Leviathan is the first book in a series by Scott Westerfeld that takes place in an alternate version of World War I Europe. Some of the differences are that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in the evening, as opposed to the afternoon, they have only one son... Oh, and Germans and Austrians use Giant Walkers to fight the British and French Fabricated Animals. Obviously, he took liberties with history.In this version of history, when Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution, he also discovered the 'chains of life', or DNA - and, more importantly, how to manipulate them and construct new creatures. Fast forward 50 years, and you find London crawling with fabricated elephants and giant oxen instead of cars, and gecko/parrot hybrids are used to send messages.The book follows two characters - the Archduke's son, Prince Aleksandar, who is whisked off on the night of his parents' assassination to a secret hideaway in the Alps before his enemies can assassinate him. The second character is a girl, Deryn Sharp, who poses as a boy in order to join the British Air Service and eventually finds herself aboard the Leviathan, a massive Flying WhaleAirship that is bound for the Ottoman Empire with one Dr. Nora Barlow, a Boffin*
a scientist, in this case somebody who makes Fabricated Animals
and her very secretive cargo. As a war between the fabricated Animal using "Darwinists" (not like that) and Walker-using "Clankers" looms, Alek soon finds himself aboard the Leviathan as his enemies close in.A second book, Behemoth, was released October 5, 2010. The last book in the trilogy, Goliath, was released on September 20th, 2011. Westerfeld also wrote a bonus "fanfiction" chapter on his blog and commissioned a new piece of art for Christmas 2011.Not to be confused with Leviathan, the third novel in the Illuminatus trilogy.
Provides examples of:
Ace Stormwalker Pilot: Master Otto Klopp, who is, according to Alek, "the best master of mechaniks in Austria". And Alek's quite the pilot, too - he's mastered night-walking.
Alternate History: Armored vehicles pre-1916, the Archduke having only one child, the Archduke being assassinated at night, Darwin discovering genetics and DNA, etc.
The ending of the series distances it even further from our timeline: the War ends on fairly amiable and equal terms instead of a Treaty of Versailles analogue (although the US still ends up joining the Darwinists). The Russian Revolution never happens, Austria-Hungary seems to have all but usurped Germany as head of the Clanker nations, Britannia still rules the waves and the odds of an parallel World War 2 happening are pretty slim. Although the Ottomans are mentioned as having undergone a revolt and there remains concern with the Japanese.
Ambiguous Situation: The nature of Tesla's Goliath device, which the entire plot of the third book revolves around, is never revealed. It is implied to be an extremely powerful magnetic device weaponizing comets and meteors, but the characters refuse to cede that much credit to Tesla. Likewise, most characters instead believe Tesla was insane and his Goliath device completely bunk. The fact of the matter is that The Tunguska Event happened right after Tesla tested the device and that the sky over England changed colors when he tested it again later. No hard evidence is put forth regarding whether those were atmospheric coincidences that Tesla shamelessly took credit for in his madness, or legitimate results of his experimentation. Because Tesla was killed and his device destroyed, those answers are forever lost In-Universe.
Artistic License - Physics: This is a given, but the series is curiously un-evenhanded about it. For some reason, whether you prefer steampunk (villainous) or biopunk (heroic) tends to arbitrarily determine how far along the morality scale you are. The machines used by the villainous Central Powers hew close to real-world physics and hydraulics, and are unwieldy and inefficient because of it. However, the Allies are able to use super-obedient, super-genetically enhanced monstrosities, who move with a grace and cleanliness and are presented without irony as superior to mechanics in every way.
The biggest discrepancy is that living creatures should be ridiculously fuel-inefficient, far more so than diesel powered engines. Nevertheless, the Allies' biggest advantage is the quantity and diversity of fabricated creatures they can draw on, while the Central Powers' wear-and-tear and reliance on fuel is repeatedly pointed out and exploited.
The upkeep required of large numbers of military-standard living animals would also be a logistical nightmare, but the fabricated creatures just keep recycling their own waste, keeping themselves clean, and remaining in their designated habitats even during crisis conditions. If applying the same level of realism that is displayed by the Clanker powers, the streets of Darwinist countries should be paved with feces.
