Boneshaker (Clockwork Century Series #1)

Boneshaker (Clockwork Century Series #1)

by Cherie Priest

Paperback(First Edition)

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Boneshaker (Clockwork Century Series #1) by Cherie Priest

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska's ice. Thus was Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue's widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765318411
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 09/29/2009
Series: Clockwork Century Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 262,382
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 840L (what's this?)

About the Author

Cherie Priest's Boneshaker was nominated for a Nebula and Hugo Award, won the Locus Award for best science-fiction novel, and was named Steampunk Book of the Year by She is also the author of Dreadnought, Boneshaker's sequel, and of the near-contemporary fantasy Fathom. She debuted to great acclaim with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, and Not Flesh Nor Feathers, a trilogy of Southern Gothic ghost stories featuring heroine Eden Moore. Born in Tampa, Florida, Priest earned her master's in rhetoric at the University of Tennessee. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, Aric, and a fat black cat named Spain.

Read an Excerpt




She saw him, and she stopped a few feet from the stairs.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I didn't mean to startle you."
The woman in the dull black overcoat didn't blink and didn't move. "What do you want?"
He'd prepared a speech, but he couldn't remember it. "To talk. To you. I want to talk to you."
Briar Wilkes closed her eyes hard. When she opened them again, she asked, "Is it about Zeke? What's he done now?"
"No, no, it's not about him," he insisted. "Ma'am, I was hoping we could talk about your father."
Her shoulders lost their stiff, defensive right angles, and she shook her head. "That figures. I swear to God, all the men in my life, they ..." She stopped herself. And then she said, "My father was a tyrant, and everyone he loved was afraid of him. Is that what you want to hear?"
He held his position while she climbed the eleven crooked stairs that led the way to her home, and to him. When she reached the narrow porch he asked, "Is it true?"
"More true than not."
She stood before him with her fingers wrapped around a ring of keys. The top of her head was level with his chin. Her keys were aimed at his waist, he thought, until he realized he was standing in front of the door. He shuffled out of her way.
"How long have you been waiting for me?" she asked.
He strongly considered lying, but she pinned him to the wall with her stare. "Several hours. I wanted to be here when you got home."
The door clacked, clicked, and scooted inward. "I took an extra shift at the 'works. You could've come back later."
"Please, ma'am. May I come inside?"
She shrugged, but she didn't say no, and she didn't close him out in the cold, so he followed behind her, shutting the door and standing beside it while Briar found a lamp and lit it.
She carried the lamp to the fireplace, where the logs had burned down cold. Beside the mantle there was a poker and a set of bellows, and a flat iron basket with a cache of split logs. She jabbed the poker against the charred lumps and found a few live coals lingering at the bottom.
With gentle encouragement, a handful of kindling, and two more lengths of wood, a slow flame caught and held.
One arm at a time, Briar pried herself out of the overcoat and left it hanging on a peg. Without the coat, her body had a lean look to it--as if she worked too long, and ate too little or too poorly. Her gloves and tall brown boots were caked with the filth of the plant, and she was wearing pants like a man. Her long, dark hair was piled up and back, but two shifts of labor had picked it apart and heavy strands had scattered, escaping the combs she'd used to hold it all aloft.
She was thirty-five, and she did not look a minute younger.
In front of the growing, glowing fire there was a large and ancient leather chair. Briar dropped herself into it. "Tell me, Mr ... . I'm sorry. You didn't say your name."
"Hale. Hale Quarter. And I must say, it's an honor to meet you."
For a moment he thought she was going to laugh, but she didn't.
She reached over to a small table beside the chair and retrieved a pouch. "All right, Hale Quarter. Tell me. Why did you wait outside so long in this bitter weather?" From within the pouch she picked a small piece of paper and a large pinch of tobacco. She worked the two together until she had a cigarette, and she used the lamp's flame to coax the cigarette alight.
He'd gotten this far by telling the truth, so he risked another confession. "I came when I knew you wouldn't be home. Someone told me that if I knocked, you'd shoot through the peephole."
She nodded, and pressed the back of her head against the leather. "I've heard that story, too. It doesn't keep nearly as many folks away as you might expect."
He couldn't tell if she was serious, or if her response was a denial. "Then I thank you double, for not shooting me and for letting me come inside."
"You're welcome."
"May I ... may I take a seat? Would that be all right?"
