Tag Archives: scott westerfeld

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld: We might call them vampires, but in Cal’s world, they’re called “parasite positives,” or peeps. They have similar symptoms: an aversion to sunshine and other familiar things, a thirst for blood, an affinity for rats, that sort of thing. Shortly after starting college in New York City, Cal spends the night with a woman and winds up a carrier of the disease himself – all the special powers without the nasty side-effects – and is later recruited to help hunt down all the women he’s infected. The idea of vampirism-as-disease is not new, but I’d never seen it done quite like this before. Every other chapter is about real-life parasites, so if you’re squeamish about such things, you probably want to skip those parts. Personally, I found it all fascinating (if a bit stomach-churning at points), and I enjoyed Cal’s adventures as a peep hunter as well – like many of Westerfeld’s characters, he’s quite likable. I’m looking forward to the sequel, as the story is clearly ramping up to something big.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Manual of Aeronautics by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson

The Manual of Aeronautics by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson: The alternate-WWI, steampunk world of Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath required a surprising amount of pre-work, describing all the technology and creatures and uniforms so the illustrations of the novels would match Westerfeld’s vision. This book contains a small sampling of those designs, from detailed floor plans of airships to Latin names for fabricated beasties to portraits of some of our favorite characters. It was a very fast read, but I loved the full color drawings. The pictures really helped bring the books to life, and this slim volume only enhances that experience. Recommended for fans of the series, but not until after you’ve finished reading it.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 10.5 hrs on 9 discs): This final installment of the Leviathan trilogy had me on the edge of my seat pretty much the entire time. If Deryn’s secret wasn’t on the verge of being discovered then Alek was in danger or the engines were smoking or some other calamity. This part of our story takes us from Siberia to Japan to the USA, introducing a number of memorable new characters and visiting old friends along the way. And Bovril the perspicacious loris was endlessly adorable. There were far more historical figures this time around, making Westerfeld’s “what actually happened” epilogue even more interesting. You know, I don’t really care for steampunk or alternate histories or books about war – fictional or otherwise – but I really, really loved this trilogy. I loved the characters, how you’re never quite sure who knows what or whom to trust. I loved the technology, the mix of science and fantasy involved in these genetically engineered critters. I loved the story, the adventures, the romance, the suspense. And the ending was quite satisfying, which is saying a lot considering how many loose ends were flapping about prior to it. Highly recommended.

A note on the audio: Cumming is a master of a wide variety of accents – American, German, Scottish, and numerous forms of English – but Russian, alas, is not one of them. It was a little painful listening to his Russian characters. But that’s a pretty small complaint, considering he remained simply fantastic for the rest of the book. It’s also worth noticing that since I was listening to this in my car, I did attempt to make up excuses to drive places.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 9.5 hrs on 8 discs): Deryn and Alek are in Istanbul, where they meet anarchists (who aren’t really), a perspicacious loris, and a nosy American reporter. I laughed aloud when Deryn and Alek were discussing Lilit, and there were several times when all I could think was, “How are they going to get out of this one, then?” I am thoroughly enjoying this series, which is interesting since I don’t generally consider myself to be a steampunk fan. I guess it helps that this is more alternate history and science fiction than a mere obsession with gear-and-goggle-based fashion. I can’t wait to see how the story ends.

A note on the audio: Cumming continues to dazzle. I’m almost certain that some American dude showed up, shoved Cumming out of the way just to say the American character’s lines, and then left. To my American ears, it was perhaps the best accent I’ve ever heard by a British narrator.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 8.5 hrs on 7 discs): What we know as World War I is about to begin, but in this world the two factions are the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers have huge mechanical contraptions, sort of a steampunk AT-AT. The Darwinist’s giant war machines are actually carefully designed animals created through grafting genes. Alek is the son of the recently assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, now on the run from his own allies; Deryn is a Scottish girl pretending to be a boy so she can join the military. It’s a fun story, but unquestionably part of a series – the ending leads into the next stage of the plot, leaving you wishing for just one more chapter. I’m so glad I’m reading it now, after the whole trilogy has been released, so I don’t have to wait. I also appreciated the “this is real and this is made up” afterword. Definitely recommended if you like steampunk or WWI alternate history.

