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.
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 steampunk.com. 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."
"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, 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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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
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
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.
I had read the second book 'clementine' first. I think 'Steampunk' is just not for me.
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!
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?!
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.
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 cover..it says it all, for reals!
Great job with the setting, and the plot seemed really interesting... until you finally met the big-deal archnemisis, and he wasn't as cool as you thought he should be.
I took a chance on this audiobook, because it was on sale, and I'm glad I did! The narration - by both narrators - was dynamic and kept my attention.I felt the story was a bit redundant though. I could have done without half of the "journey" and more character development. I thought the plot was great! Just could have been executed better.I've never read any other book by Cherie Priest.
What is there not to like, a compelling heroine, airships, an alternet timeline and zombies. Well written, good plot and an interesting supporting caste. There were a few short passages that dragged a little but heck you find them in any book. Definitely an excellent read and it is a good entry into the Steampunk genre.
I liked Boneshaker well enough, and found it a good read in general. I did want to like it more though, being a fan of alternate history and steampunk. The premise is interesting and the book is paced well, but I wasn't *quite* able to connect with the characters, get to know them, and care about their fates. Overall, I recommend it as a good bit of "brain candy" and a relaxing read. 3/5 rating
This was the first steampunk novel that I've read and my main reaction was "meh". What I couldn't wrap my head around was the fact that the characters in the book could make mechanical arms, complicated air filtration systems, and various methods of sealing good air vs. bad air, but they couldn't plug up a hole in the ground. I'm not sure if this a weakness of just this novel or steampunk novels in general. I would have found it more realistic if someone in the book was trying to fix the problem, no matter how difficult it seemed. All of the characters seemed to be missing something specifically because they weren't asking the important questions. As a result, I really couldn't connect with the Briar, Zeke, Swakhammer, or anyone else. If something were to happen to any of them, I don't think that I would have really cared. In my opinion, this problem kept a good book from being a great book.
In this alternate history set in 19th century Seattle, Leviticus Blue created a massive machine called the Boneshaker, which dug below the city banks and released a cloud of gas that turned those who breathed it into "rotters." Fifteen years after the incident, Levi's wife Briar and her son, Ezekiel, deal with the censure of their neighbors for being related to Levi and to Maynard Wilkes, Briar's husband who infamously let inmates free to get them away from the gas. When Ezekiel sneaks into the now walled-off Seattle, filled with the poisonous gas and the rotters, determined to clear his grandfather's and father's names, an earthquake leaves him stranded on the inside. Briar is determined to find him and enters the city after him.After years of reading fantasy, I've gotten pretty good at suspending disbelief, which you really need to do to get into this steampunk/zombie story. If you can, it's a fun premise and I enjoyed the re-imagining of Seattle and American history. The world-building was well done and the writing moves along quickly. I wanted a little more to happen in terms of the story as some revelations were not all that surprising, but overall it was a fun ride and I'd be willing to read more by this author. 4 stars.
In Boneshaker, the former city of Seattle has been walled off because of a deadly blight gas that now fills the city. The blight gas came after a huge drill called the Boneshaker went horribly out of control and destroyed downtown Seattle. Briar Wilkes dealt with all of this firsthand as it was her husband Leviticus Blue that created the Boneshaker and caused all of the destruction. Briar lives with her son outside of the city's walls but deals with the stigma of being Blue's widow every day. Until her son, Zeke, decides to go into the city looking for proof that will clear his father's name. I'm going to start this review off by saying that I just loved this book. So be warned that their may be gushing. Boneshaker was such an original read and like nothing that I've read before. There are zombies (from the blight gas), air pirates, plus just the gas itself. The gas almost took on its own character as it is such an important factor in the story. When Briar goes into the walls of the city looking for her son, she has to deal with all of these things on a constant basis. For instance, there are only certain places where people can breathe without masks safely within the city. The gas is a constant presence and enemy that the people living inside the city are up against. It made the story so much more suspenseful with all of these factors mixed in. I was flying through the pages trying to see what would happen next. Briar, herself, is a great main character. She is strong but feels that she has made mistakes in regards to her son. Who can't relate to that a bit? And what it comes down to is that this is a story about a mother and son and their relationship which just makes the book that much better. Briar is not only trying to save her son, but she is also trying to do better by him. I loved the other characters in this book...heck, I just really loved this book. There isn't much more to say than that.Obviously, I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a good story. I'm pretty sure that I didn't do this book justice but if it sounds at all interesting go check it out. According to Goodreads this is book 1 so I'm assuming (hoping) that there are going to be more books. Because the author does leave a few things open with the ending. All in all, a great read and one of my favorites this year so far.