"Suit yourself, but you won't be here long," she predicted.
"You don't want to talk?"
"I don't want to talk about Maynard, no. I don't have any answers about anything that happened to him. Nobody does. But you can ask whatever you want. And you can take your leave when I get tired of you, or when you get bored with all the ways I can say 'I don't know'--whichever comes first."
Encouraged, he reached for a tall-backed wooden chair and dragged it forward, putting his body directly into her line of sight. His notebook folded open to reveal an unlined sheet with a few small words scribbled at the top.
While he was getting situated, she asked him, "Why do you want to know about Maynard? Why now? He's been dead for fifteen years. Nearly sixteen."
"Why not now?" Hale scanned his previous page of notes, and settled down with his pencil hovering over the next blank section. "But to answer you more directly, I'm writing a book."
"Another book?" she said, and it sounded sharp and fast.
"Not a sensational piece," he was careful to clarify. "I want to write a proper biography of Maynard Wilkes, because I believe he's been done a great disservice. Don't you agree?"
"No, I don't agree. He got exactly what he should have expected. He spent thirty years working hard, for nothing, and he was treateddisgracefully by the city he served." She fiddled with the half-smoked wand of tobacco. "He allowed it. And I hated him for it."
"But your father believed in the law."
She almost snapped at him. "So does every criminal."
Hale perked. "Then you do think he was a criminal?"
One more hard draw on the cigarette came and went, and then she said, "Don't twist my words. But you're right. He believed in the law. There were times I wasn't sure he believed in anything else, but yes. He believed in that."
Spits and sparks from the fireplace filled the short silence that fell between them. Finally, Hale said, "I'm trying to get it right, ma'am. That's all. I think there was more to it than a jailbreak--"
"Why?" she interrupted. "Why do you think he did it? Which theory do you want to write your book about, Mr. Quarter?"
He hesitated, because he didn't know what to think, not yet. He gambled on the theory that he hoped Briar would find least offensive. "I think he was doing what he thought was right. But I really want to know what you think. Maynard raised you alone, didn't he? You must've known him better than anyone."
Her face stayed a little too carefully blank. "You'd be surprised. We weren't that close."
"But your mother died--"
"When I was born, that's right. He was the only parent I ever had, and he wasn't much of one. He didn't know what to do with a daughter any more than I know what to do with a map of Spain."
Hale sensed a brick wall, so he backed up and tried another way around, and into her good graces. His eyes scanned the smallish room with its solid and unadorned furniture, and its clean but battered floors. He noted the corridor that led to the back side of the house. And from his seat, he could see that all four doors at the end of it were closed.
"You grew up here, didn't you? In this house?" he pretended to guess.
She didn't soften. "Everybody knows that."
"They brought him back here, though. One of the boys from the prison break, and his brother--they brought him here and tried to save him. A doctor was sent for, but ..."
Briar retrieved the dangled thread of conversation and pulled it. "But he'd inhaled too much of the Blight. He was dead before the doctor ever got the message, and I swear"--she flicked a fingertip's worth of ash into the fire--"it's just as well. Can you imagine what would've happened to him, if he'd lived? Tried for treason, or gross insubordination at least. Jailed, at the minimum. Shot, at the worst. My father and I had our disagreements, but I wouldn't have wished that upon him. It's just as well," she said again, and she stared into the fire.
Hale spent a few seconds trying to assemble a response. At last he said, "Did you get to see him, before he died? I know you were one of the last to leave Seattle--and I know you came here. Did you see him, one last time?"
"I saw him." She nodded. "He was lying alone in that back room, on his bed, under a sheet that was soaked with the vomit that finally choked him to death. The doctor wasn't here, and as far as I know, he never did come. I don't know if you could even find one, in those days, in the middle of the evacuation."
"So, he was alone? Dead, in this house?"
"He was alone," she confirmed. "The front door was broken, but closed. Someone had left him on the bed, laid out with respect, I do remember that. Someone had covered him with a sheet, and left his rifle on the bed beside him with his badge. But he was dead, and he stayed dead. The Blight didn't start him walking again, so thank God for small things, I suppose."
Hale jotted it all down, mumbling encouraging sounds as his pencil skipped across the paper. "Do you think the prisoners did that?"
"You do," she said. It wasn't quite an accusation.
"I suspect as much," he replied, but he was giddily certain of it. The prison-boy's brother had told him they'd left Maynard's place clean, and they didn't take a thing. He'd said they'd laid him out onthe bed, his face covered up. These were details that no one else had ever mentioned, not in all the speculation or investigation into the Great Blight Jailbreak. And there had been plenty of it over the years.
