Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy's husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she'll catch a train over the Rockies andif the telegram can be believedbe greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can't imagine why they're so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?
Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she'll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.
About the Author
Cherie Priest is the author of Boneshaker, which 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 the near-contemporary fantasy Fathom, and 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
By Priest, Cherie
Tor BooksCopyright © 2010 Priest, Cherie
All right reserved.
Down in the laundry room with the bloody- wet floors and the ceiling- high stacks of sheets, wraps, and blankets, Vinita Lynch was elbows- deep in a vat full of dirty pillowcases because she’d promised she’d sworn on her mother’s life that she’d find a certain windup pocket watch belonging to Private Hugh Morton before the device was plunged into a tub of simmering soapy water and surely destroyed for good.
Why the private had stashed it in a pillowcase wasn’t much of a mystery: even in an upstanding place like the Robertson Hospital, small and shiny valuables went missing from personal stashes with unsettling regularity. And him forgetting about it was no great leap either: the shot he took in the forehead had been a lucky one because he’d survived it, but it left him addled at times and this morning at breakfast had been one of those times. At the first bell announcing morning food, against the strict orders of Captain Sally he’d sat up and bolted into the mess hall, which existed only in that bullet- buffeted brain of his. In the time it took for him to be captured and redirected to his cot, where the meal would come to him, thank you very kindly, if only he’d be patient enough to receive it, the junior nursing staff had come through and stripped the bedding of all and sundry.
None of them had noticed the watch, but it would’ve been easy to miss.
So Nurse Lynch was down in the blistering hot hospital basement, dutifully fishing through laundry soiled by injured and greasy heads, running noses, and rheumy eyes in hopes that Private Hugh Morton would either be re united with the absent treasure, or would be separated from it long enough to forget all about it.
Upstairs, someone cried out, "Mercy!”
And downstairs, in the hospital basement, Vinita Lynch took a very deep breath and let it out slowly, between her teeth.
"Mercy! Mercy, come up here, please!”
Because that’s what they’d taken to calling her, through some error of hearing or paperwork, or because it was easier for a room full of bed- bound men to remember a common word than call her by her given name.
It was louder this time, and insistent, and bellowed by Captain Sally herself somewhere up on the first floor. Captain Sally sounded like she meant business; but then again, Captain Sally always meant business, and that was why she was the captain.
The nurse angled her head to cast her voice up the stairs and shouted, "Coming!” though she continued to rifle through the laundry, because something sharp had tapped against the nail of her thumb. And if she could just snare one long finger around the smooth metal plate of the watch’s back yes, that had to be it then she’d be only a moment longer. "I’m coming!” she said even more loudly, to stall for those extra seconds, even though the summons hadn’t come again.
She had it. Her fist closed around it and wrested the palmsized device, ticking and intact, up through the folds of cotton bedding and out of the vat. The watch was cool in her hand, and heavier than it appeared not an expensive piece, but one with thumb- spots worn into its finish from a lifetime of use and appreciation. "Found it,” she said to herself, and she shoved it into her apron’s pocket for temporary safekeeping.
"Mercy!” Again from upstairs, and impatient.
"I said I was coming!” she responded as she hiked the hem of her skirts and bolted up the stairs, less ladylike than swiftly, back into the hall behind the kitchen. Moving sideways, she squeezed past the orderlies, one of the doctors, and three of the elderly women who were hired to perform mending but mostly bickered amongst themselves. Her way was briefly blocked by one of the retained men who was carrying a basket full of bandages and wraps; they did a brief and awkward dance, back and forth, each trying to let the other pass, until she finally dashed by with an apology but if he replied, she didn’t hear him, because the main ward was now immediately before her.
She entered it with a breathless flourish and stood panting, squeezing at the pocket watch in her apron and trying to spot Captain Sally in the sea of supine bodies lying on cots in varying states of health and repair.
The rows ran eight cots by fifteen in this ward, which served as admittance, triage, and recovery room alike. It should’ve held only two- thirds that number, and the present crowding served to narrow the aisles to the point that they were nearly impassible, but no one was turned away. Captain Sally said that if they had to stitch them standing up and lash them to the closet walls, they’d take every Confederate boy who’d been carried off the field.
But she could make such declarations. It was her hospital, and she legally outranked everyone else in the building. The "Captain” bit was not a nickname. It was a commission from the Confederate States of America, and it had been granted because a military hospital must have a military commander, but Sally Louisa Tompkins would accept no superior, and she was too wealthy and competent to be ignored.
The din of the ward was at its ordinary hideous level; the groaning patients, creaking cot springs, and hoarse requests combining to form the usual background hum. It was not a pretty noise, and it was sometimes punctuated with vomiting or cries of pain, but it was always there, along with the ever- present scents of dirty bodies, sweat, blood, shit, the medicinal reek of ether, the yellowy sharp stink of saltpeter and spent gunpowder, and the feeble efforts of lye soap to combat it all. Mere soap, no matter how finely scented, could never scour the odors of urine, scorched flesh, and burned hair. No perfume could cleanse away the porksweet smell of rotting limbs and gangrenous flesh.
