Bibliomantic Book Club: “Goliath” by Scott Westerfeld

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Release Date
: September 20, 2011
Genre: Alternate history, young adult fantasy, steampunk

SummaryThe Leviathan continues its breakneck journey around the world, with Alek and Deryn hanging on by the ratlines. Picking up the mysterious Nikola Tesla in the wilds of Siberia alters their course in unexpected ways, as he claims he has a weapon so powerful it will stop the war. Heading towards America, Alek and Deryn must figure out their place in the war, the world, and in each other’s hearts. Burning questions are answered, identities revealed, and adventure awaits!

The end of a series – always a bittersweet time for the Bibliomantics. While we love reaching the conclusion of a story, it means it’s over. No more steampunk whale ship, no more of Deryn’s cleverboots cursing, no brooding, secret-heirs to the throne. It’s rather depressing. But Goliath sends us off with a bang. This action-packed conclusion takes us to Asia and America, introduces new characters while bringing back old friends, and delivers a beautiful, hilarious, and deeply satisfying ending. We were left with one thought – Goliath is barking brilliant.

WARNING: Here be spoilers. Especially from Stephanie. ::glares pointedly::

CASSIE-WA’S THOUGHTS

Goliath was ridiculously fun, and the perfect finish to one of the most unique and well-crafted series I’ve read in a long time. So many exciting things!!

Alek finds out Deryn is a GIRL! (Spoilers! Shock!) Okay, no spoilers. We all knew this was going to happen. It was just a matter of when, and how, and what would happen next! This was one of my favorite parts of the book, and not just because I’d been anticipating it all throughout the first two. I love that Alek isn’t a complete idiot, and once he’s on the right track (with the help of a certain perspicacious furry friend), he figures everything out. I mean, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE KATNISS TO REALIZE PEETA LOVES HER?? for example. I hate when characters are completely blind to things that are obvious to the reader!

That might be one of the functions of the perspicacious lorises. In a book full of intrigue and sneaky-boots, it’s good to have somebody snickering and pointing out exactly what is going on the whole time. Bonus points that said somebody is totally adorable.

One thing I was expecting to happen at some point was seeing Deryn in girl clothes. Even just for pure shenanigans purposes. And then Alek would have this cliché oh! moment and realize he loves her or something. But it didn’t happen! (Spoilers?) Because, I realized, that is so not the point! Alek couldn’t suddenly love Deryn-as-a-girl-girl because that’s not who she is.

I love how Goliath treats the idea of destiny. In Behemoth, Alek feels like he has found his purpose as he jumps into the revolution in Istanbul. His desperation to be the one to end the war (as if it could be just one person) is so sad! Feeling like he has this destiny is one of the only things that keeps him going. And I’m thinking, okay, Goliath. In the Bible, David defeats Goliath because God chose him to be king of Israel. “God” chose Alek to be emperor. DESTINY. HMMM.

Some things are much more important than destiny.

One thing I would recommend is NOT reading these books on an e-reader. I read Leviathan in book form, and then read the next two books on my Kindle, and as far as the illustrations go it was just not the same. I definitely need to re-read them in book form so I can look at the pictures more closely.

Goliath ends so beautifully I’m almost okay there won’t be a continuation. Almost okay. It kind of sets up a really cool and interesting possibility for a continuation. But if I had to choose, I’d rather have a present day spin-off series. What is the state of the world after all this? Do we still fly around in whales in 2011?? Has Apple introduced the iLoris?? I want to know!

STEPHANIE’S THOUGHTS

Goliath was fantastic. Honestly, George R.R. Martin and life in general have me so jaded. Surely either Alek or Deryn or both would meet a terrible demise and die before the end. Surely the Clankers would think of someway to destroy the Leviathan and ruin the Darwinists work. Surely something would go terribly wrong with Goliath and scorch the whole planet. And obviously, OBVIOUSlY Alek and Deryn would never end up together or happy.

WRONG. SO WRONG. I was so happy to be wrong. I can’t believe I was ever thinking those things in the first place.

