Book H00T #20 Leviathan

Scott Westerfield's Leviathan is the pacy and exciting first book in a trilogy. It is an example of steampunk which is a branch of science fiction. In this alternate history the Darwinists have taken the theory and applied it to manipulate DNA. They are in conflict with the "clankers" who have develped machinery such as the walker, a sort of tank on legs.

This dual narrative follows Alex, the heir to the Austrian throne and Deryn a would be pilot who has disguised herself as a boy to join the airforce. She is certainly a kick ass female protagonist, someone who would do anything to achieve her dreams. I'm a bit torn about the 'just kidding, I'm really *just* a girl' storyline. Surely in an alternate history we could have alternate gender roles?

Both characters are thrown together by accident on the Leviathan, a combination whale/ zepplin aircraft. Some of the most creative blending of science and machinery are in the descriptions of this craft.

The design of this book is particularly attractive. The symbolic inside cover map denotes the countries' political allies. There are also beautiful illustrations throughout.

The open ending is a little frustrating, and apparently the next installment is not due until October 2010. Westerfield has certainly turned me onto steampunk. I'm keen for further recommendations if you have any ideas.

Happy tales,
Barking Owl

Book Hoot #19 The Wild Things

This is Dave Eggers' novelisation of the film made from Maurice Sendak's much loved children's book.

There were a couple of reasons why I desperately wanted to read this one:
  • I LOVE the picture book
  • I can't wait for the Spike Jonze film (and have been tearing up just watching the trailer!)
  • it has a furry cover(!!)
  • I am a bit obsessed with Dave Eggers
Yes, I have a little crush on all things Eggers. I get the McSweeny non-required reading every year, I have read all his books, have little dreams about moving to America to stalk him .... you get the picture!

So given all that build up, how was the book?

The premise is the same as the picture book, Max leaves home to sail away to an island of beasts. There is a wild rumpus, they love him so much they want to eat him up, they make him king, there is a parade and then he sails home to find dinner waiting.

But of course Jonze and Eggers had to fill the bones of the story out, and in doing so they have made Max a much more destructive character. His parents have divorced and he is acting out of anger and loneliness. He trashes his sister's room in a manner that could have major consequences, (and gets away with this) he is hostile to his mother's boyfriend and he lashes out culminating in biting his mum.

Eggers explains:

We all really get along - Spike and Maurice and I always had the same goals for the movie, and the novelization, too, which was to sort of reinstitute the dangerous elements of that book. Because when it came out, it was pretty controversial and some librarians didn’t like it, and child psychologists thought it was, you know, unhelpful. And it was really morally ambiguous in a way. It showed a kid sort of disobeying his mother and acting crazy - which all kids do, but you still don’t see much of in children’s literature. It’s too often, I think, washed clean.

Spike and Maurice and I just decided we needed to make the book wild and dangerous again and really unexpected. So the movie is really unlike anything anyone will expect, I think. And the book is different from both of them, actually. It has Max and Max going to an island, but in the book I’m able to [develop] the storyline also - as a book can always do. You have a lot more room to play with. The book is 150 words, the movie is 90 minutes, the novel gets to be a whole different level.

Max's rage doesn't just go away in this fantasy world though. It takes quite a while for him to learn that his actions have consequences, that even beasts have feelings. There were a few uncomfortable moments for me, mainly when Max was acting violently towards the beasts (and I realise that sounds odd; it didn't upset me when he bit his mother!)

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely and wholeheartedly. It is meant for "all ages" and there are definitely moments in there for all readers.

Happy tales,

Barking Owl

Tender Morsels for the win!

Margo Lanagan has won a World Fantasy Award with Tender Morsels

The Guardian has the story here and this is my favourite part:
A book, she believes, is "perhaps the safest, the least confronting form" in which to explore tough stories, as it is much easier to decide to put down or take up an uncomfortable tale in a book, than it is to reject one on television or in a cinema. "If a young person (or an adult) is not ready, or not 'in the mood', for a particular story, or they need to pause in the reading, or even stop altogether, with a book they can pause, or stop, and no one else need see, know or comment," she said.

How absolutely true.

This one's a sure winner

Well, if you're like me, another Melbourne Cup has been and gone leaving an empty place in the purse. I had the favourite in the office sweep, and I'd picked the Bart Cummings horses in my trifecta... it's a good thing I can pick good books!

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn is about the grief felt by Kate Meaney a young girl who goes missing in a shopping centre. The first third of the book is told from her point of view, she is a delightful character who is obsessed with the potential crime scene at Green Oaks mall. There is a shocking turn of events which is not revealed until the end of the novel. In part two the narrative moves towards 2004 where we meet Kurt and Lisa, both of whom are struggling with their own loss- of family, of romantic hopes and so on.

This is a novel that will stay with you, one to chew over and chat about with your friends.

Wonderful writing, the voices of Kate, Lisa and Kurt are so well wrought. And I had an out loud gasp at one turn of events towards the end! Highly recommended.

Happy tales,
Barking Owl