A note on the audio: Alan Cumming is fantastic. No, seriously, amazing. To the point where I want to watch every movie he’s ever used an accent in ever.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Scott Brick; 6 hrs 33 min 6 on discs): Hunter is sort of a Cool Detector – that is, he looks for things that are novel and shoots them off to a certain major brand to see about incorporating it into future designs. The story opens with him meeting Jen, who has tied her shoelaces in a particularly unusual way. When Hunter’s boss disappears, he and Jen find themselves chasing a group of sort-of anarchists. It’s a somewhat interesting take on what makes something “cool” or popular, and why trends fade so quickly, but being someone so totally not fashion-conscious in any form, I couldn’t always relate. I’ve never seen a pair of shoes, for example, that I just had to have. That’s an utterly foreign idea to me. All the same, the story itself was kind of fun and Westerfeld always spins a decent yarn. I just wasn’t the right audience.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 11 hrs 45 min on 10 CDs): I almost didn’t read this book at all. I was so upset at the end of Specials that I figured I might as well just give up on the series, since Extras was supposed to be just sort of an additional story rather than a continuation. But a friend of mine convinced me to give it a try and I am so glad I did. While the first three Uglies books took place somewhere on the west coast of what used to be the United States, for this book we have been transported to Japan. It’s been a few years since Tally’s adventures and the Mind Rain (the removal of the lesions causing people to be Pretty-heads) has caused the world to go a little bit crazy. In Japan, Aya lives in a world of face rank – measures to fame compared to the other people in her city. They live in a reputation economy, where relative fame means more credit to purchase items. Aya is a kicker – what we’d call a vlogger – and in order to become famous she goes undercover with a secret clique of fame-shunning maglev-surfing girls. When she unwittingly stumbles upon the biggest story in the world, she attracts a whole lot of unwanted attention.

This isn’t just another story taking place in the same universe as the rest of the series: it actually is connected. Loose ends are tied up and I felt extremely satisfied by the end – and getting there was a hell of a lot of fun as well. Radical Honesty – the physical inability to lie or even hold back the truth – was an interesting plot device that ended up being more funny than contrived. I loved all the new characters and while I guessed at the truth behind the mystery pretty early on, I still enjoyed watching them figure it out. And, of course, the appearance of some of my beloved characters from the previous books was much appreciated. Definitely a worthy finale to the series.

A note on the audio: Despite my dislike of Monterbrand’s stoned-sounding male character voices, I was impressed at how well I was able to distinguish between each of them here. Hiro was especially entertaining.

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 11 hrs on 9 CDs): Though the title really should have prepared me for this installment of the Uglies series, I spent much of this novel in a state of anxiety because I really hated Tally and I didn’t want to hate Tally. Alas, that lasted until the part when I cried, then I spent the rest of the book feeling pretty despondent. On the bright side, Shay is back in my good graces and All Is Not Lost, but I sure hope Extras cheers me up a little bit.

A note on the audio: Montbertrand shines as always. I am sure her narration played a part in my unhappiness, since I clearly care about these characters.

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 11 hrs 15 min on 10 CDs): I am so glad I had the next book in the series in hand when I finished this one, since it ends on a “Tally noooooooo” cliffhanger. But up until then, I really enjoyed it. The romance aspect was handled much better, though it probably didn’t hurt that I totally fell in love with Zane. I got pretty tired of Shay, but luckily she wasn’t as prominent a figure here as in Uglies. Mostly I just really enjoyed returning to this world with its strange rules and fascinating technology. The introduction of Andrew Simpson Smith opened up a whole new layer of interesting subplots to this world, and was one more reason I was so glad not to have to wait between books. I was amused by how all the Pretties talked like Joss Whedon characters. I have to admit I’d totally be a Pretty. I like to think that I’d be all brave and independent like Tally and Zane, but the truth is I’d be perfectly content being vain and lazy like the rest of the Pretties. I’ll hold off on judging the whole series until I’ve finished it, but I definitely liked this installment.

A note on the audio: I’ve been consistently impressed with Montbertrand’s ability to create voices that manage to change between transition from Ugly to Pretty while still keeping the character’s voice distinct. I will say that I really hate Shay’s and Dr. Cable’s voices, but that’s actually a compliment because I also think they’re absolutely perfect for those characters. My only real complaint is that all of Montbertrand’s male characters sound bored or stoned. But oh well.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Corine Montbertrand; 12.5 hrs on 11 discs): Tally is an Ugly, eagerly awaiting her 16th birthday so she can undergo “the operation” to become Pretty, which transforms her to have all the most evolutionarily desirable physical traits. Then she will move to in New Pretty Town and reunite with all her formerly Ugly friends. Until she meets Shay, who speaks of a place where no one becomes Pretty, where everyone is free to look however they look. When Shay disappears, Tally must find her or risk her worst nightmare: Ugly For Life. Obviously there’s more to this whole Pretty deal than it seems at first; of course there’s something to be said for accepting yourself as you are, but if the only change was cosmetic this wouldn’t be a dystopia story. The “hover” technology was a lot of fun from a SF point of view, but the romance was pretty unbelievable: they go from absolutely nothing to twu wuv in no time at all. It felt pretty forced; I guess you can’t have YA without some kind of relationship. Still, I really enjoyed this one. The ending was reasonably satisfying while being very clearly the start of a larger story. I’m curious to see what ends up happening to Tally and her friends.

A note on the audio version: Montbertrand was a good choice for narrator. Though her voice for Shay was pretty annoying, it was also absolutely perfect for the character. I was especially impressed with the subtle shifts in intonation for the same character before and after their Pretty operation. I look forward to hearing her interpretations of other books, most especially the rest of this series.

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