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Behemoth Hardcover – Oct 5 2010
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About the Author
Scott Westerfeld is the author of the Leviathan series, the first book of which was the winner of the 2010 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. His other novels include the New York Times bestseller Afterworlds, the worldwide bestselling Uglies series, The Last Days, Peeps, So Yesterday, and the Midnighters trilogy. Visit him at ScottWesterfeld.com or follow him on Twitter at @ScottWesterfeld.
Keith Thompson’s work has appeared in books, magazines, TV, video games, and films. See his work at KeithThompsonArt.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Alek raised his sword. “On guard, sir!”
Deryn hefted her own weapon, studying Alek’s pose. His feet were splayed at right angles, his left arm sticking out behind like the handle of a teacup. His fencing armor made him look like a walking quilt. Even with his sword pointed straight at her, he looked barking silly.
“Do I have to stand like that?” she asked.
“If you want to be a proper fencer, yes.”
“A proper idiot, more like,” Deryn muttered, wishing again that her first lesson were someplace less public. A dozen crewmen were watching, along with a pair of curious hydrogen sniffers. But Mr. Rigby, the bosun, had forbidden swordplay inside the airship.
She sighed, raised her saber, and tried to imitate Alek’s pose.
It was a fine day on the Leviathan’s topside, at least. The airship had left the Italian peninsula behind last night, and the flat sea stretched in all directions, the afternoon sun scattering diamonds across its surface. Seagulls wheeled overhead, carried by the cool ocean breeze.
Best of all, there were no officers up here to remind Deryn that she was on duty. Two German ironclad warships were rumored to be skulking nearby, and Deryn was meant to be watching for signals from Midshipman Newkirk, who was dangling from a Huxley ascender two thousand feet above them.
But she wasn’t really dawdling. Only two days before, Captain Hobbes had ordered her to keep an eye on Alek, to learn what she could. Surely a secret mission from the captain himself outweighed her normal duties.
Maybe it was daft that the officers still thought of Alek and his men as enemies, but at least it gave Deryn an excuse to spend time with him.
“Do I look like a ninny?” she asked Alek.
“You do indeed, Mr. Sharp.”
“Well, you do too, then! Whatever they call ninnies in Clanker-talk.”
“The word is ‘Dummkopf’” he said. “But I don’t look like one, because my stance isn’t dreadful.”
He lowered his saber and came closer, adjusting Deryn’s limbs as if she were a dummy in a shop window.
“More weight on your back foot,” he said, nudging her boots farther apart. “So you can push off when you attack.”
Alek was right behind her now, his body pressing close as he adjusted her sword arm. She hadn’t realized this fencing business would be so touchy.
He grasped her waist, sending a crackle across her skin.
If Alek moved his hands any higher, he might notice what was hidden beneath her careful tailoring.
“Always keep sideways to your opponent,” he said, gently turning her. “That way, your chest presents the smallest possible target.”
“Aye, the smallest possible target,” Deryn sighed. Her secret was safe, it seemed.
Alek stepped away and resumed his own pose, so that the tips of their swords almost touched. Deryn took a deep breath, ready to fight at last.
But Alek didn’t move. Long seconds passed, the airship’s new engines thrumming beneath their feet, the clouds slipping slowly past overhead.
“Are we going to fight?” Deryn finally asked. “Or just stare each other to death?”
“Before a fencer crosses swords, he has to learn this basic stance. But don’t worry”—Alek smiled cruelly—“we won’t be here more than an hour. It’s only your first lesson, after all.”
“What? A whole barking hour … without moving?” Deryn’s muscles were already complaining, and she could see the crewmen stifling their laughter. One of the hydrogen sniffers crept forward to snuffle her boot.
“This is nothing,” Alek said. “When I first started training with Count Volger, he wouldn’t even let me hold a sword!”
“Well, that sounds like a daft way to teach someone sword fighting.”
“Your body has to learn the proper stance. Otherwise you’ll fall into bad habits.”
Deryn snorted. “You’d think that in a fight not moving might be a bad habit! And if we’re just standing here, why are you wearing armor?”
