Sunday, October 9, 2011

Goliath (Scott Westerfield)

(The Leviathan trilogy, Book 3)
Scott Westerfield
Simon Pulse
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: During their weeks together on the living airship Leviathan, weeks that have seen everything from Clanker airship attacks to the culmination of a revolution in the neutral Ottoman Empire, Midshipman "Dylan" Sharp and Prince Aleksander have grown into fast friends and allies. Deryn still must hide her gender, for fear of losing her place in the British air service, but the secret grows harder to keep in close quarters, with her own heart complicating the matter. Fortunately, there's plenty to distract them. They've just been ordered to a remote patch of Siberia to retrieve a scientist: none other than Nikola Tesla, the Clanker inventor who famously switched sides to the Darwinist nations. The man claims to have invented a weapon so powerful that its mere existence can end war forever - and, as he's found in the middle of a vast swath of blast-flattened trees, the seemingly-mad claim bears grim weight. Alek, with his Clanker belief in machinery and his conviction that he can somehow end the global war, embraces the possibility, but others - including Deryn, the Darwinist scientist Dr. Barlowe, and even Alek's chief advisor Count Volger - grow suspicious of Tesla's increasingly grandiose claims and insistence on mass publicity. As the Leviathan heads to New York City, where the Goliath tower stands, Deryn and Alek find themselves surrounded by conflicting secrets, hidden dangers, and unlikely allies. Can the Goliath truly end all war, or is the cost of placing so much power in one man's hands simply too great?

REVIEW: In the trilogy's final chapter, Goliath brings the airship Leviathan across the Pacific to the fractured realm of America, where the rise of Clanker and Darwinist ideals, not to mention the lingering loyalties of its immigrant populace, have perpetuated Civil War schisms. Westerfield continues populating his alternate Earth with wonders both living and mechanical, creating a world that could easily stand up to more volumes, regardless of their connection to the first World War. Many more real-life figures appear, including the famed newsman William Randolf Hearst, the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa (who, as in real life, actually struck a movie deal with Hearst to help fund his revolution), the gutsy reporter Adela Rogers, and more. An epilogue at the end explains the real-world influences, which proved a more interesting history lesson than twelve years of public education ever provided. In the middle of the vast sweep of events, Deryn's secret comes out, leaving Alek to ponder whether he will stay true to his title or repeat his assassinated father's mistake of choosing his heart over his duty. Once more, between the high-flying imagination, the quick pace, and the wonderfully detailed illustrations by Keith Thompson, Goliath hearkens back to the best of old-school adventure tales. It lost a star to occasional wandering, and the subplot about Deryn's secret coming out felt a little off, with just a few too many people working it out to make its exclusion from the grapevine plausible. Overall, it's a fine conclusion to a memorable series.

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