Saturday, August 14, 2010

What We're Reading: Boneshaker

I've been interested in the steampunk genre lately, so I was happy to get my hands on Cherie Priest's Boneshaker-"A steampunk-zombie-airship adventure of rollicking pace & sweeping proportions, full of wonderfully gnarly details," as Scott Westerfeld describes it.

Boneshaker is set in Seattle of the late 1800s. In a clever alternate history, part of Seattle was destroyed by inventor Leviticus Blue's "Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine". This device, the titular Boneshaker, was supposed to help Russians mining for gold to drill through Klondike ice. Instead, Blue, in testing it on his hometown, released a poisonous gas called 'the Blight' & part of Seattle-& anyone unfortunate to be left inside-has been walled off. Boneshaker is the story of the late (& not lamented) Blue's wife Briar & son Zeke. Zeke finds his way into the sealed area, looking for evidence that will clear this father's name, & Briar must follow him & bring him back out.

I'm finding Boneshaker to be a quick read, inventively plotted & full of colorful characters. It started slowly, but now I sometimes think that the author is hurtling through the plot a little too speedily, as one adventure doesn't so much lead to the next but instead each new twist is brought up & dropped in quick succession. The idea that Dr. Minnericht, the head honcho in the walled city, might be Briar's husband, is drummed into the reader a bit heavily. But the action is steady, the historical technology (bellows! airships! a mechanical arm!) well thought out, & all in all it's pretty entertaining.

Cherie Priest is also the author of the Southern Gothic Eden Moore trilogy, which starts with Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

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