Mercy told herself that the reek of the hospital wasn’t any worse than that of the farm in Waterford, Virginia. That was a lie. It was worse than the summer when she’d gone out to the back twenty and found their bull lying with its legs in the air, its belly distended
with the bloat of rot and a crawling carpet of flies. This was worse than that because it wasn’t the decomposition of beef lying in the sun, flesh dripping away gray and mushy. This was worse because after a while the bull had faded and gone, its smell washed away by the summer rains and its remains buried by her stepfather and brother. After a while, she’d altogether forgotten where the creature had fallen and died, and it was as if it’d never happened.
But that never happened here.
Not even at the cleanest hospital in all the Confederacy, where fewer men died and more men recovered to return to the front than in any other in the North or South or even Europe. Not even in the wake of Captain Sally’s strenuous almost maddening insistence on cleanliness. Enormous pots of water boiled constantly, and mops were pushed in two- hour shifts by legions of retained men who were healed enough to help but not enough to fight. Paul Forks was one of these men. Harvey Kline was another, and
Medford Simmons a third, and Anderson Ruby a fourth; and if she knew more of their names, Mercy Lynch could’ve listed another dozen maimed and helpful souls.
They kept the floors from staining red, and helped carry the endless trays of food and medicines, tagging along in the wake of the doctors and helping the nurses manage the unruly ones who awoke afraid.
And even with the help of these men, and two dozen nurses like herself, and five doctors working around the clock, and a whole contingent of laundry and kitchen women, the smell never, ever went away.
It worked itself into the wrinkles in Mercy’s clothes and lurked in her hair. It collected under her fingernails. She carried it with her, always.
"Captain Sally?” Mercy called out, and as soon as the words were spoken, she spied the woman standing near the front door, accompanied by another woman and a man.
Sally was small and pale, with dark hair parted severely down the middle of her head and a plain black dress buttoned tightly from waist to chin. She was leaning forward to better hear the other woman speak, while the gentleman behind them shuffled back and forth on his feet, moving his gaze left to right.
"Mercy.” Captain Sally wended through the maze of cots to meet the young nurse. She had stopped shouting. "Mercy, I need a word with you. I’m very sorry, but it’s important. Would you join us?” She indicated the anxious- looking man and the stoic woman
with a New Englander’s ramrod posture.
"Who are those people?” she asked without agreeing to anything. "They have a message for you.”
Mercy didn’t want to meet the man and woman. They did not look like people with good news to pass along. "Why don’t they come inside to deliver it, then?”
Sally said, "Dearest,” and she pressed her mouth close to Mercy’s ear. "That’s Clara Barton, the Red Cross woman, and no one’ll bother her. But the fellow beside her is a Yankee.”
Mercy made a little choking sound. "What’s he doing here, then?” she asked, though she already had a very good idea, and it was horrible.
"Ain’t they got their own hospitals, hardly a hundred miles away in Washington? He doesn’t look hurt none too bad, anyhow.” She was talking too quickly.
Sally interrupted. "Mercy, you need to talk to that man, and Miss Barton.”
"That Red Cross woman, what does she want with me? I’ve already got a job nursing, and it’s right here, and I don’t want to” Sweat warmed the inside of her collar. She tugged at it, trying to give herself some air.
"Vinita.” The small woman with the big rank put her hands on Mercy’s shoulders, forcing the younger nurse to stand up straight and meet her eyes. "Take a deep breath now, like we talked about before.”
"I’m trying,” she whispered. "I don’t think I can.”
"Breathe deep now. Let it out, and take your time. Hold yourself up. And come, let’s have a talk with these people.” Her tone softened, dipping from commander to mother. "I’ll stay with you, if you like.”
"I don’t want . . . ,” she began, but she didn’t know what she wanted, so when Sally took her hand and squeezed it, she squeezed back.
"Someplace private,” the officer said. Sally nodded at Clara Barton and her ner vous companion, indicating that they should follow; and she led Mercy through the remaining rows of cots and out the back, and down a corridor swiftly urging their followers to hasten and then they were in the courtyard of what used to be Judge Robertson’s mansion. Tents peppered the yard and bustling officials came and went from flap to flap, but they ignored the nurse and her party.
Back between the trees, where the chilly, sun- dappled grass moved with shadows from the leaves overhead, Captain Sally led all three to a picnic area where the ground was cleared and a set of benches was placed for lovers, or lunches, or rest.
Mercy was still squeezing Sally’s hand, because the moment she let go, someone was going to speak.
When everyone was seated, Sally pried Mercy’s fingers off her own, then held the shaking hand and patted it gently as she said, "Miss Barton, Mr. Atwater. This is Vinita Lynch, though around here, most everyone calls her”
"Mercy,” said Mr. Atwater. He’d been good- looking once, but was almost haggard now, with dark hair and brown eyes, and a thin body that seemed on the rebound from the very cusp of starvation.
"Mrs. Lynch,” he tried again. "My name is Dorence Atwater, and I was in the camp at Andersonville for six years.” He kept it low, soft. Quiet. Not wanting anyone to hear.
He wasn’t fighting anymore, and he wasn’t in uniform, but the cadence of his speech marked him as a northern boy a real northern boy, not a border- state boy like Vinita’s husband. He didn’t have an accent that could go either way: Kentucky or Tennessee;
Virginia or Washington, D.C.; Texas or Kansas.
"Mr. Atwater,” she said, more curtly than she meant to. But all her words were clipped, and her grip on the matron’s hand was leaving crescent moons where her nails were digging deep. "That must’ve been . . . difficult.”
