The Big Idea: Scott Westerfeld

You can’t accuse Scott Westerfeld of not thinking big. When he put together his latest trilogy, of which his terrific new novel Leviathan is the first installment, he not only reordered history by providing an alternate version of World War I, but also also fiddled with biology, technology and indeed the whole general run of scientific advancement from the 19th century forward into the 20th, by positing the existence of both vast, clanking machines of war and amazing new genetically-designed creatures, also used for (you got it!) war.

And to top it all off — and this is something Westerfeld’s particularly proud of — he decided to reimagine the way people read novels here in the 21st century. You know, just for kicks.

How did he did this? Well, in this Big Idea, not only will Westerfeld tell you, he will show you.

SCOTT WESTERFELD:

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s start with this:

Okay. It’s night, and moonlight streams through the camouflage netting, suggesting hiding and sneaking. (And, cheating a bit, the caption says “Stealing Away.”) The spiked helmets tell us that it’s World War I. A pair of Iron Crosses suggest Germany, but then we spot a tiny Hapsburg crest, so it’s Austria-Hungary. A young boy is pulling on his glove, preparing to drive the HOLY CRAP IT’S A WALKING TANK.

That is, in a nutshell, what I’ve come to love about illustration: in one glance you can mix storytelling with world-building, the familiar with the outlandish, and the fastidiously accurate with the Just Plain Historically Wrong. Unlike linear text, images dump all their information all at once, letting the viewer “read” the result in whatever order their brain sees fit.

My new book, Leviathan, has about fifty of these visual info-dumps, all masterfully executed by Keith Thompson. Mind you, I didn’t start writing the trilogy with illustrations in mind, but about sixty pages in, I had a Big Idea.

In ye olden days—let’s say 1914, when Leviathan is set—most novels were published with pictures. Whether you were reading Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, or H.G. Wells, you expected to find a half-dozen plates among the pages. And these images had great power in shaping an author’s work. For example, Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap does not appear in Arthur Conan Doyle’s text, only in Sidney Paget’s drawings, and yet it’s part of our iconic image of the character.

Why these pictures disappeared is open to debate. It may have been the explosion of cheap paperbacks, or the collapse of the illustration industry after newspapers, advertising, and mail-order catalogs started using photographs. It may have been changes in literacy rates, or the advent of film or comics as mass media. But for whatever reason, novels for adults gradually became illustration-free over the middle of the last century. Novels for teenagers followed suit soon thereafter.

(Dear pickers of nits: I am aware that graphic novels exist. But I’m talking about prose novels with illustrations, which are a different form altogether.)

The Leviathan trilogy is set in an alternate history with alternate technologies, so I thought to myself, what if novels hadn’t lost their images? What if, instead of shrinking to zero, the number of illustrations in the average book had increased to, say, fifty?

In the world of Leviathan, technology has split into two tribes: the Germanic Clankers, who are machine lovers, and the British-led Darwinists, who weave the life-threads of natural creatures into fabricated beasts. (To put it simply, in this world, Origins of Species was an instruction manual.) So I needed someone who could draw both fantastical machines and strange creatures. Keith Thompson fit that bill perfectly. He’s been a conceptual artist for films and video games (like Iron Grip and Borderlands), so creating new worlds has been his job for a long time. But what sort of new world?

Leviathan is often described as a steampunk series, and fair enough (walking tanks!). But it hews closer to alternate history than most steampunk, with the son of the Archduke Ferdinand a character, and the timeline for the early war matching our own history closely. But in a way, the most “alternate” thing about it for me was simply writing an illustrated novel.

For one thing, I had to become an art director. (To maintain creative control, I agreed to pay Keith with my own money rather than the publisher’s. This is not the usual way with an illustrated book.) This new role meant knowing all sorts of details that a prose novelist could ignore. Sure, before writing this series, I would often claim to have imagined every scene down to the last detail. But that was all lies! Turns out, I didn’t really know what kind of wallpaper was in this room, or what sort of boots that character had on at that moment.

And it’s not just the details; there are also big-picture issues to contend with. In Leviathan, the Great War is not simply between two treaty-groups of countries, or two ideologies; it’s between two technologies. So to represent them, Keith had to create two opposing aesthetics. As you can see from the Stormwalker above, Clanker design has that clunky futurist, WWI-tank look. The Darwinists are more organic and art nouveau. Take a peek at Captain’s Hobbes’ cabin, where a nautilus motif appears in the mirror frame, the fabricated-wood desk, and his cufflinks and hat. (All of that Keith’s idea.)