I was incredibly pleased that the big reveal happened so early on in the book. Chapter 12 and Alek found out Deryn’s secret, with a little help from a perspicacious loris. I’ve always thought Deryn is the most perfect girl pretending to be a boy ever – no pretention, no ridiculous Mary Sue-ness, no hiding to try to find a cute boyfriend – she just honestly wants to be a soldier and fly. Alek is understandably mad, but not over the top about it and I love how Deryn just punches him in the gut to prove she’s not different just because he knows. And the most amazing thing is that Alek is not really the dummkopf that Deryn keeps saying he is and understands almost immediately that she is in love with him. LOVE IT. Nothing cheesy happens, there’s no big, stupid proclamations. He gets it and naturally decides to avoid her…though luckily for us, not for long!!

Then we have the big moment, when Alek’s conked himself out topside and Deryn is gripping him to make sure he doesn’t fall and they promise no secrets. She kissed him and I died. Again, it was just so honest! She knows she can’t expect anything, but she just does it anyway because she is so brave and wonderful!

The story goes on beyond Alek and Deryn though as we try to figure out if Tesla actually is a mad genius or just mad, whether Alek should be involved with him or not, and the scheming of Hearst to get Alek on camera as much as possible. (“We’ll use the papers of Mr. Hearst! Flood the airways until they burst!”)

But of course, what we really care about is if Deryn is going to be found out. Because with stories that take place during epic events like this, yes we want to know what’s happening in the big picture, but it’s really all about the characters we love. So when that bumrag Eddie Malone finds out she’s a girl…oh the dread. You are just there with Deryn, feeling that horrible feeling that it was all over, she’d never fly again and they’d make her wear skirts. And then the lady boffin just makes it even worse when Deryn realizes she’s not just hurting herself in her deception, but the entire crew of the Leviathan and really her country in general.

And then Alek saves the day. He really is so naturally protective of Deryn. Without even realizing it sometimes, he really does anything he can for her. Except when we get to the dramatic conclusion – where he knows exactly what he’s doing and it is ALL for her. His final confrontation with Tesla was amazing. The electricity in the air just magnified the intensity of the words on the page and this frantic notion that Alek must stop Tesla at any cost…and he does. And he doesn’t do it for Berlin, he does it for Deryn. All for Deryn. (“All for Lauraaaaa.”) In the end, he knows he would have done the same anyone, just to save her, even if Tesla couldn’t have destroyed Berlin at all.

The happy ending comes swiftly after that. Deryn’s secret is safe and she and Alek end up happily employed. AND TOGETHER. Throwing a letter off the side of a giant flying whale. Most satisfying and beautiful ending to a story I can remember reading. Absolutely incredible. And, as I’m sure Cassie-wa also talks about, Alek loves her as a BOY. Deryn didn’t need to get all dressed up in skirts for him to realize. He loves her exactly as she is.

Plot came together wonderfully, the characters were wonderful – was glad to see Lilit again, though briefly – and overall just happy, happy, happy. Between Alek’s noble inclinations, Deryn’s sass, Dr. Barlow’s all-knowing boffin-ness, and Count Volger’s snark – how could we go wrong? What a completely fantastic series. Thank you so much for these books, Scott!

KELLY’S THOUGHTS

I could not stop grinning when I put this book down. The ending was so barking perfect –the family motto, the newspaper, the Leviathan itself – and of course, Deryn and Alek. (<—– Not spoilery, I promise!) I just wanted to stay in the series for a while, basking in the glow of such an excellent conclusion. Or perhaps send a memo to some authors who shall remain nameless – saying “THIS is how to end a series.”

Besides the excellent ending, the language and craft of the novel were just superb. Mr. Westerfeld creates these action-packed narratives (I think Deryn jumped off like 10 things) that move so quickly, but the language is still so lush. Take this description -“the rooftops of Tokyo curved and swelled like ocean waves, terra-cotta tiles rippling their surfaces.” It captures so much of the city in one sentence, but doesn’t weigh the plot down. And of course there is everything Deryn says. Cleverboots, sticky beak, barking everything. I find myself unconsciously slipping Derynisms into my real life, while consciously wishing I could be even half so badass.

The introduction of Tesla was a nice twist, as he was mentioned earlier in the series. Though, I had a hard time not imagining him as a pigeon-fancying John C. Reilly. He provided a way to comment on the nature of power, and how easily it corrupts. The tension his relationship with Alek creates adds a new layer to the story as well.

One cool thing about the illustrations – I think Deryn’s features were subtly more feminine after Alek finds out she is a girl. And of course, all of the illustrations were beautiful. I especially love the epic two page spreads, trying to find all the extra details included by Mr. Thompson.

