Kogiopsis's Reviews > Behemoth

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
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's review
Oct 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fangirl-alert, favorite-2011-reads, reviewed, graphic-novels, teary-eyes
Read in October, 2011

This series...

God damn, this series.

I want to go sing its praises across campus, to haul people down to the library and shove copies of Leviathan into their hands, to wander the country like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed scattering lovely books wherever I go.

Okay, not so much that last one. But you get my point.

But anyhow. I was quite content with the first book, but I'm elated about this one. It's one of those fabulous novels in which it's not just the characters who mature and grow (as all characters should) - the plot adjusts and changes to suit them. As such, while Leviathan was somewhat weaker for its focus on getting the characters where they needed to be, Behemoth shows what this series really is - that being SPECTACULAR - by putting more on the line and giving both Alek and Deryn more to deal with. Best of all, pretty much every action in the book makes sense, in terms of motivations.

Here, the Leviathan is arriving in Istanbul; Doctor Barlow's secret mission is almost complete. Alek and the Austrians aren't feeling particularly welcome, though, and make plans to escape when they reach the city. Naturally, nothing goes as planned for either party. One of Doctor Barlow's precious eggs is crushed when it's presented to the Sultan, and German saboteurs are all through the city spreading anti-British propaganda. Alek's escape gets botched, and he finds himself in a strange city and separated from his foremost advisor, Count Volger. Oh, and Istanbul isn't exactly placid, either - but saying more would be spoilers, of course.

While I still like Deryn better than Alek, I did really appreciate some of the development he got in this book - though most of it made him look like an idiot. We see him interacting with a girl his own age for once, and his attitude is, well, less progressive than poor Deryn might wish. In fact, until that girl proves herself, he's downright scornful. It certainly doesn't earn Alek any points in my book, but Westerfeld gets some for not making him illogically ahead of his time. Also, it throws a wrench into the romantic subplot, which is fabulous.
Alek also goes through a little 'I AM DESTINED TO DO THIS' phase and, not to say too much, it gets deliciously squashed by the end of the book. I don't like that sort of attitude, nor the self-righteousness which usually accompanies it, and it was nice to see him get taken down a peg. Always provided, of course, that he doesn't wangst about being confused in the next book. I trust you, Westerfeld. Don't screw this up.

Deryn's development, though, is even better. She's a wonderfully strong character, barring one thing - which I'll discuss later - and she only gets stronger. Here, her heroic actions saving Newkirk at the beginning of the book win her a medal... and a secret assignment. The way she handles command is very interesting, and the way the experience changes her is the sort of thing I love to see happening to characters. Also, we're seeing behind some of her swagger here, even in Alek's chapters, and she's a more interesting character for it. I wish I could say more, but that would be spoilers.

OH, we need to talk about the Behemoth of the title.
DAYUM. That thing was freaking awesome. It looked like an anglerfish with tentacles and next to it the Leviathan was a toy. Ohhhhhh what a beastie. I sort of want one. And now I'm really curious about what the 'Goliath' of the third book will be. Westerfeld's creativity shines when it comes to fabricated creatures, and that's a goodly part of why I devour these books as I do.

There's one other character I can mention without spoilers, and that's Eddie Malone, an American reporter. He is, as reporters seem to be in fiction, rather annoying, but I liked him up until he obliquely threatened to do something that would have put our heroes in danger. His relevance really has more to do with the hints he provides about American society in this world - a blend of Clanker and Darwinist technologies - than with what he actually does in the plot.

The thing that bugged me through the book, though, was the romantic plot tumor. Sorry, but I just don't see why Deryn likes Alek. Development or no development, he's still kind of an ass sometimes and she's waaaay more worked up over him than he deserves. If it had been more developed, it wouldn't be a problem, but as it is it's part of several plot points and while I was willing to take those sort of on faith, I wish I hadn't needed to.