The steampunk concept can be a love/hate thing with sci-fi dorks. We love the idea of an alternate reality where a presumptive Industrial Revolution juts up against a retarded Moore's Law, resulting in mutated technology like coal-burning mecha suits with brass fittings. At the same time, we hate the depressing settings of squalid post-Victorian England, the mooning and swooning of female characters, and the Cockney bluster of heroes and villains alike.Boneshaker is a little different in the latter sense, taking place in hardscrabble colonial America instead of grimy old England. The real twist is that it also takes a conceitedly historical Seattle (still isolated after a prolonged, sixteen-year Civil War) and throws a few thousand zombies into a walled quarter of the city. The story is told mostly from two divergent viewpoints, Ezekiel Wilkes and his mother Briar, as they both take circuitous paths through (over and under, actually) through downtown, encountering varying degrees of living and undead ruffians along the way.While there are obvious motifs from Escape From New York and The Empire Strikes Back, along with the requisite George Romero overtones, what Boneshaker is most notably lacking in is period patter. There are intermittent scenes of turn-of-the-century etiquette, but for the most part, the characters speak as if they all came from 1980s Wisconsin instead of 1880s Seattle. This in itself isn't a bad thing, as phoneticizing the rough-edged slang of 19th century hard-asses can make for tiresome reading.What Boneshaker does have, (in addition to just enough retro-tech to satisfy, but not too much that it becomes fetishistic) is strong female protagonists, especially Briar Wilkes, the rifle-toting, steampunk equivalent of Aliens' Ripley. Briar hides a dark secret that the entire conceit of the story hinges upon, and it's her regret and passion to protect her son that ultimately drives her, rather than the potential clearing of her besmirched name.An open-ended conclusion sets the stage for additional canon stories, while smooth, snappy dialogue and relevant, unobtrusive action sequences make it potential big-screen fodder, should this steampunk thing ever graduate from the underground into a real trend.
An enjoyable adventure through a fictional 19th century Seattle. So whether you are into Steampunk, zombies, or just a rollicking tale, you have come to the right place with Boneshaker. The only two cons, as far as I'm concerned, is that the book could have used more grit, and the writer broadcast the ending way back in the first half of the book. I will definitely read any future books in the series and I think this particular book would bake an enjoyable if not formulaic screenplay. I've been running actresses through my head for the part of the lead.
By all that is steampunk, I swear I loved this book. I'm not saying it's perfect, but I loved it just the same. Really, the only issue I had with it was that the end lacked the drama that one expected, given the set up, but it still made sense with the novel as a whole... and that's all I will say about that.As to the good stuff, Priest's 'Boneshaker' gives you airships, goggles, a half-abandoned walled city, zombies, boiler-driven machines, an antagonist reminiscent of Dr. Loveless -- and I mean that in a good way -- a heroine with sense in her head (refreshing) and a young man's coming-of-age-style adventure. What more could you possibly want? What more could you possibly fit in here? Priest is one of the best of the newer fantasy authors on the scene anyway, but every tight detail of this adventure further convinced me of her wicked coolness. The descriptions here are taut and satisfying -- the reader can practically feel the sluggish stickiness of the Blight gas, the annoying rub of mask straps, the gloom of the sun-starved city. The characters are, if you will forgive me, real characters, and each one is more badass or more endearing (as appropriate) than the last. The story moves along at a solid clip, neither rushed nor strained. The best part, though, is that when you break away from reading the novel, you find yourself glancing over your shoulder, opening windows, and otherwise feeling haunted. I didn't have to go to bed with a flashlight -- this was no mere creep-factor, but a genuine sense that this adventuresome book clings to you, as only the best reads can.I'm not sure what "rollicking" really means, but I think this is it. Read it.