Finally – the perspicacious loris. They reminded me of Momo from Avatar (never the blue kitty people one!) mixed with the daemons from His Dark Materials, plus a whole lot of adorable. Whenever the two lorises (lori?) would get together and giggle madly, I couldn’t help but follow suit. Can someone genetically engineer one already?

CASSIE-LA’S THOUGHTS

You hope for a lot when a series or trilogy (not that anyone knows what this is anymore) wraps up and Goliath does not disappoint. Not even a little bit- it met all my expectations and then some! Hands down, overall an amazing end to an amazing series. I loved that it was dedicated to, “Everyone who loves a long-secret romance, revealed at long last”. SQUEEEEEEE! I wish there was a way to video tape all the ridiculous emotions crossing my face while I read this novel.

It took me until the release of Behemoth to actually get into this series, solely for the fact that I do not like books about wars, especially not big epic world wars. Oh silly me. I was already a fan of Scott Westerfeld’s books through The Uglies series, but when I heard this one was about war I think I said, “Yuck” and didn’t think much about it. That was until it was highly recommended by fellow Bibliomantic, Stephanie, who explained just how wrong I was. The series is in actuality less about war and more about being true to yourself. It also helps that it features an alternate history in which genetically engineered animals created by Darwinists/Allied Powers are fighting the steampunk loving Clankers/Central Powers.

First, I must talk about the relationship between Alek and Deryn. It’s so perfect and painful all at the same time. Alek torn between his perceived duty to his family and country, and Deryn with her duty to the Leviathan and its crew. Both of them torn between their own desires and the desires of those around them. Not to mention the armored bear in the room, the fact that Deryn is a girl in the guise of a boy. Side note: Hands down, Deryn is my favorite character. She’s tough, funny, and yet still vulnerable. Even Count Volger admires her pluck, albeit, “As one does a bear riding a bicycle. One sees it so rarely.”

For the best Alek/Deryn moments in this novel, one needs to read the end of chapter eleven and the entirety of chapter twelve. Not to mention the end of the series in which Scott makes everyone reading Goliath so damn happy.

In this final book, we get to meet a brand new scientist who is a little off his rocker, and who I can’t separate from David Bowie in The Prestige, Nikola Tesla! Scott’s Tesla however, has a heightened sense of crazy. I never envisioned Tesla as the villain, but it was incredibly easy to put him in the role. “I shall call it the ‘electric fence’ I think” he says of his electrified invention. In addition to this historical figure are the appearances of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, and even a mention of Roosevelt (who we learn is NOT president).

Another inclusion is that American finally comes into play! I was curious to see how they states would be portrayed, and was surprised to see that the North was full of Clankers and the South Darwinists. It’s like a Civil War all over again, but this time I’d rather live in the South. Never thought I’d type that, damn red states. I love that the Statue of Liberty is lit with a combination of coils and bio-luminescence to represent this division in the country. I want to go to there! I also enjoyed that while at a party in American, Deryn commented that rules were laxer, evidenced by her noticing “… A few of the hemlines rising to the daring height of midcalf.” No, not mid-calf, that’s too sexy! My virtue!

As expected, Keith Thompson’s artwork is gorgeous and feels even bigger in this finale. The endpaper artwork in the hardcover is downright stunning, and features an allegorical map of the world. Although in Scott’s own words via twitter, “it’s symbolical, yo”. I am so glad I bought a physical copy of Goliath, which made it a lot easier to view the beautiful artwork. The other two books were read on my Kindle and at least with this version and not the super gorgeous looking Kindle Fire (that name, ugh) which just came out, the pictures were blurry and just not quite so impressive. It was almost hard to make out what was going on. Sorry technology, unfortunately you will never replace real books in my heart.

WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
– The relationship between Alek and Deryn is so believable, beautiful, and adorable. We could barely handle it!
– The plot twists were refreshing and fun, as were the new characters
– Awesome ending!
– The illustrations are just wonderful, adding to the depth of the story
– Four orders for a perspicacious loris!

WHAT WE LIKED LEAST:
– Illustrations on the Kindle aren’t as clear as the printed version
– Can it keep going please??

Join us next month when we review our October Bibliomantic Book Club Book: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

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