Every image has to help build the world, or it’s a wasted thousand words.

On top of all this art direction, illustrated books require a different pace of storytelling. The series I’m best known for, Uglies, has more hoverboard chases than slow conversational scenes. But with an image gracing every chapter, stuff really has to happen in Leviathan. And not only is action important, but my characters have to arrive at new and wondrous settings to keep the backgrounds fresh. (It’s just lucky they have an airship.)

And finally, there’s the technical side of illustration: the aspect ratio of the trim size effects every composition; there are contrast issues (can’t write too many scenes at night); and even the type of paper becomes important! Luckily, I had a very indulgent publisher who gave me seventy-pound paper (only thirty pounds short of cookbook weight) and an amazing design team. They budgeted for color end-papers, which allowed Keith an amazing allegorical map of Europe. The result is a beautiful book, and one heavy enough to stun a lupine tigeresque.

So let yourself imagine if technology really had taken a different turn, and no one had invented photography, or if cheap paperbacks, or comics, or whatever it was that killed illustrated novels had never appeared. All of us writers would be facing a different set of challenges every day, and making novels would be far more research-intensive and collaborative than it is today. Imagine how a cultural imperative of fifty pictures per book might have changed the works of Charlie Stross, Octavia Butler, Salman Rushdie, or Angela Carter.

Now that would be an alternate world worth visiting.

—-

Leviathan: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Visit the Leviathan page, which includes links to an excerpt, the audio version of the first chapter, read by Alan Cumming, and other goodies. Follow Scott Westerfeld on Twitter. See a gallery of Leviathan illustrator Keith Thompson’s work.

70 thoughts on “The Big Idea: Scott Westerfeld

  1. Those illustrations certainly helped in imagining this world. All very well done, all very tightly integrated with the story line. I hope and assume that these marvelous pictures will continue to appear in the rest of the novels in this series?!

    But paying for them out of your pocket? Didn’t that eat severely into what you made (will make) from this book? Of course, this might not be much of a problem if this book hits the NYT bestseller list – and I see no reason why it shouldn’t, as besides these excellent illustrations, it’s a very well written, highly engaging book, which should appeal to a lot of diverse people. But it does seem like a very risky move.

  2. Every image has to help build the world, or it’s a wasted thousand words.

    All sort of thoughts running through my head now for emergent storytelling forms… I’m in.

  3. I’ve actually just finished reading Leviathan, and it was just fantastic. I enjoy historical fiction to begin with, and this re-imagining of that time is thrilling to read.

    In addition, the quality of the hardcover edition is just superb. The illustrations are beautiful, as is the jacket and the inside cover maps of europe. The weight of the book is surprising, at first!

    Can’t wait for the next book!

  4. hyperpat:

    “Of course, this might not be much of a problem if this book hits the NYT bestseller list”

    In fact, it did make the NYT bestseller list.

    I’m not Scott, but there have been times where I’ve paid for art I’ve wanted out of my own pocket when I’ve wanted to be certain that what I was getting was very specifically what I wanted for that particular project. If the publisher does it, you have an intermediary between you and the illustrator, and that intermediary has the final say on the art. It’s worth the investment in those cases.

  5. Delightful – I’ve been meaning to pick this one up. The walking tank reminds me of the mecha designs from a remarkable WWII wargame called Gear Krieg (by Dream Pod 9 games) but the inclusion of organic technology really makes me wonder where the series is going….

  6. I bought this as an audiobook (and it is beautifully read, with wonderful accents) but now that I see the pictures, I need to go buy a print copy, as well. I had no IDEA.

  7. I saw Scott’s presentation on this book at Wordstock in Portland in October. He is an excellent presenter, and he was the only guy at the litfest with a slideshow–once again demonstrating the power of images to enhance literature. I walked away very impressed. I hope we’ll see a return to illustrated books, and I suspect that as we move toward digital readers, we will. When you remove the cost of printing these illustrations, and can distribute them as jpgs, I think they’ll start popping up all over–maybe even in the next John Scalzi masterpiece….John?

  8. I’m about halfway through Leviathan and it’s really cool. The pictures are incredible, and I’m just amazed at the thought process behind — steampunk! Mecha! versus giant freaking flying whales!

    I’m enjoying Deryn’s story more than Alek’s, but I’m also a fan of Jacky Faber and the royal navy in general, so that may be why.

