Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Just finished reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest which is my (only just) October submission for Worlds Without End, Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge.  I loved this book.  It’s a seriously entertaining romping, steampunk adventure.  The main protagonists are a mother and son and we watch as they go in circles around each other in an almost despairingly frustrating fashion which is both fast moving and really compelling to read.

So, Briar and Zeke, mother and son.  They live in a less than comfortable condition and appear to be virtual outcasts.  Blair’s husband, now passed away apparently, was an inventor.  His last invention however was responsible for almost wiping out the city of Seattle.  A gold mining drill, built to dig through hundreds of feet of snow was set to test under the streets of Seattle causing massive destruction and mayhem leaving not only the collapse of many streets but the release of a noxious gas which kills and ultimately turns people into zombies – rotters as they’re now called.  In order to survive in the wake of this catastrophe the survivors built a massive wall around the perimeter of the blighted part of the city, not only to contain the zombies but also to prevent the spread of the gas which is too dense to breach the wall.

As you can imagine Briar and Zeke are not terribly popular.   Not only was Briar’s husband responsible for mass devastation but on the back of this Briar’s father caused further uproar when he returned to the doomed part of town to release the prisoners from jail before they could also be turned into the undead.  And, even though these events took place years ago bitter feelings still exist towards the two.  In an attempt to try and clear his father’s name Zeke, now a fairly headstrong teenager, decides to return to the blighted part of the city to find evidence.  And his mother returns to the same zone to try and find her son!  And so we have this dual tale where they both seem to circle each other during their individual adventures.

The blighted city is home not only to rotters.  Some people remained behind after the blight events took place and eke out a living in tunnels underground and boarded up places above.  Ways of traversing the city have been discovered and a number of rival factions exist.  It’s a dangerous place to live.  Of course there’s the ever present danger that the rotters present, not to mention the toxic gas that is becoming more concentrated by the year but one man in particular seems to be gaining a name and a reputation for himself and Briar and Zeke are about to come to his attention.

The setting is easy to imagine.  We have a sort of 1800s Seattle with a difference.  The author readily admits that she’s altered landmarks and historical events to fit in with the novel and after all if you’re reading about western type cowboys (and girls) flying around in dirigibles toting strange and weirdly fuelled weapons and fleeing from zombies then your imagination can certainly accommodate a few changes to history!

On top of this we have a number of strange and eccentric characters who we meet along the way, not to mention Briar is a great protagonist to read about.  There’s always an unknown element about the people who Briar and Zeke meet and whether or not they can really be trusted or whether they are acting out of ulterior motives.  I loved Lucy (no pun intended) and Princess not to mention Cly and Swakhammer and will gladly return to find out what eventually happened to them.

I also thought that using the different elements of gaining entry to the blighted city was interesting – Zeke using the tunnels and Briar using airship. It helped to give you a fuller picture of the city and was almost like a reflection of how the survivors lived within it’s confines – nobody lives on terra firma any more – you’re either under or over – and everyone wears masks.

I suppose if I had any criticisms at all they would probably relate to Zeke who at first I found a tiny little bit annoying.  He just seemed to trust people too easily and willing follow them, even when he had a bad feeling about it.  Of course he is still fairly young and I don’t think he ever expected the blighted city to be quite as bad as it actually was.  He was born after the catastrophe and so wouldn’t remember any of the former events that took place so I guess I forgave him eventually.  And, I suppose It must have been such a shock when he finally arrived not to mention the reality of how daunting his task truly was finally hitting home.

On the whole I found this a really enjoyable read.  I loved the pacing.   There was always something new and entertaining and I love the steampunk/horror/zombie fusion aspect.

I will definitely read the next in the series to find out what decisions Briar and Zeke make next.

I’m also submitting this for my Stainless Steel Droppings RIP event.  Check it out here.

11 Responses to “Boneshaker by Cherie Priest”

  1. Carl V. Anderson

    So happy you enjoyed this one. I always find the results of reviews of this book to be on one extreme or the other. I personally loved it and enjoyed the second one in the series (or really the third, Clementine is the second and had limited release). I have the two most recent books on my shelf plus a new one comes out in November. Yet another series I need to catch up on.

    This is steampunk done well, in my opinion.

    • lynnsbooks

      It was great – I literally read it over the past two nights! (so glad it was good otherwise I think I would have missed the deadline for WoGF!).

      I hadn’t realised you read this one – you must have read it a while ago otherwise I would have definitely seen your review! I must go and check out your review (you did review it right?)

      I noticed some negative comments about this one but I really loved it. I think I was probably put off reading for a good while for some strange reason but I got into it immediately! And, it’s just so well done. It doesn’t rely on some sort of romance and I can’t say there’s a major plot – but it’s just a really good adventure with a difference.

      Definitely steampunk well done.

      Lynn 😀

      • Carl V. Anderson

        Thanks for commenting on my review, it was fun to revisit it. Dreadnought is great, and does a nice job of referencing this ever so slightly while being entirely its own story. It focuses on one main character and she is great.

  2. Lynn E. O'Connacht

    I enjoyed this one so much and I’m looking forward to whenever I get a chance to read Fiddlehead! There’s such a wonderful sense of place in the series. ^_^

    I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this too. I loved the dynamics between Briar and Zeke in this book. (I think I do prefer both Dreadnought and Ganymede, though.)

    • Carl V. Anderson

      I thought Dreadnought was great. Haven’t read Ganymede or The Inexplicables yet though they are on my shelf.

      • Lynn E. O'Connacht

        I hope you’ll get a chance to read them soon! Ganymede is gorgeous and The Inexplicables starts tying up some of the threads from all the previous books into a single strand, if I remember.

  3. Two Dudes in an Attic

    I need to read this, mostly because I want to see Seattle overrun by zombies. I would prefer contemporary Seattle, but will take what I can get.

  4. Carl V. Anderson

    You should give this short story a try. It is a standalone set in the Clockwork Century universe. I enjoyed it, reviewed it for SF Signal this past summer.

  5. jdbookworm

    You’ve really made me want to read this now!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, you should. It’s a great action packed little adventure. Plus zombies and dirigibles – what’s not to love! Get on it.
      Lynn 😀

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