It was a stupid word, and she knew it. Of course the camp had been difficult; everything was difficult, wasn’t it? Marrying a border- state Yankee was difficult when her Virginia home stayed gray. Missing him for two years now was difficult, too, and folding his letters over and over again, reading them for the hundredth time, and the two hundredth time, that was difficult. Nursing the injured was difficult, and so was wondering with each new wound if it’d been inflicted by her very own spouse, or if her very own
spouse was somewhere else maybe a hundred miles away in Washington being nursed by a woman much like herself, dutifully tending her own cannon fodder lads on sagging cots.
But he wasn’t in Washington.
She knew that. She knew it because Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater were sitting on a low stone bench facing her, with serious eyes and sad news on their lips because, bless them both, they never brought any other kind.
Before either of the visitors could say anything else, Mercy nattered on again. "I’ve heard of you, both of you. Miss Barton, it’s wonderful work you’re doing on the battlefield making it safer for the lot of us, and making it easier for us to comfort the
wounded, and patch them up” She nearly spit that last part out, for her nose was beginning to fill, and her eyes were blinking, slamming open and shut. "And Mr. Atwater, you made a . . .”
Two things rampaged through her brain: the name of the man not four feet in front of her, and why she’d heard it before he ever entered the Robertson Hospital. But she couldn’t bring herself to make these two things meet, and she struggled to hold them apart, so the connection couldn’t be made.
It was futile.
She said, and every letter of every word shook in her mouth, "You made a list.”
And Clara Barton said, "My dear, we’re so very sorry.” It wasn’t quite a practiced condolence. It wasn’t smooth and polished, and for all the weariness of it, it sounded like she meant it. "But your husband, Phillip Barnaby Lynch . . . his name is on that list. He
died at the Andersonville camp for prisoners of war, nine months ago. I’m terribly, terribly sorry for your loss.”
"Then it’s true,” she burbled, not quite crying. The pressure behind her eyes was building. "It’d been so long since he sent word. Jesus, Captain Sally,” she blasphemed weakly. "It’s true.” She was still squeezing Sally Tompkins, who now ceased patting
her hand to squeeze back. "I’m so sorry, dear.” With her free hand, she brushed Mercy’s cheek.
"It’s true,” she repeated. "I thought . . . I thought it must be. It’d been so long. Almost as long as we were married, since I’d got word of him. I knew it went like that, sometimes. I knew it was hard for the boys for you boys to write from the front, and I knew the mail wasn’t all kinds of reliable. I guess I knew all that. But I was still dumb enough to hope.”
"You were newlyweds?” Clara Barton asked gently, sadly. Familiar with the sorrow, if not quite immune.
"Been married eight months,” she said. "Eight months and he went out to fight, and he was gone for two and a half years. And I stayed here, and waited. We had a home here, west of town. He was born in Kentucky, and we were going to go back there when
all this was done, and start a family.”
Suddenly she released Sally’s hand and leaped forward, making a grab for Dorence Atwater’s.
She clutched his wrists and pulled him closer. She demanded, "Did you know him? Did you talk to him? Did he give you any message for me? Anything? Anything at all?”
"Ma’am, I only saw him in passing. He was hurt real bad when they brought him in, and he didn’t last. I hope that can be some comfort to you, maybe. The camp was a terrible place, but he wasn’t there for long.”
"Not like some of them. Not like you,” she said. Every word was rounded with the congestion that clogged her throat but wouldn’t spill out into hiccups or tears, not yet.
"No, ma’am. And I’m very sorry about it, but I thought you deserved to know he won’t be coming home. They buried him in a grave outside of Plains, unmarked with a dozen others. But he didn’t suffer long.”
He slouched so that his shoulders held up his chest like a shirt on a hanger. It was as if the weight of his message were too much, and his body still too frail to carry it all. But if he didn’t carry it, nobody would.
"I’m sorry, ma’am. I wish the news were kinder.”
She released him then, and sagged back onto her own bench, into the arms of Sally Tompkins, who was ready with an embrace. Mercy let the captain hold her and she said, "No. No, but you came all this way, and you brought it to me anyway.”
Mercy Lynch closed her eyes and put her head on Sally’s shoulder.
Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater took this as their cue to leave. They left silently, walking around the side yard rather than cutting back through the hospital, toward the street and what ever transportation awaited them there.
Without opening her eyes, Mercy said, "I wish they’d never come. I wish I didn’t know.”
Sally stroked her head and told her, "Someday you’ll be glad they did. I know it’s hard to imagine, but really, it’s better knowing than wondering. False hope’s the worst kind there is.”
"It was good of them,” she agreed with a sniffle, the first that had escaped thus far. "They came here, to a Rebel hospital and everything. They didn’t have to do that. They could’ve sent a letter.”
"She was here under the cross,” Sally said. "But you’re right. It’s hard work, what they do. And you know, I don’t think anyone, even here, would’ve raised a hand against them.” She sighed, and stopped petting Mercy’s wheat- colored hair. That hair, always unruly and just too dark to call blond, was fraying out from the edges of her cap. It tangled in Sally’s fingers. "All of the boys, blue and gray alike. They all hope someone would do the same for them that someone would tell their mothers and sweethearts, should they fall on the field.”