    Tres cool. Everyone go read it!

    Also, very awesome and pretty cover.

  9. Unexpectedly, I just sent this book to Afghanistan.

    I just took my husband to the airport for the second half of his deployment (Australian army – they get a short trip home halfway through) and while there, commented that he’d forgotten to take new books.

    We took a look in the airport bookstore where I spotted Leviathan and suggested it (based on a vague recollection that, on this site, Scott had been mentioned as an excellent writer). Husband read the back, eyed the cover and gorgeous end-papers and read the fly leaf, at which point he shut the book, grabbed his bag and said “Yep, we’re done here.”

    So there’ll soon be an impromptu book club of Aussie soldiers somewhere in Southern Afghan sharing this book around. I thought you might like to hear that the influence of your ‘Big Idea’ columns is far-ranging!

  10. Oh, wow.

    I have a few Japanese light novels, and they have about a handful of pictures, if the American publisher keeps them in. But those are well and beyond what I expect.

    (I’ve seen illustrated versions that places like Subterranean Press does, but those are usually out of my price range, and also usually limited print runs.)

  11. BC Wilson:

    “I think they’ll start popping up all over–maybe even in the next John Scalzi masterpiece….John?”

    In fact, The God Engines is illustrated with four very cool interior pieces. Not fifty like Leviathan but enough to give you a visual feel of the world.

  12. Want!

    Mmm, 70 pound paper, illustrations, colored endpapers…I suspect that handling this book will reinforce my prejudice against ebooks

  13. One of the most interesting “Big Idea”s I’ve seen in some time

    To re-iterate the first post: Scott (via John), you just sold another book. I’m actually just finishing the Uglies series (again, in no small part to John’s rec) and found them rather enjoyable. I can’t wait to see how you handle this alt-history of WWI.

  14. Looks like a fantastic book! I can’t wait.

    I would hypothesize (or maybe just speculating, and someone with a better knowledge of the history of the two media might give a more informed opinion here) that the demise of illustrations in novels for adults may have been related to the rise of those ancestors of the noble graphic novel, the comic book. The hypothesis would be that as illustrations became associated with the “base entertainment” of comics, adults recoiled from having them in novels.

    This is easily falsifiable if the timing doesn’t work, or if other factors were clearly and massively dominant. That’s why I’m being so careful to emphasize that I’m just idly speculating.

  15. Scott,

    All I can say is “thank you!” And thanks to your publisher too for indulging your experiment. When I opened up the book for the first time I was delighted with the paper it was printed on, and it just got better from there.

    Just to stir up a little debate, I wouldn’t call Leviathan steampunk. It’s aesthetically similar (aesthetics being the real attraction for steampunk, because it darned well isn’t very practical from an engineering standpoint) but other than the Darwinist creations the technologies are pretty much the same that we use today: diesel engines, aircraft, firearms, radio. (I got goosebumps when I realized what the red flares were for. Brilliant!)

    I’m very much looking forward to the next installment. I don’t suppose you could give us a hint about when it might be ready?

  16. That looks fantastic. I’ve been in the market lately for some new books to snuggle up with over Christmas break, and this just might be one of them. I’m a sucker for alternate reality sci-fi.

  17. Another recent series that also uses illustration to fine effect is D.M. Cornish’s _Monster Blood Tattoo_ series (“Foundling” and “Lamplighter” being the first two).

    Cornish is himself an illustrator, having started there and then moved into fiction. But man oh man. The illustrations kick all kinds of ass, just like the ones you’ve got in Leviathan.

    I’m not sure how much the illustrations contributed, but they certainly can’t have hurt. I remember finishing “Foundling” and feeling like I’d just taken a Master’s-level seminar on world building. Incredible.

    (Oh, and also, the story itself is super fun. Very original.)

  18. The illustrations do help to tell the story, and it’s a good story. Good enough to make me angry that it doesn’t have a resolution. For those who don’t enjoy cliffhanger endings (200 or so pages was not long enough to wait to find out what’s in the dern eggs?), the thing to do may be to get all three books together in Oct. 2011.

  19. Scott — an excellent conceit! I remember that the Jules Verne novels I checked out of the library as a kid had illustrations along with the “quoted caption lines” and thoroughly enjoyed them. And who can forget the illustrations in Lewis Carroll’s work and some Dickens editions? I heartily applaud your decision to have control over your illustrations instead of a publisher, who might not part with them for other editions. In short, these are magnificent.

