, showing us how complicated the real WWI era was.  I appreciated the thought, but personally found it a bit excessive.  I could have done without the Poncho Villa part, and he could have probably skipped the California part as well, both parts were well written and added some flavor, but over all
felt a bit excessive.  I also wanted the perspicacious loris's to play a bit of a bigger part as they had been built up so much in the previous books.  I thoroughly enjoyed the crews stop in Japan, it was cool to see a place where technology, science, and life melded so well together, the author once again made a a place I am dying to visit.  Deryn continues to make me happy, she is really a great character, and the author does a great job avoiding some of the triteness of the whole girl dressed as a guy scenerio.  I liked how the "romance" between Deryn and Alek played out.  Deryn has had time to come to grips with her feelings and instead of making hopeless advances, accepts how life is and is content to be Alek's friend.  After the discover of Deryn's girlness, Alek goes through a couple of very realistic reactions, culminating in the two of them valuing their friendship as too important to ruin.  The eventual morphing of the friendship into romance is natural, realistic, an did not make me want to throw things which is awesome.  I liked the open ended conclusion as well, with America entering the war, but no actual resolution to it, just the hope that it will end sooner rather then later. The illustrations as always add just the right feel and very much compliment the series.  Over all this was my least favorite book in the trilogy, but it was still awesome.  The trilogy as a whole feels complete and the world the author created is wonderful and whole.  This is one of those series that has me running to my books and internets to research the real version of this alternate history making the idea of the book last even longer hurrah!  I give the book 6 out of 10 recording frogs and the series as a whole 7 out of 10 fighting bears and recommend it to anybody who likes steampunk, science, alternate history, history, good writing and excellent world building.  Happy Reading Everybody!
Are you a Darwinist or a Clanker?  What era would you like to see an alternate history set in?  Is my writing more or less coherent on no sleep?

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