Friday, 24 July 2015

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

*Some Spoilers Ahead*

I'm done this series, I think. In that I think it's done? And even if it's not, I'm not sure I need to go on with it. It has been passable young adult alt-history, but it never really grabbed me. I haven't minded reading any of the three books, but I was never delighted when they came around on the Kindle.

Plus, Tesla doesn't shake hands. And it's almost the first thing he does when he is introduced in this book. In fact, most of his quirks don't appear, and he's turned into something of a villain. I'm rather fond of Tesla as a historical figure, and this version missed most of the eccentricities, and made him unlikeable, which is unlikely to win my approval.

In this one, the Leviathan drifts out of Europe, into Russia, Asia, across the Pacific. (I think they go across the Pacific? Maybe they reversed and went across the Atlantic. But no, they end up in California, so....) They're out of the main theatre of war, mostly there to ferry Tesla on a mission to finish a weapon he claims will bring peace to the world. Alek buys into this most thoroughly, apparently not having learned anything from history.

In California, they meet Hearst. Hearst sends them to meet Pancho Villa, to get better newsreel footage. This story is less driven by plot about the two main characters than it is by a travelogue, trying to fit in as many historical personages as possible.

This is possible because the romance takes centre stage. Deryn's pining becomes known. Alek thinks he can't reciprocate because he has to become Emperor of Austria. Can anyone who has ever read a young adult novel guess whether or not Alek will follow his duties or his heart?  The romance was never my favourite part of these books, but it's not terrible. At least it developed slowly and avoided insta-love at any point.

Still, it wasn't the part of the book I was breathlessly waiting on. The problem is that there weren't any parts I was breathlessly waiting on. There's very little tension in this book until the very end, and even that feels a bit predictable.

My other little quibble is that these perspicacious lorises are introduced, and then nothing much is done with them. I know they knew Deryn was a girl, but other than that, I figured they'd play a big part at some point, when people finally realized that what they were repeating was relevant to the situations they were in, but not only did that seem to happen less often in this book, nobody really realized it. Which takes all that potential and roundly squanders it.

Most of the drama hinges, yet again, on whether or not Deryn will be revealed as a girl. I won't tell you which way it goes, but she is closer to that revelation in that book. That's interesting, but at a certain point, the consequences and what happens next would be more interesting. (Okay, I guess I just told you.)

This series isn't bad. It just never really caught my imagination or made me excited. It's competent YA fiction. That's about the best I can say.

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