Friday, January 22, 2010

Leviathan Review and The 2010 Printz Honor Books


                I just recently finished my first book of 2010 which was Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.
                Scott Westerfeld is the best-selling author of the Uglies series and The Midnighters series and also wrote other novels like Peeps and So Yesterday. In the past, I tried to read Uglies and So Yesterday which I thought were too tedious to finish and only made it to the halfway point before quitting. I did, however, think that the plot of these futuristic stories were quite intriguing but they just weren’t written in an interesting manner.
               Last summer, I read the first Midnighters book, ‘The Secret Hour', and felt so disconnected from the characters that I couldn’t finish the series. In all of his books that I have read or attempted to read, the characters never seemed realistic to me and I’ve always felt that his books are more driven by the plot and less driven by the characters which, I find to be the worst mistake when writing a book.
                But Leviathan was a little different than his other books. It was, of course, futuristic, as most of his books are but it was also, as Scott Westerfeld put it in his Afterward, ‘a novel of alternate history.’
                And it most definitely was.
                The book takes place during the very beginning of World War I. It begins on June 28, 1914, the day Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated. The book follows two characters, one of them is named Alek and is supposed to be the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek. In reality, they did not have one son but two sons and a daughter (none of which was named Alek).
               The story also follows a girl named Deryn who, because she wants to be in the British Air Service and pretends to be a boy so that she can join. There is not much factual truth to this story and many of its aspects are futuristic like the use of elaborate war machines and fabricated animals.
                The plot itself was interesting but I felt, again, that I was disconnected from the characters. Alek and Deryn don’t have very distinct personalities and were very boring and unrealistic. I also thought that the plot (was there even a plot? I don’t even know) was hard to make out.
                I did like the science fiction aspect to it and also the conflict between the ‘Clankers’ who rely on machines and the ‘Darwinists’ who rely more on the fabricated animals that they create by reaching into DNA to fabricate new animals. This is, of course, assuming that, not only was Charles Darwin’s theory correct, but also that he had discovered DNA and figured out a way to reach into them and create new creatures. In reality, DNA was not discovered by Charles Darwin and wasn’t even fully recognized until the 1950’s.
                So, this wasn’t a necessarily bad book, it had a few interesting parts and the idea was definitely interesting but it wasn’t my favorite book. (Although it was my favorite book I read this year, but only because it’s the only book I’ve read this year).
                Right now I’m reading Going Bovine by Libba Bray which one the 2010 Printz Award this year so I’ll have a review on that in the next week or so.

And speaking of the Printz Award, here are the Printz Honor Books for 2010:

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey

Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp

Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973, by John Barnes

                I’ll be reading these books soon (except for Charles and Emma, of course) and post reviews on them as soon as I can. If you’ve already read them, tell me what you thought about them!

Thanks for stopping by. :}
               

2 comments:

Kaylee said...

I just finished So Yesterday and I moaned the whole way through. I don't believe I've ever been so happy to finish a book. It was awful, there was no plot, the characters were shallow, and his writing style just annoyed me. Fortunately it was a short book, but I wish I didn't spend hours reading it when I could have been reading so many other things! :P

Jonathon Arntson said...

Forgive me because I am really trying not to sound like an ass, but I could not disagree more about this, "I’ve always felt that [Westerfeld's] books are more driven by the plot and less driven by the characters which, I find to be the worst mistake when writing a book."

There is an interestingly equal number of successful books written based on the plot as there are based on characters. I understand if you prefer the latter as a reader, but I do not think choosing one over the other is a mistake, especially in Westerfeld's case. All books should have an element of both, but one usually chooses to give preference to one.

Read this blog post from *Fiction Groupie* as well as the one that follows: http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/2010/01/are-you-character-driven-or-plot-driven.html