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Goliath – review

January 14, 2012

Goliath is the third book in Scott Westerfeld‘s steampunk young-adult science-fiction adventure trilogy that began with Leviathan and Behemoth and concludes the adventures of Deryn and Aleksandar, two European youths caught up in the madness of the first world war, in a world slightly different than the one we remember.

Their world is dominated by two main philosophies: the Clankers are mechanical-minded and build steam-powered machines for all purposes; the Darwinists have a geneticist’s bent and create animals like the first book’s titular hydrogen sky-whale. Aleks is the son of the assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and must flee his Clanker homeland else die by traitorous Clankers. He finds refuge with the Darwinists aboard the Leviathan and there meets Deryn, or Dylan as everyone there knows her. Deryn is a quick-thinking brave girl who masquerades as a boy to join the Darwinist air service and ends up on Leviathan after a bit of accidental heroics on her first day. Leviathan and Behemoth tell these tales and more–what it’s like to be a useless prince learning to fend for himself, being a girl hiding as a boy and hearing all the biases of a slanted world, plus there’s politics, globe-trotting, swashbuckling, great battles and secret heart’s desires–and where they leave off Goliath picks right up.

Westerfeld keeps the hits coming at a quick pace. Goliath covers a lot of ground both geographically and socially and manages to create a tantalizing read with characters I’m genuinely interested in. The conclusion is a lot of fun and a rewarding journey. In particular, as Deryn and Aleks are topside Leviathan during a particularly bad storm my heart was racing and I had to stop reading for a minute just to prance (yeah, sometimes I prance) around the room and blow off a little steam. It’s not because the action itself was intense–though it was–but because I was feeling it for the characters and what was at stake in their lives, for them, personally. That’s a mark of quality craftsmanship.

Westerfeld is proving himself prolific with something like 17 books published in the last 15 years (approx.) This Leviathan series is my introduction to his work, though I’ve been wanting to read his Midnighters series for a long time. If all his stories benefit from this mixture of fast fun plot and genuine characters then I foresee spending a lot more time in West-world (ouch, okay, sorry about that.)

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