Saturday, September 4, 2010

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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.

My Take: Since I reviewed Clementine yesterday I figured what better than the book that started it all today.

I was intrigued by some of the reviews I'd read about this book. I mean, it's about Zombies in Seattle. A Steampunk version of Seattle. A Seattle that's crumbling away, walled off, overrun. Good golly! All those things are things that I can't resist. And the book completely lived up to my expectations of it. It was everything I was looking for. The really amazing thing is that although the Zombies (or "Rotters" as they call them) are a big part of the plot, the book is really so much more than that. It's about the lies we tell because the truth is too hard to face. It's about family. It's about people who use power to gain more power. It's about honor and debts that need to be repaid. It's about the people who choose to live a hard life because they believe it's the right thing to do.

I was captivated from the first chapter. I was able to watch the words that Cherie Priest wrote weave themselves into a vast, unimaginable landscape in my head.
Few witnesses agree, and fewer still were granted a glimpse of the Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine. Its course took it under the earth and down hills, gouging up the land beneath the luxurious homes of wealthy mariners and shipping magnates, under the muddy flats where sat the sprawling sawmill, and down along the corridors, cellars, and storage rooms of general stores, ladies' notions shops, apothecaries, and yes ... the banks.
I really don't know if I can say enough about this book. This had everything that The Forest of Hands and Teeth lacked. It felt alive as I read it. Although I didn't know what FoHaT was missing while I read it, I can see it now. It was missing the human drama that Boneshaker captured perfectly. Briar is flawed. She trudges through life trying to forget. She isn't the best mother. She doesn't want to see what her son is getting into. Yet, the moment he's in danger, she tries to move the world to save him.

I really don't think I can recommend this book enough. If you only read one Zombie Steampunk novel set in Seattle this year ... this is it.

Other books by Cherie Priest