Saturday, February 6, 2010

CBII Book 10: Boneshaker - Cherie Priest

Boneshaker was my first foray into the steampunk genre so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Of course, I'm mostly aware of what steampunk is, but I wasn't sure how it would translate into the written word. Nor was I sure how I (a devout science fiction fan) would enjoy what is essentially modern and/or futuristic technology with an old school twist. I was rewarded with a reading experience which was enjoyable, if not exactly exhilarating.

The story takes place in Seattle during the Civil War and gold rush and the country is in dire straits. Not only is America battling itself, but there is a kind of cold war going on with Russia to find the best technology for mining gold. As such, Russia has a contest to find a machine that can mine the gold from the glacial fields in the frozen north of Alaska. One Mr. Leviticus Blue (who lives in Seattle) enters the competition and wins so the Russian government gives him an advance to build a prototype of the Boneshaker. Upon the first test of the machine, in downtown Seattle, something goes horribly awry. The Boneshaker malfunctions and levels several blocks of Seattle into rubble. Not only that, but it has caused a mysterious gas to rise up from the ground that turns people into zombies (the fast somewhat intelligent kind) The area is eveacuated and to deal with the threat they construct a 300 ft. wall to contain the zombies and the gas.

The Story moves to Briar Wilkes and her son Ezekiel who are Leviticus' widow and son respectively. Briar and her son have been outcast by the rest of the city for the mistakes of her deceased husband and live poverty in the city as they were evacuated after the Boneshaker calamity. They have a strained relationship as Briar is convinced that her husband didn't destroy part of the city by accident but on purpose. Ezekiel, in contrast believes his father was a scapegoat and is bound and determined to prove his innocence. Ezekiel decides to do this by entering the walled portion of the city to find evidence that will exhonerate his father and restore his family's honour. He sneaks out one evening and enters the ruins to do so faceing more dangers than the zombies and gas. As Ezekiel is all that Briar has left, follows him into the danger to bring him home and hopefully prove once and for all his fathers nefarious designs were purely intentional.

I found that I did enjoy my first try of this particular brand of science fiction and, make no mistake, when done properly; steampunk is definately science fiction. Preist did a decent job of explaining why weapons were the way they were, why the city was destroyed and why the science of the day had progressed past the point it was at in the 'real world'. She justified many of her explanations with history and also actual landmarks in thecity of Seattle. I do think that she could have done a bit more to explain the workings of many of the machines and such but, as the story is told from Briar's point of view, perhaps that isn't a fair criticism. I'm just a details kind of geek. It did take away some of the immersion factor for me though.

I did also have issue with the repetativeness of the plot though. I know there are zombies but, run-run-fight-hide only works for me for so long. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read for me and I will definately look further into the steampunk genre. Mind you, I'm a little hesitant as I can see that if this particular genre is done badly, it will be an absolute disaster.


  1. Glad to see you expanding your horizons. I keep saying I will, but never seem to get around to it.

  2. Wow. It sounds interesting. I've never even considered reading steampunk, but it sounds like something my son might like. And I'm always looking for books that capture his attention. Way to go you!

    Glad you're recovered from your jaunt into America. =]