Alek didn’t answer, just narrowed his eyes, his saber motionless in the air. Deryn could see her own point wavering. She set her teeth.
Of course, barking Prince Alek would have been taught how to fight in the proper way. From what she could tell, his whole life had been a procession of tutors. Count Volger, his fencing master, and Otto Klopp, his master of mechaniks, might be the only teachers with him now that he was on the run. But back when he’d lived in the Hapsburg family castle, there must have been a dozen more, all of them cramming Alek’s attic with yackum: ancient languages, parlor manners, and Clanker superstitions. No wonder he thought that standing about like a pair of coatracks was educational.
But Deryn wasn’t about to let some stuck-up prince outlast her.
So she stood there glaring at him, perfectly still. As the minutes stretched out, her body stiffened, her muscles beginning to throb. And it was worse inside her brain, boredom twisting into anger and frustration, the rumble of the airship’s Clanker engines turning her head into a beehive.
The trickiest part was holding Alek’s stare. His dark green eyes stayed locked on hers, as unwavering as his sword point. Now that she knew Alek’s secrets—the murder of his parents, the pain of leaving home behind, the cold weight of his family squabbles starting this awful war—Deryn could see the sadness behind that gaze.
At odd moments she could see tears brightening Alek’s eyes, only a fierce, relentless pride holding them back. And sometimes when they competed over stupid things, like who could climb the ratlines fastest, Deryn almost wanted to let him win.
But she could never say these things aloud, not as a boy, and Alek would never meet her eyes like this again, if he ever learned she was a girl.
“Alek …,” she began.
“Need a rest?” His smirk wiped her charitable thoughts away.
“Get stuffed,” she said. “I was just wondering, what’ll you Clankers do when we get to Constantinople?”
The point of Alek’s sword wavered for a moment. “Count Volger will think of something. We’ll leave the city as soon as possible, I expect. The Germans will never look for me in the wilds of the Ottoman Empire.”
Deryn glanced at the empty horizon ahead. The Leviathan might reach Constantinople by dawn tomorrow, and she’d met Alek only six days ago. Would he really be gone so quickly?
“Not that it’s so bad here,” Alek said. “The war feels farther away than it ever did in Switzerland. But I can’t stay up in the air forever.”
“No, I reckon you can’t,” Deryn said, focusing her gaze on their sword points. The captain might not know who Alek’s father had been, but it was obvious the boy was Austrian. It was only a matter of time before Austria-Hungary was officially at war with Britain, and then the captain would never let the Clankers leave.
It hardly seemed fair, thinking of Alek as an enemy after he’d saved the airship—two times now. Once from an icy death, by giving them food, and the second time from the Germans, by handing over the engines that had allowed them all to escape.
The Germans were still hunting Alek, trying to finish the job they’d started on his parents. Someone had to be on his side.…
And, as Deryn had gradually admitted to herself these last few days, she didn’t mind if that someone wound up being her.
A fluttering in the sky caught her attention, and Deryn let her aching sword arm drop.
“Hah!” Alek said. “Had enough?”
“It’s Newkirk,” she said, trying to work out the boy’s frantic signals.
The semaphore flags whipped through the letters once more, and slowly the message formed in her brain.
“Two sets of smokestacks, forty miles away,” she said, reaching for her command whistle. “It’s the German ironclads!”
She found herself smiling a little as she blew—Constantinople might have to wait a squick.
The alarm howl spread swiftly, passing from one hydrogen sniffer to the next. Soon the whole airship rang with the beasties’ cries.
Crewmen crowded the spine, setting up air guns and taking feed bags to the fléchette bats. Sniffers scampered across the ratlines, checking for leaks in the Leviathan’s skin.
Deryn and Alek cranked the Huxley’s winch, drawing Newkirk down closer to the ship.
“We’ll leave him at a thousand feet,” Deryn said, watching the altitude markings on the rope. “The lucky sod. You can see the whole battle from up there!”
“But it won’t be much of a battle, will it?” Alek asked. “What can an airship do to a pair of ironclads?”
“My guess is, we’ll stay absolutely still for an hour. Just so we don’t fall into any bad habits.”
