Steampunk! It’s a genre distinction I’d never heard named before, or if I had, I’d never connected it with those novels that imagine the past and the future melded together, or imagined the past as if the future had already happened, a future the present doesn’t know about yet. A sort of past-future? Maybe because “steampunk” doesn’t really describe or evoke those webbed chronologies? Whatever. The name for the genre far less exciting than the genre itself, which is, to put it simply, terrific. Terrific for me anyway, one who adores all things historical (all of it, you understand? if it happened in the past, I adore it.) but who also admires, appreciates, nay, celebrates, those bastardized histories that don’t feel any more allegiance to “fact” than necessary to be historical (okay, a tautology if there ever was one – stuff it). And so I get really excited when I read a history that is historical in all the ways that matter, but includes – get this! – battles between aircrafts made of whales and other organic business and cyborgesque monster machines made of metal.
Leviathan is the first in Scott Westerfeld’s trilogy narrating some of the events of WW1, particularly those that pertain to the (fictional) son, Alex, of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his team of allies, whom include a cross-dressing fourteen year old girl-pilot who you just *know* is going to end up madly in love with Alex, because it wouldn’t be a fun story if she didn’t (how/when will he discover she’s really a woman? When will she recognize the tingles she feels when he’s near as hormonal reactions and not a rash?). Add in stellar descriptions of battles between organic and metal, headstrong and meddling adults, and descriptions of journeys that require eating over fires (!) and you have yourself a winner of YAF.
Also a winner in the category “wars of the 20th century,” if you ask me. Of those books I’ve read in the category, this one does (by far) the most entertaining and soothing job of introducing senseless destruction and death. It also does a fine job drawing out the sometimes opaque causes of World War One, and concludes, as do so many eighth grade history teachers, that while no one can be blamed, the Germans can probably be blamed. So let’s blame the Germans! and keep reading this terrifically entertaining, smart, and well paced series. In January.