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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Giant (WARNING: Minor Spoilers)

Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies. 

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.**

The end to this fantastic series gave me mixed feelings. Here's why:

Personally, Alek was getting a lttle bit annoying with the destiny talk. Did anyone notice that in the previous books? You know when someone points out something you’ve never seen before but after you can’t stop seeing it? Deryn did that with the destiny thing and now it flat-out aggravates me. What’s wrong with him? Does Deryn need to back-hand him or something? Every chapter he talks about how maybe the newest trouble is part of his destiny or maybe the fact that someone wants to kill him is part of his destiny. Heck, I want to reach into the book and slap him.

One of the best things I found out about this book was the reversal of gender roles. Deryn was taller than Alek, stronger than Alek, heavier than Alek, much more forward than Alek and no matter how much she thought about being in love with the guy, she didn’t let something like a kiss dwell on her mind. I laughed out loud when Deryn was arguing with Volger about Alek’s delicate state of mind and how the revelation about her gender might do to him. I couldn’t stop laughing after the wildcount literally went “Dammit, she’s foiled me again!” It’s just so awesome to see a guy realizing that his best friend’s a girl when she’s saving his life. I mean, it wasn’t even during their tailoring session. They were on top of the levitation and Deryn’s trying to get him to just stay the fuck down with her arms and he's up in her face all woozy going damn, she’s amazing. Delirious Alek is side-splitting. The fact that he couldn’t stop thinking about Deryn’s kiss when she was just like “Score one! Oh, time to climb the spine,” made it all the more great. You know you’re ready excellent YA when the male lead’s more prone to fainting and hallucinations than Bella.

There’s one point in the book at the very end of a chapter where Alek is about to do something incredibly drastic and I screamed at the implication. Because it was pretty much bloody awesome. I may not be the sanest person to be speaking about this but I honestly felt like this series was going to end on the same dark note as Harry Potter. It would have been great for it to end with the same “Your parents have been murdered” vibe that it had started with. I mean, they’re in the middle of a war responsible for eradicating the majority of the world’s monarchy. *Spoilers!* Of course, Westerfield was teasing and went that route anyway but I felt disappointed. The end gave a sense of hope and fluffiness that I wouldn’t have expected with both of them heading off to Edwardian London to be spies during war. I just wished there was more meatiness – more substance. *End of spoilers!*

The label that Miss Rogers gave Deryn “the bell captain” was brilliant. It described her so well too because in Leviathan that was Deryn by the end of the book, holding on to secrets everyone had. I can’t wrap my mind around how brilliant this girl is when you compare her to the thousands of YA heroines in books that are flying off the shelves. She could singlehandedly betray every important person on the ship at any given moment and they know it.

The only problem I had with her was the way Deryn thought about revealing herself to Alek. That apparently was the worst part of everyone finding out about her disguise. Him knowing and hating her. I know that it was the girl’s first crush and she’s from the Edwardian age, but then she goes and kisses him and brushes it off, and I'm having a hard time swallowing that a girl like that would care about him hating her so much. In any case isn’t there more to lose from being revealed than having your crush hate you? Like, you know, decapitation?

I wish Westerfield had spent more time in Japan. I mean, Edwardian Japan with Clanker and Darwinist philosophies together in harmony is much more interesting than the US still fighting their civil war. Speaking of which, it would have been exciting but I feel like the Clankers and the Darwinists were on the wrong sides. I mean, why was the North (if they were still fighting the civil war) with the Clankers? The civil war separation was caused by the North wanting to abolish slavery, a concept that was propagated by the English. So why wouldn’t the North side with the Darwinists (aka the English)? (Although I understand the whole themes of the cold north and their mechanics, and the warm south with all those warm-blooded animals.) I didn’t really get that part (Am I getting my history wrong?). The Mexican Revolution however is such an expansive subject that I hated how lightly it was touched down. Like people have said, it was a bloody, bloody affair and I didn’t like how simple it was rendered when you compare to the second book dedicated to the troubles of Istanbul. The explanation as to why would have made sense but only if it was explained in the book. That part could have easily been substituted for a different country without it affecting the story.

There’s also this feeling of mellowness. You’d think that a girl hiding as a boy would be constantly alert because it might not be a crime but it certainly wouldn’t be allowed during World War I. The revelation of Goliath and what it could do was terrifying at first but then it just got muddled into a potential telecommunications device? I didn’t understand no matter how many times I re-read that part just what the Goliath could do. Was it like a video phone? Did it transmit lightning-like radio waves through the earth? Whatever it was, once Tesla gave his demonstration, it felt like the stakes in the book just dropped. No one ever seemed to be in danger. There was no urgency that I could feel even during the battles. They seemed so longwinded and caught up in the explanations of the logistics. Even the kappas, they just seemed like intelligent crocodiles.

On the other hand, the twist at the end was thoughtful. It felt like Westerfield was saying that man’s greatest enemy isn’t war or one another but themselves. I thought it was a nice touch despite the lack of urgency.

Best thing about the book though? Alek not wanting Deryn to lose her “swagger” and the awesome lorises. Lorsises for president!

All in all=☆☆☆☆

*This book was provided by the publishers at Simon & Schuster.
**The summary was taken from Goodreads.

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