Alek rolled his eyes. “I’m serious, Dylan. The Leviathan has no heavy guns. How do we fight them?”
“A big hydrogen breather can do plenty. We’ve got a few aerial bombs left, and fléchette bats …” Deryn’s words faded. “Did you just say ‘we’?”
“You just said, ‘How do we fight them?’ Like you were one of us!”
“I suppose I might have.” Alek looked down at his boots. “My men and I are serving on this ship, after all, even if you are a bunch of godless Darwinists.”
Deryn smiled again as she secured the Huxley’s cable. “I’ll make sure to mention that to the captain, next time he asks if you’re a Clanker spy.”
“How kind of you,” Alek said, then raised his eyes to meet hers. “But that’s a good point—will the officers trust us in battle?”
“Why wouldn’t they? You saved the ship—gave us engines from your Stormwalker!”
“Yes, but if I hadn’t been so generous, we’d still be stuck on that glacier with you. Or in a German prison, more likely. It wasn’t exactly out of friendship.”
Deryn frowned. Maybe things were a squick more complicated now, what with a battle coming up. Alek’s men and the Leviathan’s crew had become allies almost by accident, and only a few days ago.
“You only promised to help us get to the Ottoman Empire, I suppose,” she said softly. “Not to fight other Clankers.”
Alek nodded. “That’s what your officers will be thinking.”
“Aye, but what are you thinking?”
“We’ll follow orders.” He pointed toward the bow. “See that? Klopp and Hoffman are already at work.”
It was true. The engine pods on either side of the great beastie’s head were roaring louder, sending two thick columns of exhaust into the air. But to see the Clanker engines on a Darwinist airship was just another reminder of the strange alliance the Leviathan had entered into. Compared to the tiny British-made engines the ship was designed to carry, they sounded and smoked like freight trains.
“Maybe this is a chance to prove yourself,” Deryn said. “You should go lend your men a hand. We’ll need good speed to catch those ironclads by nightfall.” She clapped him on the shoulder. “But don’t get yourself killed.”
“I’ll try not to.” Alek smiled and gave her a salute. “Good luck, Mr. Sharp.”
He turned and ran forward along the spine.
Watching him go, Deryn wondered what officers down on the bridge were thinking. Here was the Leviathan, entering battle with new and barely tested engines, run by men who should by all rights be fighting on the other side.
But the captain didn’t have much choice, did he? He could either trust the Clankers or drift helplessly in the breeze. And Alek and his men had to join the fight or they’d lose their only allies. Nobody seemed to have much choice, come to think of it.
Deryn sighed, wondering how this war had got so muddled.
© 2010 Scott Westerfeld
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Top Customer Reviews
You know when you start a series and read the first book was good but wasn't great and then you read the second book and it completely blows you away--Behemoth is that book for me. I liked this one way better than the first book. It was fast paced with lots of action. There was always something going on or some threat to the characters that many times had me on the edge of the seat.
Both Alek and Deryn develop a lot over the course of this book. Deryn is getting more conflicted over her feelings towards Alek. She's keeping a big secret from him while he's revealed everything about himself to her. Also Alek only sees Deryn as a great friend while Deryn is hoping for more. Another thing that drew me to these two characters is how fearless they are. There were many instances where they've put their lives at risk and put themselves in a dangerous position but always manage to come out unscathed.
I'm liking the secondary characters as well, especially Count Volger and Dr. Barlow. They always have plans of their own whether it's for the interests of Britain or for Alek's well being. Dr. Barlow has her precious eggs that have at last hatched. It turns out be a loveable creature that is instantly attached to Alek. It's still not clear what their purpose is or what role they'll have in the future. One thing for sure is that Dr. Barlow knows more about them than is letting on and is keeping mum about it.
The book ended with a big revelation so I'm excited to find out what happens next. It also looks like the Leviathan is leaving Europe and heading east so I wonder what new kinds of machines and fabricated beasts we'll see in the next book.
It doesn't take long for Alek to realize that he and his companions are about to be imprisoned by the British, once they're no longer useful. Fortunately, they're headed to the Ottoman Empire. But when the Leviathan lands in Istanbul (NOT Constantinople, Dr. Barlow reminds us!), it becomes obvious that all is not well. England's autocratic "borrowing" has angered the sultan, who is more inclined to favor the Germans... who also happen to be in the area.
