Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Reading

Scott Westerfeld has a new book on shelves and the start of a new series. I didn't really understand the genre of "steampunk," or the possibilities of YA alternative history until I borrowed this from my son's bookshelf.

Actually, he thrust it into my hands and said, "You gotta read this."

The most popular of Westerfeld's books are a series based on a dystopic view of the post-apocolyptic future. The Uglies, The Pretties, and The Specials show us what might happen to the world after we destroy ourselves on the path we're currently upon. But what if we were on a completely different path?

Leviathan takes us back to the 1940s, to just before World War II when Germany was gearing up for battle. Except in Westerfeld's Europe, there's been a split between those who rely on genetically engineered animals as the base of all technology, and those who rely on human-built metal machines. The Archduke of Austria has just been assassinated, the tipping point for declaring war across the continent.

As in most of his books, the main characters are both male and female, and similar to his Peeps series, the chapters are narrated in different voices. Reading this so close after reading Mudbound, I was ready for the changes in character voice and adapted quickly.

The only problem with this book was that it is so obviously the first of a series that it's frustrating to read it right now, when the rest of the series is yet to be published. I had that problem with Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, especially since I had no idea it was the first of many (her next book in that series comes out in August). This time, at least, my son warned me.

The writing is interesting and the concept of an alternate history to World War II is intriguing. When we saw Inglorious Basterds in the theatre, we laughed at Quentin Tarrantino's alternate WWII narrative and worried that young people might one day think it was the truth. With Westerfeld's outrageously altered alternate history, I don't think anyone's in danger of confusing it with reality.

But it's fun to read.

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