Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
|Goliath by Scott Westerfeld|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The end of this trilogy that takes Westerfeld's fans to a brilliant alternative history, but this slumps to only better-than-average in isolation.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 560||Date: July 2012|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
This is 1914 and there is a World War going on, but this is not the WWI we know of. While a lot of it concerns allies and enemies in common with our reality, disagreement also surrounds one's nature and attitude to technology - Clankers have mechanical, industrial inventions, while Darwinists have more natural help, from huge flying whale-type creatures down to lizards taught to personally deliver voice messages that mimic the sender, and fleets of attack bats and birds. On one such zepellin-type beast is Austro-Hungarian Prince Alek, caught up in the war against his will by his parents' death, and his best friend, about whom he actually knows far too little. He knows even less of another passenger it picks up - a scientist in electricity and mechanics, who says he is giving his ultimate prize - a machined weapon mighty enough to cease the war for good - to the Darwinists...
This is a slightly awkward instance of reviewing book three in a trilogy without having read the others. On the one hand the steampunk approach is sterling - to mix it up with realistic attitutes, sides in the war and real scientists, with the added bonus too of so much creativity when it comes to the animals bred as equally industrial parts of everyday life. (Not even handy, talking primates smack too much of His Dark Materials.) But in isolation this book makes some of this hard for the newbie to handle, as it doesn't allow time for much back-tracking or exposition.
Which is odd as really it is all about the delay in two things - Alek and his friend coming clean and being honest to themselves and each other, and the reveal of the ultimate weapon. I remain convinced that even those here from day one would have to admit that this book's plot is a little slight. It's still a necessary conclusion to the series, but given my lack of investment in the characters it is not quite so satisfying as a stand-alone.
Nor is it, despite the brilliant world-building, and the usually brisk, enervating action writing we know of old, on a par with Scott Westerfeld's best. Once again he has a flying side to the drama, but this - to repeat, on its own - certainly has less female appeal than the Uglies series, and however fascinating the results of this alternative world's biotech, not quite the immersive pleasures introduced in his Midnighters saga. For the memorable invention, token characters and expected qualities, I can give the book four stars and admit that those with prior experience of the series will deem it worthy of more. This was good, but as a stand-alone was not a stand-out.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
For a slightly different beast, a world that likewise treats mechanical and animal as isolated types of science, but also adds a third - psychic ability - you might like to try A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix.
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