Review

Review: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

 

18309415.jpg3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about this book until it turned up on my doorstep. But once I’d learnt a little about it, I thought it sounded fascinating – superheroes and an alternate history, a particularly apt book considering I’m reading all the Marvel comics I can get my hands on at the moment. Plus that cover – how amazing is it?! Now I have to admit I’m really not a fan of World War stories, but I was excited about reading this one due to it being an alternate history.

The story follows two superheroes, known as Oblivion and Fogg, their respective powers being able to obliterate anything, and produce and manipulate fog. Apparently people with these sorts of powers have been used to protect the world for centuries, and much of Fogg and Oblivion’s story takes place during and around World War II. I love the idea of people with these superhuman powers being recruited by the government and military, as part of special ops. However, the book frequently skipped between different locations and time periods which was, in some places, a little confusing – especially because these chapters were often only a page in length. Whilst it kept the story moving at a really fast pace, it also felt like there was no time to take things in.

Whilst it has such positive reviews on Goodreads, it just did not live up to that expectation for me. I can see why people love it – personally I really enjoyed the story. It was mostly just the writing style that really didn’t click. Written in present third person, without speech marks, and often using short, clipped sentences that forgo pronouns and names, I just didn’t like it. Sometimes it felt like every non-essential word was just dropped from a sentence.

But it’s not all doom and gloom in this review! Despite what it may seem, I DID enjoy this book. I loved the concept and the story (despite probably missing a few elements due to the pace) – it was just the writing style that really dragged the rating down for me. I found it difficult at times, and it just didn’t seem to flow. I don’t know why, but because of the setting (and perhaps the cover?), as well as the lack of speech marks, I was imagining the book as some black and white foreign film in my head, with subtitles – which was pretty fun! The way that Lavie Tidhar played on actual historical events was really clever.

Overall, a brilliant story for all fans of superheroes and alternate histories, but sadly told in a style that I just did not get along with.

 

I have passed my copy of the book on to Amber as she was super excited to read this one, so look out for her review!

Review

Review: Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I read and reviewed Leviathan, the first book in this series, last year as part of Sci-Fi Month. The book had been sat on my shelf for some time, and I almost returned it to the library – but luckily I didn’t, because after reading Behemoth I’m pretty sure the Leviathan series is going to end up being a new favourite.

Unlike the first book in the series, much of the action in Behemoth takes place on the ground. This also allows the reader to catch more of a glimpse of the ‘Clanker’ side of life: we see walkers used to guard the ghetto, scarab beetle taxis, elephantine transport and a giant mechanical ‘sultan’ puppet. Each new reveal of technology fascinated me, and accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations (once again provided by Keith Thompson), Alek and Deryn’s world really began to come together.

The majority of the story was set in Constantinople/Istanbul, which opened up the opportunity to introduce some new characters. Alek and Deryn meet a group of people taking part in a revolution, most notably Zevan and his daughter, Lilit. Lilit is seen as ‘unusual’ by Alek, a girl who is trained to fight and do typically ‘unladylike’ things, which only makes Deryn more confused and unsure about revealing her true identity. Yet her feelings for Alek are becoming more and more clear, making things difficult – especially when he teases Deryn about Lilit’s feelings for her. And whilst Alek is convinced that Lilit has a crush on ‘Dylan’ (Deryn’s male identity), something Lilit says later on makes it quite clear that she knows Deryn’s secret – and that makes no difference to her attraction towards Deryn.

One of my favourite parts of the book was the introduction of the perspicacious loris, a fabricated beastie hatched by Dr. Barlow, who latches on to Alek. This adorable creature learns as it observes, often repeating snatches of conversation or useful words. In fact, the loris even catches on to Deryn’s secret, frequently saying”Mr. Sharp!” and then giggling. We also get to see that Deryn isn’t just street smart, but smart smart. After spending some time around Alek and his companions, she starts to pick up German (or ‘Clanker’) at great speed, and by the end of the book is able to have fairly complex conversations.

I loved Behemoth just as much as I loved Leviathan, and do not for a moment regret picking up this series. A wonderfully imagined alternate history with some fantastically developed characters await you in this book – along with some truly gorgeous illustrations.

This particular illustration reminded me of Bioshock Infinite.
This particular illustration reminded me of Bioshock Infinite.
Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Review of Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Today’s Sci-Fi Month post is a review of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, an alternate steampunk history of World War I. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

I picked this book up from the library back in August, and it sat unread on my shelf for almost two months – I had to renew it about four times, and actually almost returned it unread because of the pile of books I had to read and review for October and November. I am so, so glad that I made time for it, because it was an absolutely fantastic and completely fun read.

Set in an alternate past, during World War I, the tactics and machinery used are rather different from what we know. There are the Clankers, the German Central Powers, who prefer man-made weapons, and use steam driven machines and ammunition for their fights. The Darwinists, on the other hand (the British Entente Powers), have played around with biology, and bred special animals to help in their battles. For example, at one point Deryn rides up into the sky hanging from a Huxley, a sort of jellyfish creature filled with hydrogen. And the eponymous Leviathan – well it’s an airship made of a giant whale and many other creatures. The whole concept of the Clankers and Darwinists was absolutely brilliant, such an original idea and completely enchanting.

Deryn was a wonderful character, going completely against everything expected of a young girl in the early twentieth century. She is intelligent and quick-witted, foul-mouthed at times and very, very brave. She made me laugh many a time, with her quirky curse words. Aleksander is somewhat more serious and mopey, but not at all in an annoying way. In fact it was nice to have the roles that way, the opposite of what often seems to be the norm in YA books.

Another fantastic thing was the use of real historical figures, or references to them. There is even a little appendix separating the real events from the fictional, and talking about the people in the book who actually existed. Not to mention the artwork, illustrated by Keith Thompson, it was a lovely addition to the story and the style was perfect. You can view some samples of it on Scott’s website, if you scroll to the bottom of the page.

I was completely surprised by this book. It is a fast-paced adventure, full of unique ideas, and I can’t emphasise how fun a read it was! I found it very different from Westerfeld’s Uglies series, which I read in my mid teens, and I enjoyed Leviathan a lot more – so if you’ve read Uglies and are unsure about reading this, I urge you to try it anyway! With a clever play on real events, interspersed with completely fictional ones, this book is a definite must read – and a brilliant introduction to steampunk for anyone who has not yet encountered the genre.