I had heard nothing but rave reviews about this book, so I was prepared to sit back and enjoy once I got it - and I was not disappointed. Things Boneshaker includes: "steampunk" alternate US history (including an AU-Civil War, which is fascinating); zombies; air pirates. Which sounds like it is just too much, but she pulls it off. Every played-out idea you think you've had too much of in recent years? She makes it awesome again.The background (as laid out in the first few pages, so I'm not spoiling) is that, during the Gold Rush era, the Russians offered an award for anyone who could build a machine to reliably dig through ice to find gold in the Klondike. An inventor in Seattle invented the eponymous Boneshaker, and created a disaster under Seattle on the first test-run. The city was undermined, buildings collapsed, and gas came out of the ensuing rift - gas called Blight, which turns some (but not all) people into zombies (called "rotters" in the book, which is a nice touch).The book is set about 15 years after this event. The wife of the aforementioned inventor (Briar), and their son (Zeke), settle in the outskirts of the ruined city, and the book starts with the son going into old Seattle to try to rehabilitate the image of his fatherI love it. I love the plot, which doesn't have a dull moment, and I love the writing, which is descriptive but punchy, and I love the characters. I love Briar, who tries so hard to do what's right. I love Zeke, who basically makes every single decision wrong, but does it with a combination of teenage arrogance and the fear of a child, and is one of the most true teenagers I have ever read. And I love the air pirates and the people in the city and, uh, yes. Ahem. Anyway.Love the book, highly recommended.
That Boneshaker is a Hugo Award nominee testifies to its appeal to a significant fraction of science fiction fans. The appeal is certainly discernible: The book is packed with the mildly distorted history and technological anachronism that have made "steampunk" a popular subgenre. It doesn't, however, strike me as a novel that will be remembered and read ten years from now. The setting, characters and plot are bizarre enough to hold one's interest for a day, but they are not truly creative. Worse, the big revelation at the end of the heroine's dark secret is a revelation only because the author brazenly cheats the reader out of information that should have been available by about page 20.
Cherie Priest has earned much acclaim for her novel Boneshaker and I am not sure why. It's not an offensively bad book, the premise is very interesting and the setting could have catapulted the narrative into action adventure greatness. But it lacks punch. It never gives you that extra gear that pulls you in and makes you turn the page. I have seen the problem arise in many books, writing like a reader. The reader doesn't want the protagonist to be hurt, feel pain, or find themselves in a predicament of uncertain resolution. It's the writer who has to push the story into those uncomfortable areas and let the reader suffer with the characters.Boneshaker promises peril and sacrifice but Priest pulls her punches. I never honestly believed that Briar would not find her son, or that they'd even be placed in serious jeopardy for any reason. The protagonists are saved from discomfort at every turn. They are never placed in a situation where they'd have to reach beyond their limits to cope with the horror of their surroundings. This despite the fact that the surroundings are teeming with horrors.The setting, while original and interesting, leaves us to wonder why anyone would live in such a place. There was no plausible motive given for anyone to remain in such an inhospitable environment. Despite the conflict deriving much of its power from the hell on earth backdrop, the most emotion that could be rended from its inhabitants was some griping about having to wear gas masks.I'm not totally familiar with this conventions of steampunk but the dialog seemed flat to my ears. Politeness and platitudes appeared to be the order of the period and aside from the the antagonists sidekick (I can't even remember his name he appears so infrequently), all the characters sounded almost exactly the same. With a little better setup for the inhabitants of the doomed city, and a little less skittishness on the part of the author in trying to save her characters from harm, this book could have been great. Instead it's a tepid pile of near-misses. I would be interested in revisiting this world in the up-coming sequels, but only if Priest can kick it up a notch.
