Written by: Cherie Priest
Genre: Steampunk/Alternate History
Pages: 416 (Trade Paperback)
The premise: in order to truly appreciate what Priest is doing, I'm giving you not one, but TWO premises. The first is the overall premise for the series/world-building, and the second is the actual premise of the book. I think that's fair.
The Clockwork Century: explanation plucked from Subterranean Press's website, the preface for Priest's short story, also set in the Clockwork Century universe, Tanglefoot.: Stonewall Jackson survived Chancellorsville. England broke the Union’s naval blockade, and formally recognized the Confederate States of America. Atlanta never burned.
It is 1880. The American Civil War has raged for nearly two decades, driving technology in strange and terrible directions. Combat dirigibles skulk across the sky and armored vehicles crawl along the land. Military scientists twist the laws of man and nature, and barter their souls for weapons powered by light, fire, and steam.
But life struggles forward for soldiers and ordinary citizens. The fractured nation is dotted with stricken towns and epic scenes of devastation–some manmade, and some more mysterious. In the western territories cities are swallowed by gas and walled away to rot while the frontiers are strip-mined for resources. On the borders between North and South, spies scour and scheme, and smugglers build economies more stable than their governments.
This is the Clockwork Century.
It is dark here, and different.
Boneshaker's Premise: Rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike encouraged the Russians to seek a machine that could actually drill for it. Leviticus Blue took up the challenge and built the great Boneshaker. But before the Russians could get a hold of it, it went on a test run through the city of Seattle, not only destroying several blocks of the city, but it released a blight of gas that turned anyone who breathed it into a rotter (aka the living dead). Now, years later, the son of Leviticus Blue is determined to prove his father wasn't a criminal for his actions, and he sneaks into the now-walled city of Seattle to get that proof. His mother, Briar Blue, terrified for her son's safety and what he might find, goes after him. But nothing easy within the walls of Seattle, as there's more than just the undead to outwit and outrun, and Zeke and Briar will need everything they've got to survive those who have a peculiar and deadly interest in them.
Worth the Cash: it's definitely an entertaining read, and a well-written one. For anyone curious about steampunk as a sub-genre, it's a great place to start, because Priest has a sensible, practical approach to it, all the while telling a fun story. Fun might be an odd word to describe a book that reeks a bit of horror, but it's all good. I could easily see this made into a movie, and to be honest, I hope it happens. There's something wonderfully visual about this book, and the story lends itself to the big screen. While it's not my favorite Priest book (that honor goes to the Eden Moore trilogy, but that may be bias talking as the trilogy's setting is two hours from where I live), it's very good and I'm happy to have another Priest book under my belt.
For those of you still not sure if Boneshaker is right for you, you can sample the Clockwork Century universe by reading Priest's short story Tanglefoot. The only relation to Boneshaker is the world itself, as no characters overlap and nothing references the events, let alone spoils the events, of the book. It's a good little read, with shades of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and I think you'll enjoy it. You can also check out her Clockwork Century website, which features news of all the books and short stories taking place in the universe. Priest is an entertaining blogger anyway, so you shouldn't be disappointed.
As for my part, Priest remains one of my favorite authors, and I'm happy to continue with her books, steampunk or no. She hasn't kindled a great love within me for steampunk or anything, but I'll read whatever she writes provided it's well-written and entertaining. She hasn't let me down yet.
Review style: No spoilers. I'm going to talk about, and I may say some things that might lead you to figure out certain plot points, but I won't outright spoil anything. :) If you're paranoid, don't bother clicking the link below, but if you're not, the link goes to my LJ, and there's a much longer discussion about the book. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome. :)
REVIEW: Cherie Priest's BONESHAKER
Happy Reading! :)