"And then ...," he tried to prompt her.
"I dragged him out back and buried him under the tree, beside his old dog. A couple days later, two city officers came out and dug him back up again."
"To make sure?"
She grunted. "To make sure he hadn't skipped town and gone back east; to make sure the Blight hadn't started him moving again; to make sure I'd put him where I said I did. Take your pick."
He finished chasing her words with his pencil and raised his eyes. "What you just said, about the Blight. Did they know, so soon, about what it could do?"
"They knew. They figured it out real quick. Not all the Blight-dead started moving, but the ones who did climbed up and went prowling pretty fast, within a few days. But mostly, people wanted to make sure Maynard hadn't gotten away with anything. And when they were satisfied that he was out of their reach, they dumped him back here. They didn't even bury him again. They just left him out there by the tree. I had to put him in the ground twice."
Hale's pencil and his chin hung over the paper. "I'm sorry, did you say--do you mean ...?"
"Don't look so shocked." She shifted in the chair and the leather tugged squeakily at her skin. "At least they didn't fill in the hole, the first time. The second time was a lot faster. Let me ask you a question, Mr. Quarter."
"Hale, please."
"Hale, as you like. Tell me, how old were you when the Blight came calling?"
His pencil was shuddering, so he placed it flat against the notebook and answered her. "I was almost six."
"That's about what I figured. So you were a little thing, then. You don't even remember it, do you--what it was like before the wall?"
He turned his head back and forth; no, he didn't. Not really. "But I remember the wall, when it first went up. I remember watching it rise, foot by foot, around the contaminated blocks. All two hundred feet of it, all the way around the evacuated neighborhoods."
"I remember it, too. I watched it from here. You could see it from that back window, by the kitchen." She waved her hand toward the stove, and a small rectangular portal behind it. "All day and all night for seven months, two weeks, and three days they worked to build that wall."
"That's very precise. Do you always keep count of such things?"
"No," she said. "But it's easy to remember. They finished construction on the day my son was born. I used to wonder if he didn't miss it, all the noise from the workers. It was all he ever heard, while I was carrying him--the swinging of the hammers, the pounding of the masons' chisels. As soon as the poor child arrived, the world fell silent."
Something occurred to her, and she sat up straight. The chair hissed.
She glanced at the door. "Speaking of the boy, it's getting late. Where's he gotten off to, I wonder? He's usually home by now." She corrected herself. "He's often home by now, and it's damnably cold out there."
Hale settled against the stiff wood back of his borrowed seat. "It's a shame he never got to meet his grandfather. I'm sure Maynard would've been proud."
Briar leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. She put her face in her hands and rubbed her eyes. "I don't know," she said. She straightened herself and wiped her forehead with the back of her arm. She peeled off her gloves and dropped them onto the squat, round table between the chair and the fireplace.
"You don't know? But there aren't any other grandchildren, are there? He had no other children, did he?"
"Not as far as I know, but I guess there's no telling." She leaned forward and began to unlace her boots. "I hope you'll excuse me," she said. "I've been wearing these since six o'clock this morning."
"No, no, don't mind me," he said, and kept his eyes on the fire. "I'm sorry. I know I'm intruding."
"You are intruding, but I let you in, so the fault is mine." One boot came free of her foot with a sucking pop. She went to work on the other one. "And I don't know if Maynard would've cared much for Zeke, or vice versa. They're not the same kind."
"Is Zeke ..." Hale was tiptoeing toward dangerous ground, and he knew it, but he couldn't stop himself. "Too much like his father, perhaps?"
Briar didn't flinch, or frown. Again she kept that poker-flat stare firmly in place as she removed the other boot and set it down beside the first one. "It's possible. Blood may tell, but he's still just a boy. There's time yet for him to sort himself out. But as for you, Mr. Hale, I'm afraid I'm going to have to see you on your way. It's getting late, and dawn comes before long."
Hale sighed and nodded. He'd pushed too hard, and too far. He should've stayed on topic, on the dead father--not the dead husband.
"I'm sorry," he told her as he rose and stuffed his notebook under his arm. He replaced his hat, pulled his coat tightly across his chest, and said, "And I thank you for your time. I appreciate everything you've told me, and if my book is ever published, I'll make note of your help."
"Sure," she said.
She closed Hale out, and into the night. He braced himself to face the windy winter evening, tugging his scarf tighter around his neck and adjusting his wool gloves.
Copyright © 2009 by Cherie Priest

