Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Title: Boneshaker

Author: Cherie Priest

Pages: 414

Recieved From: author


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

Three words: Zombies love steampunk.

At least, I'm assuming.

In an alternate world, the Russians' gold craze during the Civil War led to one of the most catestraphic outbreaks in history: inventer Leviticus Blue is commisioned to create a machine designed to drill through Alaskan ice for precious gold, dubbed the "Boneshaker". Not only does the Boneshaker carve out the ground beneath Gold Rush era Seattle, but it releases a slow moving gas called Blight that turns it's victims into "Rotters"--better known as the zombie (even better known as The Reason I Read). A wall is built around the city to keep the Blight in, leaving whoever left inside after the evacuation as Rotter's food. Blue's widow and son, Briar Wilkes and Zeke, live less-then-modestly in the outskirts, still shunned by society and barely skirting by. Fifteen year old Zeke, increasingly unhappy with his blasted family name, decides to take a trip into the city and clear his family name. And, of course, Briar is left to go after him.

Some back story--when I received this in the mail many moons ago, I had a short conversation with myself that went as followed:

Myself: Self, are you pulling tricks on me? This isn't funny dawg.

Self: I think this is the real deal, my man.

Myself: bullshit! YOU LIE!

Self: maybe we're hallucinating...

Myself: the packaging looks legit...

Self: open it up, see what's inside.

Myself: *opens book* my God, it's real.

Self: *faints*

Myself: *faints*

And Boneshaker was everything I expected. And more.

I love the alternating narrative between Briar and Zeke. It kind of leaves something for everyong; Zeke, sixteen and a little dense in the skull, could easily be a character in a more YA centered novel, while Briar releases a heavy dose of logic that will have parents nodding their head right alone with her. Briar is undoubtedly one of the strongest female protangonists I have ever read about, one of those Mother Lions that bite and stratch to protect their kids (no matter how much dumbassery they display--more on that later). Feministe, prepare to cry your tears of joy (or sorrow, if your one of those feminste who like to complain).

The first thing readers will notice about Boneshaker is the extreme liberties Priest takes with history--namely, the timeline of the gold rush...but, as she states in the afterwords, isn't that what steampunk is about?

Priest also accomplishes what few "steampunk" authors can--make me believe in the world she's building. She doesn't just throw in an airship for posterity, she puts several in, as well as a grey prose and bumpy rides over the wall. She also has a signifigant emphasis on the gas masks (characters are constantly conciouse about their masks cause, you know, they'll die if they forget...and, for some reason, steampunk authors forget this little detail.) The characters are gems--from eager and hot-headed (with only the slightest bit of angst) Zeke, to the no-nonsense Dr. Minnericht, leader of the brewing underground society. As I've said, Briar is a very strong female character--one might compare her to Ripley from Aliens.

Another huge success in Boneshaker is the world-building--possibly one of the best examples I've ever encountered. While at it's core this book is a character-centric, mother and son story, there is no lack of atmosphere and action. I was completly glued to the pages for three days straight, and I probably would have opted for an adult diaper had my mom not stashed my Rolling Stone magazines next to the toilet. I just loved the world Priest created and I can't wait for more.

Rating: 9 out of 10--at it's center, this was always about the fact that zombies and steampunk are put together into one novel and, really, how can you go wrong?

Also: check out the website.


alana said...

I so need to read this.

Nikki @ Bookizzle said...

I agree so much! I really enjoyed Boneshaker and the world Cherie Priest created. Excellent steampunk novel - I can't wait to continue with The Clockwork Century novels next year.

Pixie said...

Great review. I bought this last night.

celi.a said...

Ha! Love your review. I am halfway through this one, and just need to make a dedicated push to the end (I can only read it in big chunks, or the zombie steampunk awesomeness might overcome me...). Great stuff.

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