Mercy loosed herself from Sally’s loving hold, and she stood, wiping at her eyes. They were red, and so was her nose. Her cheeks were flushed violently pink. "Could I have the afternoon, Captain Sally? Just take a little time in my bunk?”
The captain remained seated, and folded her hands across her lap. "Take as long as you need. I’ll have Paul Forks bring up your supper. And I’ll tell Anne to let you be.”
"Thank you, Captain Sally.” Mercy didn’t mind her roommate much, but she could scarcely stand the thought of explaining anything to her, not right then, while the world was still strangely hued and her throat was blocked with curdled screams.
She walked slowly back into the house- turned- hospital, keeping her gaze on the ground and watching her feet as she felt her way inside. Someone said, "Good morning, Nurse Mercy,” but she didn’t respond. She barely heard it.
Keeping one hand on the wall to guide herself, she found the first- floor ward and to the stairwell that emptied there. Now, two different words bounced about in her mind: widow and up. She struggled to ignore the first one and grasp the second. She only had to make it up, to her bunk in the attic.
"Nurse,” a man called. It sounded like, Nuss. "Nurse Mercy?” One hand still on the wall, one foot lifted to scale the first step, she paused.
"Nurse Mercy, did you find my watch?”
For an instant she was perplexed; she regarded the speaker, and saw Private Hugh Morton, his battered but optimistic face upturned. "You said you’d find my watch. It didn’t get all washed up, did it?”
"No,” she breathed. "It didn’t.”
He smiled so hard, his face swelled into a circle. He sat up on the cot and shook his head, then rubbed at one eye with the inside of his arm. "You found it?”
"I did, yes. Here,” she said, fumbling with the pocket on her apron. She pulled it out and held it for a moment, watching the sunlight from the windows give the brass a dull gleam. "I found it. It’s fine.”
His skinny hand stretched out and she dropped the watch into the waiting palm. He turned it over and over, and asked, "Nobody washed it or nothing?”
"Nobody washed it or nothing. It’s still ticking just fine.”
"Thank you, Nurse Mercy!”
"You’re welcome,” she mumbled, though she’d already turned back to the stairs, scaling them one slow brick at a time as if her feet were made of lead.
Excerpted from Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
Copyright © 2010 by Cherie Priest
All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Dreadnought by Priest, Cherie Copyright © 2010 by Priest, Cherie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Dreadnought" is, at it's core, the story of Mercy Lynch and her journey from a field hospital in an alternate-history Civil War to her far-off estranged father dying in Seattle, and the adventures she had along the way. (Which include the Steampunk standard airships and massive battle machines, along with other stuff.) So in essence, this is a travel adventure. Now, I've read a number of travel adventures, and except for a small few (The Lord of the Rings comes to mind), they've been pretty lousy. That's because they're a collection of nearly unrelated episodes, which works all right for a television show, but not generally for a novel. Priest avoids that gimmick, and actually gives us an exciting journey. The protagonist, Mercy Lynch, a confederate nurse, is smart, capable, and fun to learn about. The war machines and people she meets are all compelling and interesting. Her goal, reaching the west coast, is neither a Union or Confederate goal, and so who the "bad guys" are keeps changing, which is an neat twist. Much of the difficulty I had with Priest's earlier novel in this world, "Boneshaker", which basically amounted to confusion in the chaos of battle, is much reduced in "Dreadnought". When the action gets heaviest, it's still a bit difficult to follow the action, but the less chaotic stuff is much better this time around. This was a fun read, and if you're at all interested in the growing Steampunk mini-genre, you should give this book a shot. 4.5 of 5 stars.
At a Richmond hospital nurses like Mercy Lynch do everything from patient care to scrubbing blood from laundry. It is in the laundry room; Clara Barton finds Mercy and informs her that her husband died in a POW camp. Mentally and physically exhausted, Mercy receives a telegram from the Pacific Northwest informing her that her father was recently injured and dying. He wants to see her one last time. Though estranged, Mercy decides to take the dangerous trip across the continent to Seattle in the Washington territories. The trek by rail and air across the war ravaged Confederacy to St. Louis is dangerous and the dirigible she rides crash lands after shots punctured it. In St. Louis, Mercy boards the steam engine Dreadnaught heading to Tacoma. On the Union train, Mercy meets Texas Ranger Horatio Korman who has an undercover mission he conceals form her. The trip West of the Mississippi proves dangerous though most of the Civil War battles are on the other side of the mighty river. Confederate soldiers attack, which makes Mercy wonder what cargo they carry in the forbidden cars. Worse a Mexican zombie unit assaults the train. Used to death but not the undead, Mercy may be weary, but the intrepid female vows soldiers, rangers, zombies and other ilk will not prevent her from achieving her personal quest. The sequel to Boneshaker, Dreadnaught is a super steampunk Civil War fantasy. The courageous bone tired Mercy, who overcomes her PTSD, keeps the exciting story line focused. However, it is Cherie Priest's grim dark 1860s Americana landscape including the aptly named train that makes for a great harrowing historical thriller. Harriet Klausner
One of my first forays into steampunk. Took about 100 pages to get rolling but by the end, I was really enjoying it, enough to search out the sequel.
