Pretties/Uglies author Scott Westerfeld has released some art from his upcoming alternate history novel Leviathan, in which the Great Powers fight World War I with diesel-powered "walkers," zeppelins, and "Darwinist monsters." And you can read the first chapter online. Spoilers...
Here's the full version of the above image, of a zeppelin mooring in Hyde Park, with the weird-looking elephants and war machines in the background. Doesn't that look fantastic?
Here's the synopsis for Leviathan:
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
According to a profile of Westerfeld in Publishers Weekly, there will be four books in the series, with the fourth book being a "heavily illustrated 'manual of aeronautics.'" And the book, with tons of illustrations by artist Keith Thompson, will alternate chapters from the points of view of Alek and Deryn. One attraction of this series for Westerfield was the chance to put a strong female character into the traditionally male-dominated Victorian adventure narrative. And there's some backstory on those weird biological and mechanical weapons:
In Westerfeld's re-imagining, the combatants are the Clankers, whose weaponry consists of heavily fortified machinery, and the Darwinists, whose airships are made up of bioengineered animals. The Leviathan is the most colossal of these: a giant whale kept afloat by microscopic hydrogen breathers.
Each book will have 50 interior illustrations and be printed on 70 pound paper with full-color endpapers depicting the alternate map of Europe. The first volume hits stores in October, with the second volume coming in 2010.