In the meantime, Deryn is being sent off on a secret mission that may give the British a triumph over the Ottoman navy, even as Count Volger blackmails her with her little gender secret. And Alek has escaped to somewhere in Istanbul, where he falls in with a small band of rebels -- which could lead to a shocking shift in power.
The first book was all about escaping from the Germans/Austrians, but "Behemoth" focuses on a the political upheaval of war. Scott Westerfeld spends a LOT of time on diplomatic and political matters in this book, and the delicate balance of nations. But don't worry, politics doesn't make this book boring.
Instead, Westerfeld makes this story into a steampunk thriller, with smoothly-intertwined subplots and some tense action scenes (being chased through the Istanbul streets on a giant mechanical beetle!).Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While Leviathan was great at introducing us to its alternative steam-punk culture, Behemoth helps develop the characters of Prince *ArchDuke* Alek and middy *MR. Sharp* Deryn. I especially enjoyed seeing Deryn growing up with new responsibilities, challenged loyalties, and blossoming love. It is also very amusing when another strong female character Lilit is added to create a convoluted yet innocent love triangle between the three main figures.
One thing I was a little disappointed in was the fact that this book was not based in the mind-blowing evolving world of the Darwinists. Reading about the complex eco-culture of the Leviathan gave me a huge thrill as to the possibilities of our own future. But I guess this is to be expected. Leviathan is devoted to the world of the Darwinists, it is only fair that Behemoth is immersed in Clanker-land, a place with its own technological wonders.
All I can say Behemoth has got me extremely excited for book three. And unfortunately Behemoth has JUST come out, so it's going to be a really long wait.
PS. did I mention this series is gorgeously illustrated? My Kindle does not do the graphics justice but even there the fantastical details are extremely alluring.
For those that have read the first book, BEHEMOTH brings the whale-airship Leviathan to a wonderful location to serve as a backdrop for the plot:
Scott Westerfeld even went to Istanbul to get a feel for the city in preparation of this book. Having been to Istanbul myself, I felt he captured the essence of the city without making one feel like they're reading an over-detailed travelogue.
In a nutshell, the book deals again with Deryn/Dylan, Prince Alek and his retinue, Dr. Barlow and a few new faces, to include one that forms the third point of an interesting "Bermuda Triangle" of sorts.
Not much new is revealed about Deryn/Dylan and Alek, the two main characters, but the two draw closer in their friendship as they work together against the Clanker threats that surround them . . . and one particularly annoying journalist--American, of course.
The non-human elements are just as fascinating this time around as they were in LEVIATHAN, although this time they focus more on the Clankers as they are, after all, in enemy territory. But just to be clear, there are SOME new Darwinist creations, just not many of them.
The plot moves at a nice pace--although I'm a slow reader I finished this book in about two days and the last 200 pages I read in one sitting.
Of course, an Alternative History book like this one wouldn't be what it is without a little homage to the real history, which is briefly but sufficiently detailed in the AFTERWORD. It's truly amazing how authors can find little historical details and transform them into new magnificent stories!
Finally there is the wonderful artwork of Keith Thompson. Once again his artwork never fails to capture what is occurring on the page next to it. Reading these books is like flipping through the HOLY BIBLE or THE DIVINE COMEDY and finding the brilliant black-and-white artwork of GUSTAVE DORE gracing the pages.
As for complaints, I only have a few nitpicky ones . . .
--The hardback cover art needs to match the hardback cover for the first book.
--The binding could be of better quality--it's just glue.
--The impact of some of the artwork is diminished by the fact that the crease between the pages gets in the way.
Despite that, this is still an easy 5-star title.
It was nice to be back on board.
I'm pretty sure that this could fall into the category of middle book syndrome for some people, but it didn't happen for me. I felt that the ending was a good spot to take a break. I also really like how the story is shifting locations from one aspect of the "war to end all wars" to another. I'm already decently familiar with the Western Front and it's nice to the see the scene shifting into more interesting and unfamiliar territory. Alek gets himself involved with some of the politicking using the time honored, traditional method of displaced nobles everywhere: revolution and rebellion.