Charles Darwin is also relegated to a sort of scientific Ubermensch, developing not only evolutionary theory, but also discovering DNA and genetic extraction, manipulation, and insertion, all under primitive microscopes*
For reference, altering gene codes requires several lengthy steps that need to occur in incubators and relatively little of the work can be done under a microscope.
Special mention goes to Deryn's compress after she busts up her knee. It is some kind of fabricated beast that extends its tentacles into her knee to fix torn ligaments. And if she tries to put weight on her leg it sounds and feels like she has a swarm of angry wasps in her knee. One of the few places where the description in the text is worse than the pictures.
Cannot Spit It Out: Every time Deryn comes close to admitting to Alek that she's a girl, either she cannot go on for fear that telling him the truth will upend their friendship (it does for a while after he finds out), or something conveniently ends the conversation. This behaviour is lampshaded by Alek himself.
Evil Grand Uncle: Emperor Franz Joseph did not approve of Archduke Franz Ferdinand falling in love with Sophie Chotek, which is why they had to get a morganatic/left-handed marriage, which is why Alek isn't his father's heir.
"He leaned forward to kiss her. His lips were soft against hers, but they kindled something sharp and hard inside her, something that had waited impatiently all the months since this boy had come aboard." Reverse the genders in this sentence.
Grow Old With Me: Alek momentarily wants Deryn to live with him in New York away from the troubles of the war.
Harmony Versus Discipline: Played completely straight in the series. The Darwinists represent Harmony, harnessing nature for war and having a generally more organic aesthetic about them. The Clankers on the other hand represent Discipline, manufacturing whatever they use, with an aesthetic characterised by angularity and general disregard for nature.
In fact, the two main characters themselves embody this conflict very neatly. Deryn is very obviously set up as the harmonious one, defying Victorian social conventions (a very Discipline-esque system) by disguising herself as a boy and entering the British Air Service. As a person, she shows little inhibition and respect. Alek, who was raised surrounded by rules, obligations and restrictions, is almost exaggeratedly disciplined: controlled, virtuous and very formal, but unable to adapt and with a certain belief that everything must be planned and predictable.
Heroic Sacrifice: Zaven, who electrocutes himself in his mech to bring down the Tesla cannon, thus saving Deryn, Alek, and everyone aboard the Leviathan.
Before the book, Deryn's Da, who pushes her out of a flaming balloon to save her, at the cost of his own life.
If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Her: Spoilers for Goliath ahead: After Alek finds out about Deryn's identity, and that Volger has been blackmailing her, Volger suggests that the blackmail continue. Alek doesn't take this well.
Alek: If you threaten Deryn Sharp again, Volger - in any way at all - I'm done with you.
Improvised Zipline: Deryn is up in a scouting balloon and sees Alek's "family" coming to the shipwreck looking for him in their Stormwalker. The message lizard won't get down the cable in time, so she slings a leather strap over the tether and zips down to camp.
It is noted that the odds of one surviving this sort of escape are against you.
If Franz Ferdinand's wife was Countess (later Princess, later Duchess) Sophie Chotek as in actual history, this would be an example of poor research, because the children of a morganatic marriage would be ineligible for the Austro-Hungarian throne.
Did do the research: Franz Ferdinand goes on a top secret mission to Rome and gets Alek a papal dispensation, no less. Unfortunately, it can only be used after the Emperor, Alek's grandfather, dies. See Authors Note or That Other Wiki
LEGO Genetics: The 'Darwinist' Nations can combine the DNA of species like whales and jelly fish. The eponymous Leviathan is supposedly composed of the DNA of hundreds of species, and is more of an ecosystem then a single animal.
Living Weapon: Somewhere between this and an Attack Animal with the Fabricated Animals. There are examples of the later (like the flechette bats that you feed them fruits filled with metal needles, then scare them into pooping the needles on enemies) and examples of the former (the Leviathan, an airship that is alive).
