Thursday, December 9, 2010

Behemoth/Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland

I haven't done a lot of writing over the past week or so, mainly because I've been doing a lot of reading. The last two books I read I kind of just... devoured... in a matter of days. So I haven't got anything new on the writing front, but I've got a couple of reviews.

The first book was Scott Westerfeld's steampunk adventure, Behemoth.

It's the second book in his Leviathan trilogy, and, when I bought the book last week, I recieved a copy of the first book as a part of some promotional giveaway they had on the second book. So I've wound up with a second copy of the first book which I've already read.

Anyway, the last book in the trilogy is scheduled for late next year, so there's a bit of a wait until I can finish reading this thing. It's a bit of a bother because it's not so much three self contained novels that follow a sequence and a general overarching narrative (like, for example, I read the third Harry Potter book first and still managed to comprehend it properly), it's more like one large novel broken up into three parts where there's no chance in hell you should read the second book without having read the first.

Behemoth continues the narrative of Leviathan, which is set in an alternate history WWII where Alek, the only son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, flees the Germans long enough to see the war out and take his rightful place as the ruler of Austro-Hungary. His story intersects with Deryn, a girl posing as a boy to serve in the British air forces abourd the Leviathan Airship.

It's 480 pages long, but is quite a quick read considering. Large font, short chapters, and illustrations pad the book out nicely, but it is also scattered with quite a number of fast paced action sequences around all the war and political contexts. Now, when I say steampunk, and WWII, I should clarify that Westerfeld has taken many liberties to put his own spin on the steampunk genre. The allies are labelled "Darwinists" for using war machines fabricated out of living creatures (eg, the Leviathan airship is a giant hydrogen-breathing whale) where the Germans, Austrians and that mob are labelled "Clankers" for their mechanical inventions. So it's very much a battle of technologies, and it's quite interesting how they play out in the series, and particularly, in Behemoth.

Having said that, it's an entertaining book that the teenager in me thinks is totally awesome. It's got elements of teen/young adult fiction, with the plots of the two main characters, both are struggling with their identities, trying to retain secrets, while bearing the burden of the loss of their parents. And then there's the whole, you know, war thing. It's got lots of adrenaline. If you like steampunk, or if you like reading about teenagers trying to come to grips with their identity, I'd say, it's well worth the read. But if you're after something more sophisticated and mature, you won't find that here. Hopefully I'll have a review for Cherie Priest's steampunk novel, Dreadnought, shortly. I sense that she tends to handle the genre with a bit more poise.

Anyway, the second book I finished this week was Carlton Mellick III's Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland.

Yeah. No typos there, that's the title of an actual, physical, published book. I'd say the same thing about this one in regards to it being a quick read. Large font and illustrations and lots of action. This time, the author did the illustrations himself. And a number of them resemble nightmarishly hideous furry porn.

And if that hasn't sold you on this book, wait till you hear about the chainsaw wielding mutants! Yes, this book has pure liquid fucking awesome dripping from every page. If it were made into a film I'd want Peter Jackson to direct it because, quite simply, it is completely bizarre and completely epic at the same time.

The book is set in an apocalyptic future in one of the last few remaining civilisations on Earth. The city is called "McDonaldland" and is run by total assholes. It's got the totalitarian vibe of Punk Land with a beefy injection of hyper-consumerism on the side. And you get fries with that.

In this society, sex turns women into wolves. And the food turns men into mutants. To uphold the image of perfection, all wolves and mutants are tossed outside the city's 300 foot tall steel wall and turned loose to fend for themselves.

Despite being a fast paced bizarro clusterfuck of sex and violence, this story pays close attention to character development, and sculpts the plot carefully around that. I'd love to get even a brief glimpse into Mellick's brain, because, quite simply, this colossal rampage of a novel, in all its oddities and its twisted logic, is surprisingly touching. Like a good narrative should, there isn't a single character in Warrior Wolf Women that I don't love. The novel resonates through all the disturbing shit with much thought spent towards the ideals of family, freedom, sacrifice, and yes, even love.

Even if bizarro is not your cup of tea, the sick shit isn't entirely overflowing from this book, and while it is one of the weirdest books you may read, it's definitely worth it.

And hopefully, I'll have a few more bizarro books arriving in the mail soon, so even if I don't have a whole lot of new writing to talk about, at least I should have some tasty, quirky reviews.

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