Dreadnought is the third book in the Clockwork Century series by Priest. All of the books are separate adventures in the sames universe, so they can be read alone or together. There are five total books planned for this series with the fourth, Ganymede, being released in fall of 2011 and the fifth, Inexplicable, being release in the fall of 2012. This was another great addition to this series; I love the world Priest has created and it was a great read.Mercy is a nurse on the Confederate side of the war and has just found out that her husband (who fought on the Union side of the war) has died in a POW camp. Immediately after learning this she receives notice that her father (whom she has not seen since she was a little girl) is very sick, is in Seattle, and is requesting her presence. Mercy decides to make the cross-country trip to the west to see her father knowing it will be a long journey. Little does she know her journey will take her through the air by dirigible, through the front-lines of the war, and onto a fabulously dangerous ride on the train Dreadnought.This story is about Mercy's journey and the adventure she goes through to get where she's going. Mercy (like all of Priest's protagonists) is a tough as nails woman who does what she needs to do to get through life. She uses her nursing skills to help those in need and to get herself through tough times. She is a very capable, lovable, and honest protagonist. The characters Mercy meets in her travels are all very human, complex, and interesting to read about. I am always thrilled with how well Priest is able to give life to even small side characters.The world of the Clockwork Century is amazing; you have a world stuck in Civil War long beyond what actually happened, strange steampunk devices created to make life easier (and more dangerous), and a strange zombie-like disease stalking the coasts of the country. It is creative, believable, and absolutely engaging. Priest's writing style is just all around wonderful; she is an excellent writer. She balances out everything so well; description, action, world-building...every book I have read of hers so far is a joy to read and this book follows that trend. There is a ton of action scenes in this book and they are interesting action scenes; taking place on crashing dirigibles, speeding war trains, etc. This book ties in more with Boneshaker than Clementine (the 2nd book in the series did). We get to see some of the original characters from Boneshaker interacting with Mercy towards the end of the book and the mysterious things that Mercy uncovers on her journey west also coincide with some of the incidents that happened in Boneshaker. My only complaint with this book is that I thought Mercy's journey was a bit more drawn out than it needed to be and there were a couple parts of the book that got a bit slow for me. Because of this I liked both Boneshaker and Clementine slightly more than this book; still this book was a wonderful read.Overall another great addition to this series. Priest is definitely a top-notch writer and I look forward to reading her next two books in this series; Ganymede and Inexplicable. Priest is also starting an urban fantasy series next year; the first book in it is Bloodshot and I will definitely be picking that book up as well.
Mercy Lynch, a nurse in a war hospital in Richmond, not only has to deal with the death of her husband but is also asked to come and see her dying father in Seattle, a man she has not seen since childhood. Crossing the war-torn country is of course not easy and becomes yet another one of Priest's brilliantly written and imagined adventures. Mercy wants to get to her dad by any means and so boards a train that will take her into the biggest adventure of her life. And rebels attacking the train are only the smallest problem.... The third novel in the Clockwork Century series is not only as good as the first two - it is a good deal better. Airships, steam trains, zombies and the never ending war, a female lead who can show any man a thing or two about survival, spies, soldiers and mysterious freights - there is absolutely nothing more you could possibly expect of a big fat steampunk novel. Written in a fast pace, gripping you and drawing you into the world of Mercy, with well thought through facts and an ending that connects this third book to the beginning. Fantastic read. I just hope this is not the end of the Clockwork Century.
I stayed up an hour past my bedtime to finish this, and it was totally worth it. :) I loved it! After reading "Boneshaker" I had taken on the task of reading all of Priest's other work that I could find, and this tops them all. The focus is tight, following Nurse Mercy Lynch as she's told that her husband died in a Civil War POW camp and that her father is dying and wants to see her in Seattle. She undertakes the epic journey from Virginia to Washington, through battles, airship crashes, raiders, suspicious travel companions (I'm still wondering what Ms. Clay's motiviations were), off track Mexican forces, train races, and soldiers addicted to the sap that we saw being refined in "Boneshaker". I'd just read "Clementine" (a novella) before this one and when I got to the halfway point of this book I was happy to see that there was a lot more story still left to go. The tension was kept cranked up during the action sequences, but there were enough breathers when her journey was going well to keep the pacing working well. The knowledge transfer was handled well, I never felt like I was getting a knowledge dump, but I found out details as Mercy did. I've read Lousia May Alcott's writings on serving in a Civil War hospital and Priest acknowledges the inspiration for that part of the story and applies it masterfully. Mercy's nursing skills are often called on, but her intelligence, physical fitness, and ability to fire a gun also play big parts.
This is how to write a non-direct book sequel.I read Boneshaker a year ago. It set the background for Priest's Clockwork Century world: A United States where the Civil War has gone on for decades, resulting in advanced steampunk technology. There's also the small matter of a massive drill digging a hole in Seattle that released volcanic gases that turns people into zombies.Dreadnought begins on the east coast. Mercy Lynch is a nurse in a Confederate war hospital when she learns her husband died in a POW camp. To complicate things further, she gets a telegram informing her that her estranged father is near death in Seattle. With no reason to stay in Virginia, she sets off on a cross-country journey complicated by skirmishes and the looming presence of a massive Union train known as the Dreadnought. When the Dreadnought ends up being the safest passage west, Mercy buys the ticket, only to find there is much more going on. The Dreadnought isn't a safe ride--it's a moving target, with several rail cars of particular interest to rival parties. Mercy's going to need all of her know-how and a steady aim if she'll make it off alive.Mercy is a fantastic heroine, all smart and spunky. I have a fondness for healer characters, and it was refreshing to see a nurse in a lead role. It really brought a new perspective to an alternative history book. This ends up as a gripping action book, with steampunk vehicles such as the Dreadnought becoming characters in their own right. There were a few plot elements that were left dangling, but overall this is a tight and very well-written book, and one I am definitely keeping on my shelf.