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Boneshaker (Clockwork Century Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 385 reviews.
SteveTheDM More than 1 year ago
Boneshaker is the story of Briar Wilkes searching for her son Zeke in walled-in Seattle swarming with zombies and the deadly fumes that transform the living into the walking dead. Oh, and did I mention that this is a steampunk alternate-history setting? This story has the most intriguing and fascinating setup of any novel I've read in the past few years, and the world that Priest has created is well worth exploring. The story itself is basically a time-pressure rescue story, with a strong sub-plot of searching for family history. The narrative flips back and forth between Briar and Zeke, as they each explore the deadly downtown Seattle. It works, and it's fun. Ultimately, though, I wound up caring a lot more about the world than about the protagonists of the story... Which is unfortunate. The middle of the novel dragged a bit, but did manage to pick up by the end. Boneshaker has also been nominated for a 2010 Hugo award (while I was reading it, which made me feel like I was a trend-setter for once...). 4 of 5 stars.
Kooly More than 1 year ago
Can there be science fiction in the gold rush era? You bet. Facinating story with old and "new" sciences mixed together with zombies. These zombies are a little bit like the ones in WW-Z. Made me find a map of Seattle. My neighbor, from Seattle, was not familiar with the wall. All the adventures in ruined skyscrapers and deep tunnel work out. The characters all work out well. A good page turner, I have no complaints.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1863 in Seattle, Washington Territory, Russians hearing rumors of gold in the Yukon and Alaska Territories hire scientist Leviticus Blue to invent a device to obtain the precious metal buried under the frozen tundra. He creates Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine; a steam-powered machine that drills through the thickest layers of ice to extract gold. He beta tests his gizmo in downtown Seattle, but something goes awry leaving several dead people from the ensuing accident and a stripped mining like hole that emits an eerie looking gas dubbed Blight as it turned nearby breathers into "rotter", fresh flesh eating predators. Almost two decades later, Leviticus' son Zeke Wilkes wants to clear his dead father's blighted reputation. He sneaks inside the walled containment zone with his concerned mother Briar in pursuit as she fears her offspring will turn into one of those putrefying rotters. However, her fears turn into mortification when she learns that mad scientist inventor Dr. Minnericht looks like the identical twin of her late husband and he seems to have taken a fatherly interested in her child. This is a great Zombie alternate America thriller that hooks the readers from the moment that Dr. Blue turns on his machine and never takes even a gruesome puke break. The story line is fast-paced yet the three prime characters are fully developed though the rotters are what the BONESHAKER is all about. One should not read this on a full stomach unless a toilet is nearby as the descriptions are bone-shaking and breaking steampunk. .Readers will relish Cherie Priest's sensational Seattle saga as a mom without apple pie battles zombies, mad scientists and other ilk to rescue her cub. Harriet Klausner
Neutrino More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was my first read in the steampunk genre and it has piqued my interest to read more of this genre type. I read Dreadnought, another in this series and enjoyed it as well.  Steampunk, zombies, pirates in zeppelins,  what more can you ask for  in a steampunk adventure? Very fun read
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
Thanks to the Seattle Public Library for hiding this book at Bird on a Wire Espresso for me to find, part of SPL's Steampunk Summer 2011 teen reading program. The day I finished the book, I was able to meet Cherie Priest at an author event in Seattle. So bonus all the way around! Being a Seattle resident, I was thrilled to read a book set in long-ago Seattle, albeit with some historical facts changed; those changes are noted in the book although this was not so for early editions. The airships, zombies, and mechanical devices intrigued me. The relationship between Zeke and his mom, Briar, was agonizing to read about as it was so distant. But Briar risks everything to save her boy so the ending ties up nicely. In the middle, the rotters threaten both of them. Such fun, lots of action, lots of emotion. A great read.
William Meese More than 1 year ago
I had read the second book 'clementine' first. I think 'Steampunk' is just not for me.
xander7679 More than 1 year ago
This book is superbly written with in depth characters and a strong plot. Those new to the steampunk genre will lve this book as well as those that are already fans. I can't wait for cherie priests next book!
