Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Boneshaker

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker is a zombie steampunk novel.  Yes, zombies and steampunk together in one neatly packaged book.  As both zombies and steampunk are burgeoning subgenres at the moment, Boneshaker’s release in September was met with much appreciation.  It has since been nominate for several awards, including the Nebula.

The book is set in Seattle during the Civil War.  Now, most steampunk is alternative history, and Priest has taken advantage of that to drag the war into its fifteenth year.  So, take what you know of American and world history to 1860, and then throw everything pas that out the window.  I was happy to see that the main reason for the extension of the Civil War was the involvement of Great Britain, sideing with the CSA, and enabling the CSA to break the USA’s blockade on southern ports.  This history aficionado in me is satisfied.
The premise of the book is during the Alaskan (Yukon) gold rush, Russia held a competition for engineers to build a drill that could move through permafrost and ice.  The winner of the contest, one Dr. Leviticus Blue, lived in Seattle.  To prove the drill worked, he turned it on and dug a tunnel through downtown Seattle, and opening a vain of blue gas to pour into the city.  The blue gas, while heavy and slow moving, turns people into zombies (or rotters, as they are called in the book).  In terror, and without support from the national government due to the war, the people of Seattle evacuate the main part of the city and build a huge stone wall around it too contain the heavy gas.  Fifteen years later, Dr. Blue’s widow and son are living in the Outskirts, just barely eking out an existence in an already harsh environment made more precarious by other survivor’s prejudice against them.  Briar and her son Ezekiel use her maiden name Wilkes in a vain attempt to pursue a normal life.  In frustration, Zeke returns to the walled off city in attempt to find evidence to clear his father’s name.  Briar soon chases after, intent on getting her son out alive.

The book is highly a highly entertaining adventure yarn that keeps moving right up to the end.  My one real complaint about the book is that there isn’t a heavy dose of character development: the book simply moves to fast for the main characters to do anything but hang on for dear life.  Other than that, I found it to be well written on all levels, including plot development and twists.  Well worth the read.

Also worth mentioning is the release of a related book, Clementine, on May 30, 2010.  According to the back panel blurb, we shall see at least one minor character from Boneshaker step up into a starring role in it.


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