    Well played.

    Dr. Phil

  20. Browsed this in BAM a few weeks back, ‘coz I’d read Uglies and liked Scott’s work (and had heard about it on Boing!Boing!, I think). I was duly impressed by the awesomeness of the writing and the illustrations. Now I’m waiting for Christmas to pass to make sure no one else has bought me a copy before I nab one for myself.

  21. I read about Leviathan on bOINGbOING, and was sold because it had two things I liked: a steampunk trope, and Scott Westerfeld, whose Uglies series I thoroughly enjoyed. Now I have to purchase a copy to pass around my freinds and eventually send to DH’s father. I don’t know if I can wait for a year to get the next installment! The illustrations fit in admirably with the theme and style; I wish more writers thought that way.

  22. I had already bought this book, courtesy Justine who said she’d sign it since I missed Scott on tour, but IF I HADN’T, I would have bought it after seeing this. (Totally a sucker for lovely illustrations.)

  23. Dave H @ 18:

    Just to stir up a little debate, I wouldn’t call Leviathan steampunk. It’s aesthetically similar …

    I’m not a steampunker, but given that steampunk seems to be a stylistic aesthetic more than anything else — and an intentionally vague one, at that — “aesthetically similar” arguably makes Leviathan steampunk.

    More interestingly, Mr. Westerfield had this to say when asked whether Leviathan qualifies as steampunk:

    I think Keith Thompson, my illustrator, puts it best when he says that WWI is the last gasp of steampunk. The war saw a wild spurt of crazy inventions—tanks and planes and airships that look very rococo to us. At the same time, the war ended a lot of the romance of the industrial age. When the term “machine gun” enters common parlance, the word “machine” becomes much more sinister.

    So in a way, Leviathan is about a steampunk world that is about to change radically. If the Clankers win, their machine-building culture will presumably dominate, and maybe evolve into something close to our present day. If the Darwinists win, though, something genuinely weird will emerge. In either case, though, the horrors of the war itself will make people start to question both suites of technology.

    (From an interview on the Tor website: http://www.tor.com/index2.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=58190)

  24. Thank you John and Scott! Placed Leviathan for our YA collection a couple weeks back based on catalog reviews, and am now eagerly anticipating its arrival. Hoping that library-issue version is just as beautiful as the retail-issue version sounds.

  25. How timely. I read Leviathan this weekend and loved it. The pictures really added an extra something to the experience of reading that I couldn’t express. Glad to see authorial intention at work.

    Since I have to wait a whole year for the next installment, I was happy to start Magic or Madness which I also loved. But what a contrast in tone for two different series starring 15-year-olds.

    Kudos all around. I look forward to reading more illustrated novels by everyone.

  26. I saw Scott do a talk in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised about the new book, especially the art aspect of it. At the talk, he did indicate the next two books would come out in October in 2010 and 2011 and along with the third book will be an art book with additional illustrations and sketches done to flesh out the world including cutaway views of the ships and such.

    Lee Whiteside

  27. I see that there’s a Kindle edition. How did the illustrations translate to that display? Did Keith have to redo the map to be readable in B&W? Is it even part of the Kindle edition? I don’t have one, so this is mostly-idle curiosity. It would be cool if there were a quick bookmark to go directly to the map from anywhere within the book.

  28. Well, that’s another $20 down the tubes. Thanks guys.

    I often wonder if the reason why I love Neil Gaiman’s _Stardust_ so much is because I have the illustrated version which is, at a conservative estimate, at least 27 times more wonderful than the “just text” edition.

  29. People who like this idea should also check out Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel _The Invention of Hugo Cabret_ (http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Hugo-Cabret-Brian-Selznick/dp/0439813786/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257882348&sr=8-1), which seems to be along the same lines.

    It’s a really awesome “steampunky/historical fiction/orphan discovers his destiny” sort of thing, set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century and involving clockworks and the early history of cinema, all illustrated with lovely charcoal sketches that, as in _Leviathan_, are integral to the story.

  30. If Scott Westerfield and Philip Reeve ever decided to collaborate on some kind of giant walking robot type book, that would be 20 kinds of awesome. Actually, could we just get Keith Thompson and David Wyatt to work together? I loved Leviathan so much. I only hope the kids here at the library enjoy as much as I did.

  31. Selznick’s book is amazing. Also consider Larklight which is illustrated and shares the boy’s own adventure aspect, although with a younger, more whimsical tone. David Wyatt did endpapers showing pertinent period ads.