An excellently exciting "road" novel in an alternative, steampunk America. I look forward to extensions of the story, because it ends on an emotional cliffhanger.
What a fun book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ms. Priest's rendition of Civil War events. The story follows a young nurse from the war-torn South to the "quiet" West. Many adventures befall her on her journey and it is definitely one exciting ride. I really enjoyed Priest's writing style and the fabulous tale that she wove.
In my opinion, Cherie Priest is the reigning queen author of Steampunk novels, and Dreadnought is a solid example of why. It's hard to explain Steampunk to someone who doesn't already know what it is - I mean, you can bring Verne into the picture and then try to bring the word "mash-up" into the mix (citing Glee for those who tend to not read much) and then finish off with a flourish of "something like that" and hope that they get it... or you can just hand over a copy of Boneshaker and tell them to read it.Sure, the historical aspects have been twisted and pulled a bit - but these aren't historical fiction novels (unless your world actually does contain zombies). The thing about Cherie Priest's books are - even though you know they aren't historically accurate, the manner in which she writes them makes you doubt that more than once as you are reading the story. In Dreadnought, there are many scenes in which Mercy is treating soldiers, in which relationships are being developed between the North and the South on the Dreadnought itself (which alone is.. man, so awesome to read about), and it seems plausible that these things did, in fact, happen. Another thing that helps is the way that Priest implements things such as dirigibles and zombies without batting an eye at how unusual they really are. Everything is incorporated into the story in such a matter-of-fact way that if you, the reader, seems to bat an eyelash at it, you would be the one out of the ordinary.Mercy Lynch's journey from Virginia to Seattle, Washington is a fun, romping good time. There's adventure, there's flying vehicles, there's massive trains and there's zombies... and it all makes perfect sense. Boneshaker and Dreadnought are two shining examples of just how great Steampunk books can be, and I cannot wait to see what Cherie Priest comes up with next.
Mercy Lynch works as a nurse at Robertson Hospital, where they heal more patients than they loose. She will will patch up anyone put in front of her, whether Confederate, Yankee, or Reb. In rapid succession Mercy finds out that her husband died in the war, and her father, who she hasn't seen since she was girl, is out west in Tacoma on his deathbed. Suddenly free of ties, she decides to make the dangerous trek across the continent to reach her father. On her way, she finds herself aboard a train pulled by the Dreadnought, a heavily armored terror of a steam engine, which soon meets harsh resistance from rebels and pirates and something even more dangerous, something inhuman. Mercy can't help but wonder why the train it meeting such resistance, and begins to unravel the mystery of the second and last rail cars with their secret cargo.I loved Boneshaker, Priest's foray into steampunk, and Dreadnought is an excellent companion novel and fills you in on what some of the characters you loved from the first book are now up to. The book definitely picked up more steam, as the elements of espionage and mystery entered into the story, at which point I didn't want to put it down. Priest does steampunk right, presenting a torqued view of history and a fun ride through an imagined wild west.
Having come to know Cherie Priest first (through a convention) and the books she writes as a result of thinking "this is a wonderful person", it's quite possible that I was pre-destined to like this book as much as I enjoyed the previous book of hers read, Boneshaker. That said, Dreadnought is not the same book, but is just the same level of fascinating read. While last year's book was set in a small geographic area and stressed character and rules of the world over action (while still including the latter very much), Dreadnought covers nearly half of the USA geographically (as the heroine rushes to the side of her dying father) as a plenitude of dangers attempt to block her travels. This might sound a bit patronizing, but isn't intended to: Priest writes the best action scenes I've ever seen from a female author, bar none. In order to qualify that statement, I'll further say that this is among some of the very best action-based narrative I've ever read, including Desmond Bagley and Ian Flemming. It's often thought that woman either can't or don't write action scenes, but this is bumf; it's just more 'manly' to have people zipping around and shooting at each other, that's all.Strong female characters with Father Issues seem to be recurring themes of Ms Priest's, and this novel is the same, with the protagonist being both a young war-widow and her father becoming estranged from the family when she was quite young; her previous novel having similar aspects to it. This is where the parallels end, however, and we have an entirely different sort of woman to root for in Dreadnought: one who must learn to act, to trust her instinct, and to take chances far in excess than she might have even imagined before. Previously a nurse acting as part of a team, in many ways now she must lead and directly influence the decisions of others.An exceedingly wonderful book, filled with rich detail, setting, and characterization. An action-based plot to keep one interested, and train-based technology that I happen to have a fascination for. Bits of humour here and there, some zombies, plus some Civil War politics that I'd never quite got a handle on before now.This is a book that's good for just about anyone, but especially for a young woman who might be looking for a role model of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and down-right solid moral code.WARNING: some language, but no more that you'll hear standing around a 7-11 for about twenty minutes, or watching the occasional TV show after 9:00 pm.