Finally, the art. As per expectations, it's fabulous. Westerfeld's version of Istanbul is so vivid and innovative that I'm not sure I would have been able to picture it properly without Thompson's gorgeous, detailed illustrations. This one was my favorite:
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I've put Goliath on hold, but it'll be some time until I get it. Meanwhile, I vote we start a campaign to get 'team' shirts printed for this series - a Darwinist one with the Leviathan, the loris, the tigeresque from the first book and maybe some others; a Clanker one with walkers and mechanical parts all over it, both in cool fonts. I don't have a really great mental image of either of them, but you get the jist, right? Tell me you wouldn't buy those, because I totally would.
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03/09/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Wendy Darling I've had the first book waiting TBR for awhile...this makes me want to read it sooner! It's good to hear the second one is even better.

Kogiopsis Yesss, read it ASAP! This series is one of my favorite reads of 2011. What's even cooler is hearing Scott Westerfeld talk about it - the way the idea of making it illustrated affected his writing process is extremely interesting. Things I'd never thought about in that context, like the fact that he had to move characters around so that the illustrations would be varied and interesting - which is part of what makes the worldbuilding so vivid. Really interesting.
I'm a bit of a babbling moron about these books right now, so I apologize if that didn't make much sense.

Wendy Darling If only I had 10 more brains and sets of eyes to read all the books I wanted! That's cool to hear about the author's process, and that the illustrations serve the story so well. I haven't read too much Westerfeld yet, but he's got some wild ideas that really interest me.

Kogiopsis That he does. This is my favorite of his work, though - I've read the Uglies books, So Yesterday, and the first of the Peeps books - because it's such a neat twist on some already-interesting historical events. Also, flying whale and giant tentacled anglerfish. It appeals to me as a biology nerd quite a lot.

I second the 10 more brains comment. So many books... so little time... and actually I would be happy with less homework, even, if the brains weren't available.

message 5: by Cait (new)

Cait I read the first one and I just didn't know if I wanted to read the second, but maybe I'll give it a shot.

Kogiopsis It's a change of pace from the first, but soooo worth it. I am super excited for the third.

Catie Oh gosh, I can't believe I didn't see this until now! I'm so glad that you loved this one and I hope that the last one doesn't disappoint. I don't think that it will.

I would totally buy a Darwinist shirt!!

Kogiopsis I'm really really really looking forward to Goliath. I bought it a week ago and haven't been able to start it courtesy of school and library books, but I will soon.

I want a Darwinist shirt like nothing else. If I had graphic design skillz I would try to make one, but I cannot do art to save my life.

Catie I wish that some of the artists from this recent spate of wonderful illustrated novels would sell prints (if not t-shirts). I'd love to have some of the art to hang up in my house.

I hope you get a break to read Goliath soon!

message 10: by Kogiopsis (last edited Oct 16, 2011 03:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kogiopsis I think Keith Thompson might sell prints... Yup, see? But they are reeeeally expensive, even before shipping.

Okay, so not reeeeeally expensive. Prohibitive for me, but I'm on a college student's budget. Probably decently affordable for other people.

Kaethe I've read the previous two out loud to the kids, and am in the middle of reading Goliath to them. We love some humorous steampunk swashbuckling.

Catie Oh, thanks for that Anila.

I can't wait to start reading some of these older books out loud to my girls, Kaethe!

Kaethe We've had some good series over the years: The Spiderwick Chronicles Box Set, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Dealing with Dragons / Searching for Dragons / Calling on Dragons / Talking to Dragons, Annie's Adventures and others from The Sisters Eight, everything by Adam Rex except Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story, Larklight and sequels, and Flora Segunda.

I've read aloud a lot that I couldn't stand, but the highpoints more than make up for it.

Catie Thanks for the recommendations. My oldest is just about 6, and I think that she's ready for more than just readers and picture books. We started The BFG this weekend.

Kaethe Dahl is always delightful. If a book is funny, and has a good action plot, I can suck both of them in despite the two and a half year difference in ages, and the difference in interests. Natasha is providing the voice of Bovril, which is small and adorable beyond words. When I'm reading they're able to enjoy much older stories than they could handle on their own.

Catie Ah, that sounds so sweet. I can't wait for that. Mine are 2 1/2 years apart as well.

Kaethe It feels like a very good gap: not so close that they bug each other all the time.

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