The pace of action is pretty quick and there are quite a few new people introduced. It has a quite a bit of backroom dealing going on and the action doesn't get in the way of character development. Instead each big conflict is used to highlight an internal conflict as well, from Alek's and Deryn's differing reactions to the loss of a parent to what role each of them see themselves filling in the war. I especially want to see how Alek's suspicion that he could help end war the plays out.
The plotting was pretty good and made sense to me. Alek's decision to start taking an active role in events happening around him made him into less of a lost little princeling whose actions are dictated by his father's last wishes or Wildcount Volger. It was a nice little bit of character growth. I liked him more for it. I would even go so far as to say that Alek is changing from a lost and frightened kid into someone who could be a leader. I hope his instinct for people doesn't fail him and his ability to trust at all is a nice contrast to Volger's constant state of suspicion.
Deryn/Dylan also improved for me this time around. Rather than being slightly annoying, she managed to start having conflicts between her crushing on Alek and her sworn duty to ship and country, thus becoming more interesting. Also, the introduction of Lilit gives a splendid foil to Deryn, as Lilit is every bit as capable as she but not trying to hide her gender. I rather like Lilit's parting shot to Deryn. I thought the reactions on both sides really funny.
After this installment I eagerly await the next one all the more.
My one reservation about Leviathan was that it was very slow to start; Behemoth has no such problem. The action starts on page one, and though there are still incredible machines and impossible creatures, there is less exposition in this book than in the first. Fans of the first book will love this sequel, and I encourage those who might not have loved Leviathan to give Behemoth a shot.
Leviathan and Behemoth are the only books that I've read recently where I enjoyed the switching of point of views. It was always done smoothly and at points where the switch felt right. Scott Westerfeld always does a good job of showing you what needs to be shown from both point of views without ever repeating himself or having there be weird overlap.
The Leviathan series is, at its simplest, a steampunk retelling of World War I. Sure, Scott has taken some liberties with historic fact but the core motivations, alliances, and manipulations are still there. And the war is being told through the eyes of two young teenagers from opposite sides of the war.
What I love most about this book, and its predecessor is how it is faithful to WWI while still creating its own unique, fictional plot. The reader still gets a sense that it is a useless war, fought only so politicians could show their supremecy over one another. I also enjoy that, while there is a slight bias against the Germans, we see people from all over Europe for and against the war.
My previous review of Leviathan covers all the things that I love about Alek and Deryn, so instead I'm going to talk about a few other things.
Firstly, cross dressing. Deryn is still posing as a boy in the British Air Force, still a midshipman on the airship Leviathan. And I love all the wonderful things done with this. The number of characters that refer to her, sarcastically, as Mr. Sharp is funny and surprising. I especially loved the last one. I love how Deryn is of two minds all the time as well. She wants to continue being disguised, and she wants to reveal she is a girl. This resulted in two of my most favourite scenes in this book. The being when Deryn, confidently and wonderfully, realizes that Alek could love her if he knew. She isn't shy or self-conscience about it. She just knows. And she makes an informed, intelligent decision based on that realization and I loved her so much for it. The second scene was later on and used one of my much loved, sarcastic, Mr. Sharp's. I'm not going to say what it was for fear of spoiling it, but let's just say that Mr. Westerfeld managed to do a thousand things with one little scene and I laughed out loud. It was just perfect.
The second thing I wanted to talk about, intrigue and politics.So many different levels of it. The global level of what's going on what country wants what in the war, the personal level of Alek and his heritage, and the weird science level of...what is that creature following Alek around everywhere? And why does he even have it? He's a Clanker not a Darwinist. So many things to think about.
Everything was just so perfectly balanced. The action, the intrigue, the character moments. I was never bored or wanting something else to happen. A perfect cast of characters mixed with the perfect balance of fact and fiction.
And, and, and, and!!!!!! Reading this book totally helped me with a crossword answer one time. I LEARNED things. You can too!
So...yeah. I loved it.
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