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Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Steampunk, Historical Fiction, Zombies
Trade Paperback (TOR, 416 pages, $15.99)
ISBN# 0765318415
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.

Author Site: www.cheriepriest.com

Pretty good, IF its plot elements are EXACTLY what you're looking for. (4 stars)

Sixteen years ago, Briar Wilkes, was the much-younger bride of inventor Leviticus Blue. While the Civil War was being waged on America's eastern coast gold was what ruled the west. When Dr. Blue built his Incredible Bone-shaking Drill Engine at the behest of Russian prospectors Briar had no clue what her husband was really up to. Just barely pregnant when the Boneshaker mysteriously tore apart the underside of Seattle she and the rest of the town were forced to leave their homes to avoid the poisonous Blight gas that began seeping from the ground. Eventually a wall was built around the city to contain not only the Blight, but the zombies created by the noxious gas.

Now a teenager, Ezekiel Wilkes may not bear his reviled father's name but he faces troubles none-the-less. Set on proving that his father wasn't the evil, mad scientist people believe him to be he has set out on a fool's errand. It's not hard to get onto the other side of the wall, it's the surviving on the other side that's hard. If the zombies, known as Rotters, don't get you and the Blight doesn't catch you with your mask off you're likely to run into Doornails, folks who never left the city. Resilient and of questionable motivations the Doornails survive through resourcefulness and the ingenuity of one really shady character.

If Zeke can survive long enough to find evidence about his father maybe things will change but his mother knows the truth. Setting out on a dangerous adventure to bring her son home she'll risk it all to set the record straight for her boy.

I'm a huge fan of any story where a parent risks themself to save their kids. I'm also a bit of a sucker for stories set in the Pacific Northwest, even if the author has taken some artistic liberties. If either of those things interest you as a reader this is a book worth looking into. But first and foremost I think this is a great example of the steampunk genre even if it's not set in any sort of pseudo-Victorian-England setting. This is the American west version and if you love airships, clockwork weaponry and that sort of tech Boneshaker delivers in spades. Then there's the element of horror thrown in with the Rotters. They're zombies of the creepiest caliber and I caught myself holding my breath more than once as they chased the characters around the walled city.

Although I really liked the idea of Briar being the tough mama who goes after her ignorant teenaged son, Briar's personality was a little dry. Why she never really told her son much about his father was never really explained to my satisfaction and I admit to being left wondering why she kept him in the dark so long. Zeke's wandering off on his misguided adventure into zombie land seemed almost to be his mother's fault. Aside from that I really enjoyed the mystery and the questions that were often left unanswered for a very long time ate at me. Both Zeke and Briar meet some pretty interesting figures in their adventures, some more entertaining than others. For my personal tastes there were a few too many to keep track of at times but for the most part those more elaborated upon were useful in peppering the story with humor and wonder.

In summation Boneshaker is a good book but not for every audience. It can be really draggy at times. I think those who are looking for a steampunk world with a less fluffy Victoriana vibe, more wild westy flavor and plenty of nail-biting running-from-the-zombies scenarios will enjoy it for the most part. If you want something a bit more civilized and romantic (there's definitely no romance here) you may want to look for another book.

Other Reviews:

Leah Raeder @ Words Fail Me

Notes: I bought this book at an online bookstore.

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