Thursday, May 10, 2012

Audiobook Review: "Behemoth" by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Behemoth
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2010 (print version available from Simon Pulse)
Narrator: Alam Cumming

Starting off where Leviathan ended, we're thrown back into the world of Darwinists and Clankers, this time with the added bonus of Ottomans who have sort of combined the aesthetic of the Darwinists with the mechanics of the Clankers. For those of you new to this world, this trilogy takes place in an alternate steampunk past during the Great War, or World War I as we call it today. Darwinists are people from the United Kingdom who use genetic engineering to create animals that work as tools, including entire ships and weapons of war. Clankers are Germans and Austrians, among other peoples, who use advanced mechanics and machines as those tools.

In Behemoth, Deryn (disguised as a boy named Dillon in order to be in an airman in the army) is dealing with her growing feelings for Alec, the prince and heir to the Austria-Hungary throne (she is one of only a handful who knows his true identity). Alec, on the other hand, is treated as a prisoner of war aboard the Leviathan, and he must find a way off the ship if he is to keep his secret and fulfill his destiny. Things get complicated when a new friend joins Alec along the way, and as he and two of his men explore the city of Istanbul and join a band of resistors, Deryn muddles through the city on her own after a successfully completed yet badly ended mission. As they find their way to each other, they soon realize the fate of the Leviathan and the English army's fate lies with them.

There was a lot I loved about this volume in the Leviathan trilogy. The number one thing is probably not going to be as loved by most anyone else, but I'm going to say it anyway. There was a character with my brother's name. You might not think that's totally crazy, but here's the thing: My brother's name is Zaven. You don't see many characters with Armenian names like that unless it's a book about Armenian history. And Zaven in the book is Armenian! I loved that bit.

Anyway, Westerfeld does a fantastic job of continuing his story. There's plenty of action, a little romance, the most confused love triangle I've seen since Twelfth Night, and a new alternate culture to explore. I kept hoping that more secrets would be revealed, just because there are so many that either we as readers are privy to that the rest of the characters are not, and those that are mysteries to us as well as the characters.

Quick note on the audio: I love Alan Cumming. I love him in pretty much everything he does, and I love how he can get accents pretty much spot on. He does a fantastic job with the narration. The only thing he did wrong was mispronounce the Armenian word "Nene," a form of the word grandmother. But other than that, he is everything I love in a narrator. Or maybe that's my bias talking.

I'm looking forward to the final book in the trilogy, Goliath, especially on audio since it is once again narrated by Alan Cumming. I'm interested particularly to see if Westerfeld writes anything about the Armenian genocide, which happened in 1915; Behemoth ends in the year 1914. I'm not sure if the next book will go that far into the future, but I'm eager to see.

Disclosure: I got this audiobook from the library.
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