Vinita "Mercy" Swakhammer Lynch is a Confederate nurse 20 years into the Civil War. Shortly after learning of her Yankee husband's death she receives a letter from the Seattle Sheriff telling her her daddy is sick and asking for her. Mercy hasn't seen her dad since he packed up and left when she was a little girl, but she decides to make the cross-country trek to see him, soon getting caught up in adventure and mystery. What is the drug the men call "sap" and what are it's ultimate effects? How did a large group of Mexicans end up in Utah and are they really eating people? What is in the mystery cars on the train that require a Yankee regiment and the most dreaded Yankee war engine in the country to guard them?I've never really read steampunk before, unless you count Verne and Wells, so when I learned of a first-come, first-served contest by TOR to get a copy, I entered, knowing almost nothing about it other than "steampunk". I was a bit disappointed, therefore, when I discovered it was also an alternate history and zombie novel; two "genres" that have never been favorites. Zombies in particular give me pause after what they did to Jane Austen. However, I ended up pleasantly surprised.Though the beginning (100-150 pages) dragged a bit for my tastes, once Mercy was on the train I was captivated. The action was perfectly paced and the mystery given just enough build; and while the book certainly subscribes to a variety of genres, all are done in a way that the book never really feels like a zombie-book, or an alternate history, or even steampunk. Dreadnought is about Mercy Lynch and her journey with the plot devices being secondary.It turns out, when done well, I do like all these genres. I will certainly be seeking out other Cherie Priest novels in the future.
I've said before that I am lousy at reviews. I find it difficult to zero in on specifics in a book. I blame that completely on my lack of attention in early schooling.That said, I did want to write a few words on Cherie Priest's Dreadnought. It follows after Priest's earlier work, Boneshaker, but doesn't require a reader to know that novel first. I went into it enjoying the old-time atmosphere, the never ending activity in the Robertson Hospital that the protagonist, Mercy Lynch works as a nurse at. She barely has time to recover from her long work shift when she receives two pieces of painful news; only one of which will send her on a cross-country journey to Tacoma, Wa. The journey will take her through the war-torn south, to the west, and put her smack dab into the middle of several sets of intrigues.I liked Mercy, and her straightforward mannerisms and speech. She is not a prim fragile woman, rather she is a tough woman, ready and able to take command if she has to.The book's first half is well written, but, where the Dreadnought and the rival Reb train are on what seems to be a collision course, the second half seems to have lacked the use of a good editor. Maybe it's just me, but a line like this one:"...Everyone kept one ear peeled for the sound of another whistle splitting the icy air."Just makes me wonder about ears being peeled. "Keep your eyes peeled" is a generally accepted thing to say, but I've never heard that about ears.The scene I had trouble with where the train is in utter darkness. The writer describes the scene through everybody - all of them, without using Mercy as the viewpoint to the tense atmosphere in the train. It makes it harder for me as a reader to feel that tension, when it isn't made personal.As well, the ending left me waiting for exposition fairy to stop talking through the previous book's characters, and let Mercy ask questions. I was treated to 'Welcome to hell! On your journey, we will be going through ...," type of lines. The text worked much better when it was using Mercy's POV, rather than the smiling and cute antics of her host and hostess.I was also confused just how off course the Mexican soldiers had gotten. I think I needed a map of how the world Mercy and the other characters occupied in order to ground myself better.Otherwise, I enjoyed the book. My attention was kept, and the characters, for the most part intrigued me.
Dreadnought is the third book in the Clockwork Century series, a steampunk alternate history world in which (for starters) the US Civil War has dragged on for decades. While it does take place after the events in Boneshaker and Clementine, it is unnecessary to have read the previous books to understand and enjoy this one.Mercy Lynch, a nurse at a Confederate hospital in Virginia, receives two pieces of bad news in one day. The first informs her that her husband, a soldier, is dead. The second informs her that her father is dying, and she decides to take the long trip by dirigible and train from Virginia to Washington in hopes that she might see him before he goes. The trip turns out to be a little more exciting than Mercy anticipates.Priest is a phenomenal author. Her books even induce me to read about the fictional creature I dislike the most (zombies) and while there were a few passages I could have lived without, the violence isn't gratuitous. Mercy is a great character and I hope Priest writes about her again, as well as the other characters she introduced along the way.I wasn't thrilled with the end of the book - it was abrupt and left hanging questions that had been asked from the very beginning - but the point of the story is the journey, not the destination.
The second book in Cherie Priest's alternative history/Steampunk/zombie series not only does not disappoint, but carries plot, setting, and character to new and fascinating levels. Readers of "Boneshaker" who are piqued that the intriguing and sympathetic characters from that book aren't here, take heart. Priest demands our emotional involvement from page one, and this book satisfies.
