Audiobook Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

29 06 2012

Leviathan (Leviathan Series, Bk. 1) by Scott Westerfeld

Read by Alan Cummings

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 20 Min

Genre: Steampunk/ Alternate History, Young Adult

Quick Thoughts: Leviathan has some beautiful concepts, and Westerfeld’s knowledge of history definitely shine through , yet I found the immaturity of the main characters distracting me from the overall plot. Yet, there is enough here to interest me in trying the sequel, where I hope the situations brings growth to the characters making them less frustrating, allowing me to place my full focus where it should be in the novel.

Grade: C+

Since I transitioned from an Audiobook enthusiast to an Audiobook blogger, I have seen a real change in my listening. One of the things I never realized before blogging is how big of a phenomenon Young Adult books have become. I am amazed at the sheer number of Young Adult bloggers who are out there showing their love for all sorts of Young Adult literature. Before becoming a blogger, I read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and someone recommended Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Last Survivors Trilogy to me, but beyond that, I didn’t know much about Young Adult titles. Now, I have begun listening to many more of these titles based on the influence of many of these passionate and ummm… persistent voices.  Today I am reviewing the Young Adult Steampunk novel Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.  I have seen this title recommended by many fans of Young Adult literature, including my brother who is a Youth Minister. Since I am on the peripheral of fandom of both Young Adult novels and Steampunk, I thought this would be an interesting title to explore. Also, it is narrated by Alan Cummings who I have heard raves about from many audiobook loving sources. So, here I was able to upset two monkeys with one banana, experience a popular Young Adult novel, and introduce myself to a much love audiobook narrator.

Sadly, in this occasion, I think I may have placed too many expectations on this audiobook, and it ended up falling a bit flat for me. While I enjoyed Westerfeld’s use of history, and his concepts are really quite intriguing, I found that the characters kept me from truly enjoying this book. One of the issues I have with Young Adult novels, particularly series, is that they tend to have a coming-of-age component as an essential aspect of their story. I love coming of age stories, mostly because I can’t stand the obnoxious brats, before they realize that they must change, and enjoy watching them  begin to understand the world in a new way. This transition moves way too slowly for me in series entries. In Leviathan there are essential plot elements particularly about the main characters that are not fully explore, because these issues create tension for the next in the series. Yet, I wanted to see much more growth than I got. I was frustrated and annoyed with the two main characters, Alek, a Austro-Hungarian Prince in hiding and Deryn, a young girl posing as a boy to achieve her goal of becoming a pilot, that it took me away from the plot. Yet, I am also a bit hopeful. I had a similar reaction to Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin, and when I finally moved on to the second book in the series, Dust & Decay, I loved it and where he took the characters. I think Westerfeld has proven himself to be an intricate plotter, and has created a world that definitely interests me, and if he develops his characters along the expected path, I think I will began to really embrace his creation. Leviathan has some beautiful concepts, and Westerfeld’s knowledge of history definitely shine through , yet I found the immaturity of the main characters distracting me from the overall plot. Yet, there is enough here to interest me in trying the sequel, where I hope the situations brings growth to the characters making them less frustrating, allowing me to place my full focus where it should be in the novel.

Alan Cummings definitely has skills as a narrator, but I wasn’t incredibly impressed with this performance. He did a wonderful job with the British characters, particularly the crew of The Leviathan, but I felt the Austro-Hungarian characters were not given the same level of careful attention. I did like how Cummings gave Alek a different cadence to his speech when speaking his non-native English. This is something not often seen in audiobook narration, the different is vocal style when using you native language, versus a non-native language, when both of them are presented in the text as English for us English readers. I also found Cummings to have a weird usage of dramatic tone when reading the action scenes. He would often use what I will call and dramatic Harrumph, at the end of some sentences, but it seemed to be applied at random and for inconsistent reasons. As I was listening, my thoughts would be, “Oh, there is Cummings getting all dramatic” then “Hmmm… wonder why that sentence didn’t merit the dramatic Harrumph.” I think this is one of those situations where I am overly picky, and perhaps my inability to engage with the characters led me to have more time to nit pick the narrator. Overall, I can see why this audiobook and its narrator is well loved, unfortunately, it just wasn’t the right fit for me at the right moment.

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5 responses

29 06 2012
12 New Audiobook Reviews From Around The Web For Thu 28/06/2012

[…] Quick Thoughts: Leviathan has some beautiful concepts, and Westerfeld’s knowledge of history definitely shine through , yet I found the immaturity of the main characters distracting me from the overall plot… Read this review → […]

29 06 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I heard so much buzz about this when it came out, but never got around to the print version I had from the library. If the narrator isn’t amazing either, I think I’ll just skip it.

29 06 2012
Laurie C

I didn’t like this audiobook as much as I had expected to, either. I didn’t mind Alek’s needing to grow up, but just didn’t get grabbed by the plot, I guess. I liked Airborn by Kenneth Oppel better (Full Cast Audio) and went on to listen to the second one, Skycatcher.

29 06 2012
Kristilyn

That’s interesting to hear! I think I would’ve entered this one with high expectations as well … maybe I’ll stick to the paper copy of this one.

5 08 2012
Laura Ashlee (@owltellyou)

I got more into YA when I started blogging as well, but I’ve gotten to the point that I mostly read YA in print and listen to general and literary fiction on audio. Kind of weird.

Anyway, I tried to listen to this one about a year ago and I couldn’t make it all the way through. I felt like you: Alan Cumming is great, but I wasn’t enjoying this performance.

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