Monday, January 19, 2015

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield


It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.

Review by Patrick:

Wow. This book... the world the story lives in, is phenomenal. I can't even fathom how Scott Westerfeld came up with such an invention. He's written some pretty crazy stuff (nothing I haven't liked), but this might take the cake.

So jumping into this book without reading the gist of the story might leave you a little dazed. This book is an alternate history book in the time of World War I. Instead of the Allies and the Central Powers, you have the Darwinists and the Clankers. The Darwinists are in the belief that creatures can be 'fabricated' to do the bidding of their human creators. These creatures are fantastical creations with abilities that can only come with imagination, but everything is explained within the reasonably possible, so it feels very real. The Clankers are "Steam Punk," and way more advanced than the present day (presumably because they have to keep up with the creations of the animals, but anyways). These guys have machines that can do incredible things. Ever read or played Mech Warrior? These machines are in this book; the only difference is that they run on kerosene.

Not quite this, but animals do fight (in their own way)
And not quite this either (no lasers)

So that paragraph should help you with some of the terminology before getting into the books. Now for the story. This book is told from really two points of view, one on either side of the war. A lowly girl (who shouldn't be allowed into the British ranks), and the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinad (who you may have heard before). The two stories are both very interesting and keep you on your toes, but eventually they both merge together.

My only complaint with this book, is that it gives you lots of questions, and the last page comes too soon. This is part of a trilogy, and you will want to finish the other books. The questions must be answered. I can't wait to keep reading. Fantastic book. Worth it's weight in gold on an airship.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

Narnia. . .where the woods are thick and cool, where Talking Beasts are called to life. . .a new world where the adventure begins.
Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory's Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to. . .somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion's song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis, before they finally return home.
Digory and Polly discover a secret passage that links their houses and are tricked into vanishing out of this world and into the World of Charn, where they wake up the evil Queen Jadis. There, they witness the creation of the Land of Narnia as it is sung into being by the Great Lion, Aslan.
When Digory and Polly try to return the wicked witch Jadis to her own world, the magic gets mixed up and they all land in Narnia where they witness Aslan blessing the animals with human speech.
Review by Patrick:
The Chronicles of Narnia: It's been a long time since I've first read these books. I decided to pick them up again, partly to review here, partly to enjoy the magic of the world of Narnia again, and partly... dare I say it... I haven't finished the series yet. I don't know why I never got through, but I stopped somewhere in book six, I think. The realization of this fact shamed me so much, that I must read the series again.

The next book, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, was one of those books that introduced magic and fantasy into my life. I think I read that right before The Lord of the Rings, which has set me upon this track for most likely the rest of my life.

With this being the first book of the series, you get the background of the rest. The foundation, quite literally, of the world that becomes Narnia. It is, in some ways, like the great mythologies of old. The stories here lead to explain why things occurs later or in the present. Of course, this book isn't the mythology of Narnia, but rather the canonical beginning.

This is, ultimately, a children's book. It doesn't have the detail of a Tolkien, or the drama of an Austin, but it does have the magic of Lewis. We learn the origins of "the professor" in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, as well as the wardrobe itself. One of the most fascinating things is the thought that there could be other worlds out there, as beautiful and as rich as Narnia, as plain as our own, or as dusty and evil as Charn. As readers, we are only exposed to the three pools in the space between, but there are more pools in that space than you could explore in a lifetime. But I think I know where most of those pools lead anyways. One probably leads to district twelve, one leads to the maze, one leads to Forks, one leads to 221B... you get the idea.

All in all, I love this book. It's story and magic are wonderful, the pace is quick (kids book), and the characters are unique and interesting. Definitely a must read for young readers at the appropriate level. Who knows, they may become a fantasy lover like me. 4.5 stars.