  32. This looks awesome! You’ve sold me on it. And my girlfriend. The art kind of reminds me of what you see in the recent video game Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3. I hope this series becomes big enough that it inspires more art.

  33. Saw Westerfield at Wordstock in Portland a few weeks back and he gave a short talk about this. It was amazing and the book is beautiful. It’s next up on my reading list, and I’m looking forward to it.

  34. Sigh. Mine is still waiting sufficient time to read and gloat properly. Leviathan onThanksgiving weekend- now that’s something to be thankful for!

  35. Damn you, Scalzi.
    And damn your eyes.

    Now I’m going to have to read the Leviathan series, AND I HATE STEAMPUNK.

    A pox upon you.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved Westerfeld’s work since “Evolution’s Darling”. I just wasn’t going to read THIS series, since I HATE STEAMPUNK.

    But no, you had go get this Big Idea, and give Westerfeld a dandy soapbox, and he’s a bloody genius, so he wrote good, and now I have to read this, EVEN THOUGH I HATE STEAMPUNK.

    Grumble,
    Jack Tingle

  36. Mr. Westerfield may well be a wonderful writer (I have no reason to believe otherwise), but that first illustration sold me on NOT reading this trilogy. Walking tanks are just a Bad Idea, for all the obvious tactical reasons, such as being too easy to trip (and then they probably can’t get back up, falls are more dangerous the taller and heavier you are, etc.) and getting easily mired in boggy ground (too much weight per square inch). There are also energy density issues. Other than running up giant stairs and fording small streams, there are very few advantages to outweigh the disadvantages. We could actually build them today, but no one is going to.
    You could NOT build them in 1914, unless you also have digital electronics, because the balance problem is just too hard, maybe impossible, to solve mechanically. (and yes, I know about analog computers). Too bad, bc alternative history is perhaps my favorite genre, but if I can’t suspend enough disbelief, I can’t read it (if you can in this instance, that’s just fine as everyone’s disbelief level is probably unique). This illustrates a feature, not a bug, to the Big Ideas meme though as it’s important to find out about stuff I don’t want to read.

  37. This book is brilliant, and the illustrations are a big part of that. I only wish I knew dozens of teenagers so that I could give them all copies of it.

    And buy the hardcover. I trust Westerfeld to have good quality control on the eventual paperback editions as well, but there’s no way they could be as impressive.

  38. I’ve read (AFAIK) all of Mr. Westerfeld’s novels to date, but I just hadn’t gotten around to buying Leviathan yet.

    Until this post.

    Another copy SOLD, I tell you, SOLD thanks to this post. Awesome.

  39. Sold.

    One of my favorite reading experiences was reading Frankenstein, with numerous, lavish, grotesquely gorgeous illustrations by the great Berni Wrightson. Though published by Marvel (and recently re-issued by Dark Horse), it was not a “graphic novel” in the modern sense, but the full text of the original novel, with full-page illustrations every eight pages or so.

    I would love to see the tradition of illustrated fiction come back. Given the shift to e-readers and online, and the ease with which text and images can be mixed in electronic media, I think that’s a real possibility.

  40. Damn these Big Idea articles.

    Every time I read one my wallet gets mysteriously lighter and my wife asks that most feared of questions, “Is that a new book”.

  41. I want this book so badly. Damn Mexico for only supplying Danielle Steele and Twilight novels in English.

    Although, Thank you Sr. Scalzi for making my already precarious pile of “books to be read” even more dangerously unstable.

  42. Wow. I loved _Hugo Cabret_ and the way the illustrations there played off the text, and I definitely want to check this out as well.

    The word “trilogy” sometimes gives me pause though, particularly if it’s not completed. If it’s 3 linked stories each with their own beginning, middle, and end, I’m good; if it’s one story chopped into 3 pieces, as I sometimes see, I might wait for the other parts to arrive. (As a benchmark, I did think _Uglies_ stood well on its own, even though the arc it established continued for more books.) What are readers’ thoughts on this?

  43. I’m surprised no one mentioned Sterling’s early Mechanist/Shaper works, another Machine vs Genetics world.

    I’d also like to know if all the illustrations are in the Kindle version.

  44. I’ve read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve never read any of Mr. Westerfield’s books before so I gave it a try based upon the illustrations, the cover art, and endpapers. I reasoned that no one would spare such effort on a mediocre novel. The world responds to excellence.

