Review: The Time Machine

The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short and sweet. Sometimes, that’s just what I need. Fresh off my latest Steampunk Month read, Boneshaker (2/5 stars), I wanted to read an older, classic steampunk book. After a browse through a list of steampunk books on Goodreads, I came upon The Time Machine and thought, why not?

The book, barely spanning over 100 pages, is about a man who builds a time machine, travels to the far, far, future (it’s the year 820701 or something) and meets what he believes will be the descendants of man. This all sounds very been there, done that, but the amazing thing of The Time Machine is that it was written in the 1800’s!

No, this isn’t a review about how the book was great for its time. It’s great even now. The Time Machine starts off with some gentlemen discussing ideas and theories in some guy’s parlor. There’s some basic exposition about fourth dimension mathematics, which will be easy to follow for anyone who’s taken basic geometry. That, I think is the brilliance of The Time Machine. It has vaguely scientific explanations of how time traveling works, but it’s not bogged down with the technical difficulties. Instead, it dives right into the mysterious world of the future.

The only disappointing thing I can say about The Time Machine, and this is entirely my fault, is that it’s not very steampunk. Other than the time traveling device, which I guess could be vaguely steampunk in that it has mechanical components, there’s not any steampunk at all. Luckily, that didn’t deter me from finishing the book. It would be a shame to not finish the story and hear what the Time Traveler had to say.

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Review: Behemoth

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Leviathan, the first book fo the series, was filled mostly of fabricated animals (beasties) and going-ons on the large, beastie airship. Behemoth takes readers off the airship and filled the world full of machines and gadgets. The change of scenery, from a British airship to the Ottoman empire was great, but still felt a little shallow.

I thought that Deryn’s secret was finally going to be revealed to Alek and was on the edge of my seat throughout this whole book about it. There were several times the beans were almost spilled, which was very frustrating. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a state of tenseness about a story for a whole book like this. Very stressful.

Behemoth was a good continuation of the characters and overarching story of the series. It was a little disappointing how little more we learned of Deryn and Alek. Deryn is her usual strong, risk-taking self, and Alek is still his princeliness. I was hoping this second book would change their relationship but looks like I’ll need to read the third book for that.  While I enjoyed the past two books in the series, I keep wishing they were less YA.

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Review: Leviathan

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan takes place in an alternate, euro-centric world where people are not only divided by their countries, but also by their science. There are the Darwinists, scientists who manipulate and combine DNA (called life strands or something in the book) to create incredibly useful chimeras like 200-plus feet long floating whales carrying a full ecosystem. Then there are the Clankers who are more enthusiastic about machines and technology, but also have 200 feet long mechanical zeppelins.

Leviathan was mostly a world-building book. It isn’t till the halfway point that our two protagonists actually meet. Alek is the secret heir to an empire and is forced to be on the run thanks to the messy politics of Germany versus Austria. Deryn is a girl who has to pretend to be a boy in order to fulfill her goal of becoming an airshipman. The two start off pretty one-dimensional, with Alek being very demanding and princely, and Deryn feeling out the proper way to act as a boy, but as the book went along, I started to like them more. I don’t think it was until the two finally met that I saw how they’d changed from when they were first introduced to the reader.

There are many new, made-up words in Leviathan and usually that sort of thing puts me off on a book, but it worked well in this context. The first couple of chapters are confusing as I tried to figure out what a boffin was and what exactly was a clart, but even I have to admit it lends a certain type of whimsical air to the entire story. It definitely establishes the world as a different one that where we live.

Despite the rich world-building and the fantastic detail in describing the fabricated animals and intricate machines (including nice artwork by Keith Thompson), I couldn’t help feeling that this book would have been better written as an adult book. Leviathan is more of a pre-YA book. The language (other than the made up words) is incredibly simple, and the story telling is very direct and to the point. It makes it easy to speed past chapter after chapter, but something about the writing didn’t sit well with me.

That doesn’t mean I won’t pick up the next book, Behemoth, though. I’m a sucker for cliffhangers and I hope that we get more details on the characters and their situations. The whole impersonating another gender in order to get you want has so much potential, but is barely touched upon. I went through the entire book wondering if someone would find out Deryn’s big secret.

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