Behemoth (Westerfeld novel)
|October 5, 2010|
Behemoth continues an alternate history story begun in Leviathan. It is 1914, and the Darwinist countries of Britain, France, and Russia are on the brink of world war with the Clanker countries of Germany and Austria-Hungary. War has been declared, although the Ottoman Empire has not yet entered. The Darwinists use technology based on genetically manipulated animals, while the Clankers use machinery.
The story starts when the crew of the Leviathan sights two German ironclads and decides to attack them, thinking that the sea ships are defenseless. Klopp and Alek are controlling the engines, with Mr. Hirst, the Leviathan's chief engineer, observing. However, they discover that one of the ships, the Goeben, is preparing a threatening Tesla cannon, a lightning generator. Klopp immediately puts the engines on full retreat without permission. Mr. Hirst, seeing this as an act of mutiny, attempts to interfere and tries to shoot Klopp with a compressed air pistol. However, Alek leaps at Mr. Hirst and ends up getting shot in the ribs, though not fatally. The lightning still hits, and Newkirk, who was flying in a Huxley above the Leviathan, is almost killed, but is saved by Deryn. After the escape, Deryn and Dr. Barlow visit Alek, and he explains what happened on the ship. Later, as Deryn delivers a message to Count Volger, he learns that Alek had told her that he is a prince.
After landing in Istanbul, Aleksandar plots an escape from the Leviathan. The night of the escape, Alek is taking watch over Dr. Barlow's eggs when one egg hatches, revealing a perspicacious loris, as identified later by Dr. Barlow, that seems to understand and repeat various sounds and words, seemingly usefully. The creature then latches onto Alek and flees with him. In their escape Volger and Hoffman remain behind in order to allow Alek and the others to flee. The group manages to head into the city of Istanbul, where they try to remain hidden among the commoners. Alek and Corporal Bauer leave the hotel after laying low for a while with Klopp, one of the masters of mechaniks. Alek discovers a very nosy American reporter by the name of Eddie Malone, in which he discovers some information about the Leviathan that he finds interesting. At that point, a few German soldiers walk in, searching for Bauer. They make a hasty escape only to be caught by Zaven, a leader of one of many resistance groups against the sultan's rule.
Deryn is assigned a secret mission to plant a fabricated barnacle that destroys metal into the Ottoman Empire's kraken net in order for Britain to attack once the Ottoman Empire joins sides with Germany. The mission is successful, but the others in her four-member team are captured or killed. Deryn manages to evade capture and enters Ottoman territory, deciding to find Alek. Meanwhile, a revolution is being prepared in the Ottoman Empire led by the Committee of Union and Progress. Alek then agrees to join the Committee as an ally, wishing to strike a blow at the Germans. He meets Lilit, Zaven's daughter. He also meets Nene, their grandmother, who lies on a mechanical bed. They then stage a revolt, using a gold bar Alek has saved for funding. They buy up parts and lots of spice at the advice of Deryn, who used it as a weapon against a German agent trying to hijack the British embassy's walker. They prepare the Committee's walkers for throwing spice bombs. Because Deryn reveals that the Behemoth, a massive fabricated sea creature of Britain, will eliminate the ironclads with the guidance of the Leviathan, the Committee executes a mission unknown to much of the group to destroy a massive Tesla cannon in Istanbul. While the revolt is successful, Zaven is killed destroying the Tesla cannon. Like Deryn said, the British invade and use the Behemoth to obliterate the Goebon and the Breslau, the two ironclads. Before leaving the cliffs by body kite to continue fighting in the revolution, Lilit kisses Deryn, and implies she knows that Deryn is a girl. The others all escape aboard the Leviathan. When all of the people on the ship discover that Alek is a prince from Eddie Malone's newspaper, they treat him with great respect. The third novel, Goliath, is set in motion when they find out they are going to the Far East.
- The Sultan Osman I was a real warship. So were the German warships SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau, which were hunted by Allied ships across the Mediterranean in the opening days of World War I and ended up in the Ottoman Empire, playing a critical role in the Ottoman entry into the war.
- The revolution by the Committee of Union and Progress, the so-called "Young Turk Revolution", was successful in 1908 and the sultan was overthrown. However, in the novel Westerfeld made the 1908 revolution unsuccessful and created a second revolution in 1914 because, as quoted by Scott Westerfeld, "I wanted my characters to be involved in a successful revolution, one that would perhaps nudge history toward a more positive outcome."
- The Orient Express was real and ran its last course on December 14, 2009, a few weeks after Westerfeld's book was published.