Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Audio-Philes: Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Read By: Alan Cumming
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Year: 2009
Listened To: June 2013
Genre: YA-steampunk-alt history
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Fabricated Beasties

I used to joke that everything I knew about World War I, I learned from reading Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. Now I can happily say that everything I know about WWI I’ve learned from Leviathan and Downton Abbey. (I feel WWI was perhaps not as well-covered as WWII during my secondary education—thankfully I can rely on fictional entertainment to pick up the slack.) And this book is great—full of imagination, historical inspiration, vividly portrayed characters, and rollicking action. Here, have a GoodReads blurb:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

So yes, I love this trilogy THIS MUCH and think everyone should read it, especially if they’re unsure about steampunk but want to give it a go. However, I’m not here to review the BOOK-book right now, but rather the audiobook.

My nitpicks and dissatisfactions with audiobooks in general are well-documented, so every time I decide to try another I wonder if I’m setting myself up for failure. But when I saw this beckoning to me from the library shelf, I had to give it a go. Scott Westerfeld? Love. Alan Cumming? Love. What could possibly go wrong? And I am pleased to say, not much. I found this to be a very pleasant listen.

It fit my criteria of having been a book I’d: a), already read the traditional way (so I could follow without much trouble), and b) enjoyed immensely, so it had those things going for it from the start. And I thought Alan Cumming did a great job reading it! Really wonderful choice there. There’s always an adjustment period where I acclimate to the characters sounding different than they do in my head, but once I made it through that, it was great. I loved his narration and the voices he created for all the characters, most notably and surprisingly, Deryn! I have this thing where I normally in audiobooks (or movies like Milo and Otis) I hate hate HATE when men try to approximate a female voice, but Mr. Cumming’s was spot-on for the character.

Less successful, for me, was his portrayal of the German-speaking characters. I don’t know what it was about it, but it just seemed…maybe a bit hokey? And to me it kinda made Alek seem a little less intelligent than he was. When I was reading, I imagined Alek with a lighter accent, with more natural tone and smooth cadence when speaking English, due to his privileged upbringing and education. Like I said, though, that’s just part of adjusting to a portrayal of characters on CD sounding different than they do in your head. But this is completely subjective on both counts—I’m sure there are plenty of people who LOVE that he gives those characters distinct accents. At any rate, while it really bothered me for about the first 2 discs, after that I got used to it and got sucked back into the story and Mr. Cumming’s reading of it and it didn’t really matter anymore! The fact that I want to listen to the rest of the series serves as evidence of that, but it seems my library doesn’t have the other two! Noooooo!

All in all, I thought it was great. Alan Cumming’s reading really captured the feel and personality of not just the main characters, but more peripheral ones as well, along with the sense of excitement and adventure of the story overall. If you haven’t read this book, you should probably go do that, or listen to it, or something. AS LONG AS YOU CONSUME IT AND LOVE IT AS MUCH AS I DO. No pressure. :)

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