Mercy Lynch is a nurse - and now officially a war widow. The timely arrival of a telegram summoning her to the bedside of a father she thought long dead sends Mercy the length of the war-torn United States. Her adventures along the way include an ill-fated dirgible-ride, numerous applications of her nursing skills, and yes, zombies.Mercy is occasionally a bit too unflappable, but those with heroic aspirations could do far worse for a role model. Page-turning, nail-biting adventure.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)So it looks like the backlash against steampunk has finally begun in the last year or two; and to all the haters, all I can say is, "Screw you!" A science-fiction subgenre 150 years in the making, turns out that the punk-influenced genre writers of the 1980s and early '90s found a lot to admire in the old gear-and-steam days of the Victorian Age, especially when a recent reinvestigation into history in those years revealed that humanity came very close to actually inventing computers in the mid-1800s, only that society lacked transistors so couldn't get the machine pieces small enough to do anything practical. And so did these writers combine the finery found in actual 19th-century stories by Jules Verne and HG Wells with a modern sensibility and a "what if" sense of whimsy, producing stories in which giant brass-covered mechanical armed spiders save the day in the Crimean War; and so has this concept grown so explosively fast in popularity in the last twenty years, there are those out there who are actually kind of sick of it by now, and wish that the goggled girls in corsets and top hats would just stay home from this year's local sci-fi convention.But shame on you if you feel this way, I say; because just as others are suckers for moody serial-killer stories, so am I a slavish fan of fanciful Victoriana, and can eat such stuff up with a spoon every day of the week and still want more come Sunday dinner. And man, it doesn't get much better these days than with the work of Cherie Priest, the Seattle-based genre veteran who finally hit major paydirt last year with the nearly perfect Boneshaker (one of my favorite books of the year in 2009, and also one of this year's Hugo nominees for Best Novel), an endlessly inventive book that combines the usual steampunk tropes with a zombie story, a post-apocalyptic one, a first-person-shooter videogame and a John Carpenter movie. Merely part one of an entire coming alt-history series called the "Clockwork Century," through luck and work Priest has gone out and attracted a passionate group of fans, through things like a lively blog and her fangirl love of dressing up for LARP photoshoots; and so has a salivating group of readers been impatiently waiting for volume two of the series, this fall's Dreadnought, making it in good "convention guest of honor" style almost critic-proof, in that it'll be selling well no matter what people like me have to say about it.And indeed, the news is mixed today when it comes to the new book; because as I'm sure even Priest herself knows, when you start a series like this with a title that is so endlessly clever, it's hard to sustain that cleverness through the entire series, with this second story by its very nature being a bit of a letdown just from the aspect of pure premise. See, the first book is about a mad scientist in Seattle who invents a machine for the Russians that can burrow through ice and mine gold up in Alaska, but that causes an earthquake and rupture in Seattle's underbelly when he tries testing it; and this just happens to release a toxic underground gas that turns people into flesh-eating zombies, which the resource-poor territorial government of the Pacific Northwest doesn't know how to deal with, other than to build a giant 200-foot-high wall around the city limits. So now there's an entire basement population of normal humans who live in sealed-off tunnels there -- sometimes to turn this poisonous gas into a slightly less lethal powder that's become the new opium among drug-addicted Civil War soldiers, and sometimes simply because these people are radical libertarians and want to live someplace where the government literally can't tell them what to do; and so do these people fight with each other, fight against the still-alive mad
Whether you¿re familiar with steampunk or not, this is an author who represents it so well, I have no problem recommending her novels as an introduction to this sub-genre of science fiction. The unique aspect, for me at least, with these novels is the horror element. Who thought zombies could work so well in an alternative history novel? Well, it does! Boneshaker and Dreadnought are books 1 and 3 respectively in the Clockwork Century stories. Unfortunately, the second Clementine, a short novel, is only available as an eBook as far as I can tell. The books don¿t need to be read in order, although I recommend reading Boneshaker first to help set the tone, and offer a better understanding of the Clockwork Century. What struck me about the writing and stories is how quickly I became involved, especially with Boneshaker. The strength of this novel is its characters and the setting. Dreadnought is a different read. If you can refrain from trying to compare the two, and read each, and judge each, singularly, then they are equally excellent reads. Despite being set in the same century and having characters appearing in both, they are as unique, and similar as siblings ¿ not twins. There is no cookie cutter formula used here to develop this series of novels. I love the fact that the author has no fear in giving her characters and their stories a quality unique to each. Another love was that each book has a female protagonist that is not stereotypical and has strengths and faults that make them easy to like. My only gripe may be that the supporting characters in Boneshaker had a stronger presence and more impact on the reader than in Dreadnought. I think this is because the author told the story in Boneshaker from the point of view of two people and Dreadnought from only one person. This would affect the development of the story and its characters as it all has to be told in a way that is more limiting. However, it¿s still successful. It took no more than two days to read each book. And both times I was up to the wee hours of the morning finishing them because I couldn¿t put them down. In fact, they were such fun and great reads, I am going to find it nearly impossible to wait until September when Ganymede is released. These books are adult fiction, but would be fine for older teenagers. There is no heavy romance, but there is violence as there is a horror element in each. Not too gory, and never gratuitous. Whether you are a steampunk fan or not, these books are worth a spot on your shelves or eReader. Definitely.
Best book of the series so far! Dreadnought is a hell of a ride. Mercy Lynch, a Confederate nurse and widow to a Union soldier, is a wonderful character with depth and strength that made me love her from the beginning. She sets off across the war-torn country on a quest to find her father, far off in the poisoned city of Seattle, and finds a whole other adventure she didn't expect. Priest does a wonderful job of showing both the horror and complexity of war and the people caught up in it. The action will keep you reading long after your bed time.
Much more interesting plot than boneshaker