Boneshaker combines two fantastic things - steampunk and zombies, called 'rotters'. Perhaps more importantly, it also includes really fantastic world building, and the steampunk underground of the overrun Seattle that Priest creates is just wonderful. There are a lot of stories that could be told here.Unfortunately, plot and character don't quite hold up to atmosphere. Neither is particularly bad, but neither was particularly noteworthy, either. The basic premise involves some interesting backstory for a mother (Briar) and son (Zeke), and when Zeke disappears over the wall into Blight-infected Seattle, Briar goes in after him.Throughout the story we meet a number of colorful characters and get a really interesting sense of how the walled-off city operates and the man who runs it. The characters themselves are decently drawn, but the relationships between them felt lacking to me - it was hard to ever feel a real connection between anyone, even Briar and Zeke, where it was most important. The chase through the city, one after the other, let us see a lot and explore a lot, but never really connected as an interesting or important thing to be doing. I never really cared all that much about whether Briar found Zeke, because I never really cared that much about him - or believed that she did.Still, I've rated the book pretty highly, because the atmosphere carries it a lot for me, and despite my complaints about plot, it's one of those books where I almost didn't realize the issue until I was in the last 30 or so pages. So the book is a pretty firm success by that measure - it read well in the reading, and it's only in the after that I feel a little unsatisfied.
A friend recommended Boneshaker to me as a result of a specific request I'd made: I wanted to read some books that were outside my usual genres but still fell into themes I enjoy, and it couldn't have too much violence, drugs, or alcohol (because of the triggering nature of such things for me). I also hoped for something that wasn't rife with misogyny or racism or religious bigotry, because I wanted to enjoy the books, not get angry at them.As a recommendation in response to my requests, Boneshaker is very good. There is violence, particularly against zombies, but it isn't particularly graphic or disgusting. The suspense (I guess it's a little bit of a horror story?) was just enough to keep the story moving without being too much. While there is some racism, particularly against the Chinese immigrants in the walled off part of Seattle, it isn't really promoted as a positive thing, and more of a "this is the way things were in the 19th century".I found the book to be solidly enjoyable, after a rough start. It's not my favorite ever or anything (far from it), but after the difficult beginning, when things started to get moving, I found myself looking forward to reading it. The ending was very satisfying.But as for the beginning - it was a rough start, after the prologue. There were a lot of unexplained details that made me feel as though the characters were interacting in a void, and I couldn't picture them at all. It was fifty or sixty pages before we were told the age of Briar's son, and then it was only because of a statement of how long it had been since the wall to keep the Blight contained was completed. Other details like this bothered me throughout the book, because they weren't explained for some time, almost like it was obvious (and maybe it was and I was missing the clues), and then the answers were given offhandedly much later.Some things in the book were never explained, though I'm not sure if it bothers me or not. For example, there's never an explanation of what, exactly, the Blight is, or how it was that the rotters were able to invade the underground without letting the Blight in (later, it is explained that someone directed them down, but were the doors held open or something?). The characters and setting were well drawn and vivid (at least, after the rough patch in the beginning), making the book feel rich and well done. The plot and mystery elements are simple, but I didn't feel that they needed to be more than they were. Overall, it's just a solidly enjoyable book, and thus my feelings that I don't know that the unexplained parts really needed to be answered, though it bugs me a little that they weren't.Probably the best part of the book is how pretty it is. I have the paperback trade version, and it has a lovely cream-colored paper with a nice thickness to it, with a coppery-brown colored print. When I first opened and flipped through the pages, I was struck by the feeling of "sepia" it gave - rather fitting for a steampunk novel, no? The typeface was rather nice, too, especially in the top margins next to the page numbers. It was rather pleasant to read, as well as pretty.