Monday, November 26, 2007


Book Report

It's Monday, and in an attempt to get back into something resembling a routine, it's book report time again.

I've actually finished a few books since I last found time to post a report, including the second volume of GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, and the first volume of Mark Smylie's Artesia, and may write about them in the coming weeks. Just last night, though, I finished a graphic novel that's taken up a considerable amount of mental real estate.

Ian Edginton and D'Israeli's Leviathan

I've earlier raved about Edginton's and D'Israeli's Scarlet Traces sequence (War of the Worlds, Scarlet Traces, and Scarlet Traces: The Great Game) and the terrific references and allusions hidden throughout. I've had another of their collaborations, Leviathan, on my To Read stack for the better part of a year. It appears that this book is not currently available in the States, though it was distributed at least for a while through Diamond (I picked mine up at Austin Books, my local comic shop), so you might be able to find a copy through a comic retailer.

Leviathan is a truly haunting story. It concerns a Titanic-like grand ocean liner, but where the Titanic was simply large, the Leviathan is positively gigantic. A mile long and half a mile high, it is a floating city, but organized along the same First Class, Second Class, Steerage hierarchy familiar from ocean liners of the period. In 1928, the Leviathan, pride of the White Hart line, sets out on her maiden voyage to New York. En route, the passengers will entertain themselves with the ship's many amenities, which include greenhouses, parks, cinemas, a railway, and a zoo.

Twenty years later, she still hasn't arrived.

At some point after leaving British waters, the Leviathan moved into some sort of sunless, starless limbo. For two decades, she has floated on dead waters that stretch out to the unbroken horizon in all direction. The ship is now ruled by a governing body of notable First Class passengers, including the ship's architect, Sir William Ashbless, who uses the ship's stewards as his own private police force. Passengers are only allowed to move from one class to another with travel dockets, and god help anyone who goes below to Steerage and loses their docket. The passengers dine on tapir and flamingo from the zoo, and drink rotgun bathtub gin. Suicides are seasonal, but murders are perennial, at least on the lower decks. It is not until murder runs rampant amongst the First Class passengers, though, that the governing body finds cause for alarm. And when the murders are blamed on the Stokers, the mythical bogeymen said to reside in the Engine Room, that strange place from which no travelers have returned in years, it falls to Second Class passenger and former Scotland Yard detective Aurelius Lament to go below and investigate.

The story of Leviathan is gripping, and sadly over all-too-quickly. There is a sequence of standalone stories that follow the main narrative, "Tales of the Leviathan," but frankly I'd been happier to see the main story continue for multiple volumes before it was through. There are so many narrative possibilities to the world of the doomed floating city, so many intriguing aspects of the makeshift society presented in the story, that the sixty-odd pages of the collection scarcely begin to scratch the surface. If they ever return to the world, I'll be the first in line to pick up a copy.

Leviathan is a perfect example of two creators, writer and artist, working at the peak of their abilities. D'Israeli's draftsmanship is deceptively simple, and is perfectly adept at everything from the claustrophobic confines of Lament's second class cabin to the cavernous and squalid spaces of Steerage, from the tiny details of the doom-haunted ship's captain to the monumental horror of what lays hidden in the Engine Room. And Edginton's script is clever and understated, packing two decades of hopelessness and horror into terse, effective bits of dialogue and narration.

The book is highly recommended. A haunting story that lingers in the mind much longer than the all-too-brief time it takes to read.


Sounds fantastic Chris - I shall have to obtain a copy, not least since I am a great fan of Mr. Ashbless.
I hope it doesn't disappoint!
I'll try to get a copy, looks excellent.

Gabriel M
I really enjoyed Scalet Traces and The Great Game (have yet to read War of the Worlds), so I'll start to look for a copy of this.
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