Love Triangle: Type 5: Lilit has a crush on Deryn/Dylan, who likes Alek, who thinks Lilit is attractive but can't have any real feelings for her because she's a commoner. Deryn faces the same problem, with the added stumbling block that as far as Alek knows, she's a boy.
Dr. Barlow: "What the Clankers lack in finesse they make up for in blanket ruination."
Multinational Team: The Committee for Union and Progress. They're all living in Istanbul, but individually they are Greeks, Turks, Jews, and more, and they only became united under one purpose recently in Behemoth.
Narrative Profanity Filter: Everyone seems to think Alek never curses, but when you count all the times it says, "Alek swore" or "Alek cursed softly in German," or anything like that, you can see that he's almost as bad as Deryn.
Alek has also mentioned Deryn teaching him how to swear properly in English.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Heavily averted; all the real historical figures who appear (including Dr. Barlow, Nikola Tesla, William Randolph Hearst and Pancho Villa) or get mentioned (Emperor Joseph of Austria, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Winston Churchill, etc.) are given their real names. And at least one celebrity gets most thoroughly harmed when Alek electrocutes Tesla with his own walking stick.
Not In Front Of The Parrot: Volger in particular is leery of speaking in front of messenger lizards, which are bred to be talented mimics. The perspicacious loris is even better/worse.
"Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Played with in the afterword of each book, where Westerfeld explains that the books are based off of actual events of World War One, and elaborates on which elements are kept mostly the same and which have been altered for the sake of atmosphere.
No Periods, Period: Something that hasn't slipped past the notice of the fanfic authors...
Word of God: Mr. Westerfeld said, "Women back then didn't menstruate as early, and women who pretended to be soldiers often stopped menstruating altogether. (Hard physical exercise and not a lot of food will do that.) So my guess is that she's not having any periods."
Odd Name Out: The first two novels are named after beasts from Jewish mythology (Leviathan and Behemoth) representing sea and land respectively. The beast representing the sky, Ziz, won't be the name of the third book because it was deemed too obscure and too short. Instead, the third book will be named Goliath. Westerfeld also said on his blog that he thought 'Ziz' wasn't well known enough. Goliath was suggested by a fan.
The Goliath isn't a beastie, anyway, so this trope is entirely appropriate.
Recursive Crossdressing: Discussed. After Dr. Barlow proposes that Deryn join her diplomatic (that is to say, spy) organization, and after Deryn tells Dr. Barlow her big secret, Barlow jokes that Deryn could end up disguising herself as a girl.
In the bonus Christmas chapter on Westerfeld's blog, Deryn does disguise herself as a girl. As does Alek.
Rule of Three: Tesla insists that all his silverware be arranged in sets of three.
Running Gag: Dummkopf! in Behemoth. In the same book, "Mr. Sharp!" is Bovril's favorite phrase, using it try to point out something (he/she/it?) is trying to explain... and poor Alek can't pick up the hint.
Samus Is a Girl: Alek's first meeting with Lilit, in which he assumes she is a man in a disguise.
Simultaneous Arcs: Alek and Deryn alternate usually every two chapters as the viewpoint character; sometimes they're off doing separate things, sometimes they're together. In those chapters, the main difference (since it's third person all the time) is that Deryn refers to herself as such, while Alek knows her exclusively as "Dylan."
Which gets really confusing in Goliath once Alek learns "Dylan's" real identity.
Word of God says she knew very well Deryn was a girl. Also, when she and Deryn meet again in Goliath, Lilit lied when she said that kissing Deryn was just curiosity; Lilit really fell in love with Deryn.
Alek definitely gets into this in Goliath, going so far as to kill Nikola Tesla and abdicate the throne for her by the end.
The Unreveal: We never do really find out what the perspicacious loris was supposed to do.
Tranquilizer Dart: The czar sends some of these in his package, along with numerous hunks of meat, which, the Leviathan's crew members later work out, are meant to be used to hinder Tesla's hungry fighting bears while they rescue the inventor.
Translation Convention: Every conversation between Alek and his men is typed in English, though they really are speaking in German. When Deryn is narrating, though, their conversations are in German.