BrockLauterbach More than 1 year ago
A terrible accident leads to the walling up of Seattle, as noxious gas turns fleeing citizens to zombies. Trying to resurrect his father's reputation, a young man enters into the walled city and his mother attempts to bring him home alive, holding deep within her own dangerous secret. I enjoyed the premise and the storyline, although the zombies seemed almost like an afterthought, a way to develop another element of danger to the otherwise exciting tale. The characters were believable and the conflict unrevealed until the end, although you knew that there had to be more to the mother than she let on. Boneshaker did what I want in a book, though, it made me want more! What happens next?!
DuaneKaiser More than 1 year ago
I just finished BONESHAKER this morning. I was late for work, but it was worth it. I have read all of Cherie's novels, and must say that I enjoyed this one the best. It was an action-packed, heart-pounding, rollicking great time. The main characters were so vividly written that I felt they were in the room with me sometimes. I felt the atmosphere was a character in itself, and I was inclined to keep all my lights on. It was a real page-turner, and right up until the last page, my knuckles were white and I had to almost pry my fingers from the covers. It left me wanting more, and am so happy that there will be more stories set in this alternate universe called Clockwork Century. I just hope that she keeps the strong female charaters front and center in the future novels. I loved Lucy and Princess! I know that Cherie heard this already, but if this were made into a movie, I would overcome my fear of theatres, and be the first in line to see it. I am now a fan of steampunk! Great work Cherie. You deserve all the praise and awards that are coming your way. I rave about your writing to all my friends that will listen. I hope it was okay to write my little review here. Cheers and keep writing! A huge fan in Nova Scotia.
synde More than 1 year ago
Cherie Priest puts a new twist on a worn genre. Her take on Steampunk is fresh and terrifying. Boneskaker is chocked full of space pirates,dirigibles, psychotic captains and zombies. Set in Seattle it features many of our famous landmarks in new horrific ways. This book is Preist's breakout novel, smart, fresh and fabulous. Remember her name, she's a celebrity in the making. Tight writing and witty dialog make this novel a must. Pre-order this book you won't be sorry. Oh and wait til you see the says it all, for reals!
Judi1953 5 months ago
Steampunk history horror with zombies! I like this book a lot, although the plot was pretty slow and flat and didn’t entirely make sense. However the characters were great (except for Ezekiel, who was annoying) and with some cutting of the story, this could be a great movie. Overall unique book, and FUN at the very least. 4 stars recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome steampunk fun
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great read and a great combination of horror writing and real crime. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please continue!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pleas continue writing i loved it. If you want some ideas or need a me with the name Sopronia
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actaly don't care for the whole zombie genre genre, and this is not 100% perfect or in my list of faves, but this was sure well paced and entertaing! Sequels are fun too
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a MUST READ.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters not interesting. Surprise ending not really a surprise.
Rick_WeberFan More than 1 year ago
Good story. Excellent pacing. Solid, well-defined and believeable characters. Definite page turner. I'd never read Priest before and have only begun a dalliance with the steampunk sub-genre recently. This is steampunk only around the edges. You hardly notice it, frankly. As I said, I'd not read this author before. I have an appointment this afternoon to begin another of hers. She's an impressive author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was interested at first then got about 1/3 through and was completely bored. There's a lot of good ideas but not executed very well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I came upon this author after checking out a few other books in this genre I have always been so fascinated with. Priest does a fantastic job of delivering an alternate 1800s steampunk world set in Seattle unlike many other stories focusing on Victorian England. I can honestly say that I breezed the book faster than is usual for me (considering I am constantly reading multiple books at a time) and that I just kept getting drawn to continue reading. A highly recommended read I'd say.