    Efforts such as this are one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to make the leap to ebooks. I enjoy owning the physical object especially if it has high production values. It would be great if I could have both. Let me download an electronic version of the book for free with every purchase of a hardcopy and I will run out and get an ereader. I might even pay a modest premium. This way I get a high quality physical object to clutter up my already cluttered life and the convenience of lugging around a library on a single device.

  45. This looks fantastic, although it would be nice to hear some more detail as to how the collaboration works in practice.

    I also collaborate with an illustrator. We are pitched as a team to the publisher. It was therefore understood when I sold my novel that I would continue to act as his editor, and that I would also collaborate with the book designer.

    But this is a special case, since it was actually the publisher who insisted on more illustrations as a condition for buying the manuscript.

    I hope that there are other author / illustrator teams out there with projects in development, because the more of us that there are, the easier it will get to sell such projects in the future.

  46. My husband handed me the book saying “you must read this! it’s so cool!!!11!” (Yeah, I could actually hear “oneoneone” in his voice).
    I glanced at it and thought “ho hum, war stuff… not a fan…yawn.” I nevertheless started it, as a kung fu injury had me abed for two weeks and well, a war book was better than no book.
    Now I am cursing all of you, because I will have to wait SO LONG for the sequel. ’tis unfair!!!11

  47. I loved this book and my only complaint was that I didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy before I bought it (there was a steampunk display at the bookstore and all I saw was WWI and I knew I had to have it) so I got to the end and was confused and then sad when I realized I’d have to wait and then happy when I realized there’d be more.

  48. Is it wrong to feel vaguely proud that I bought this two weeks ago before you published this article? :lol:

    Found the book on Sci-Fi Book Club when looking for some books and loved the concept. Had to buy it and seeing you “endorse” it is very, very encouraging.

  49. Text without illustrations vs. test with illustrations. Obviously one is not better than the other – just different. Both give the reader a different experience.

    As a reader, as a storyteller I much prefer not to see illustrations as I come to know a story – just a personal preference – as I want to connect with the story from the inside out.

    See the illustrations afterward adds a different dimension.

    It would be interesting to know why so many books have been published without illustrations.

    EM

  50. Ey!, Now I’m writing the tird book of my saga “La Canción de la Princesa Oscura” (The Dark Princess’ Song) in Spain and I also ilustrate then!

    I’m glad that putting together an illustrated novel wasn’t just a wild thought; It’s great to see that other writers feel the same :)

  51. Thanks for a sharing htis – and I loved reading some of the comments that have been left. I really think I’ll have to check this book out, it looks really interesting.

  52. What Aaron 52 & protected static 61 said. (although i don’t answer to a sig-o, but just two cats) The Big Idea has increased by to-buy and to-read pile by quite a bit this year.

    It *is* a beautiful book, and a very weighty tome. I was sad to see the map/endpapers so trunkated by the binding, but the binding is very well executed. The interior pictures are lovely, too.

    I visited the ‘Leviathan’ page & read the exerpt, as well. I look forward to reading the book in the near future!

  53. I’ve added this book to my to be read pile. It looks very good. And I’ve always been interested in WWI, which is the event which laid the foundation for many of our current problems.

    And Franz Ferdinand was an interesting character. He married beneath himself, was unpopular at court as he advocated more autonomy for the various components of the empire, and was both undeniably brave and an incurable romantic (when he was dying with a bullet in his jugular he was trying to treat his wife’s wounds and pleading with her to live [she had been shot in the stomach] for the sake of their children).

    His legacy was undoubtely a dangerous one, as his children were interred in a concentration camp to prevent them from stirring up trouble against the Nazis. I’m curious as to the branching of history, though, as his children were not in line for the throne (a condition imposed upon him to allow his marriage) and I don’t think they had a child named Aleksander, though its been awhile since I’ve read anything so I could be wrong.

  54. Very good read. Looking forward to the sequel. It felt like it ended halfway through, so I hope I’m not left hanging for long. Keep up the good work!

  55. I liked the book, but the book jacket had one of my personal pet peeves: spoilers.

    The book is 434 pages. The book jacket mentions an event that occurs on page 393. That’s over 90% of the way in.

  56. FWIW, I bought 2 copies of this book based on this Big Idea entry (one for me, one for my Army buddy stationed in Iraq). Excellent book, and I absolutely love the idea of bringing back the illustrated novel.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

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