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Boneshaker Paperback – September 29, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 331 customer reviews
Book 1 of 6 in the Clockwork Century Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Maternal love faces formidable challenges in this stellar steampunk tale. In an alternate 1880s America, mad inventor Leviticus Blue is blamed for destroying Civil War–era Seattle. When Zeke Wilkes, Blue's son, goes into the walled wreck of a city to clear his father's name, Zeke's mother, Briar Wilkes, follows him in an airship, determined to rescue her son from the toxic gas that turns people into zombies (called rotters and described in gut-churning detail). When Briar learns that Seattle still has a mad inventor, Dr. Minnericht, who eerily resembles her dead husband, a simple rescue quickly turns into a thrilling race to save Zeke from the man who may be his father. Intelligent, exceptionally well written and showcasing a phenomenal strong female protagonist who embodies the complexities inherent in motherhood, this yarn is a must-read for the discerning steampunk fan. (Oct.)
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Review

“Cherie Priest wove a story so convincing, so evocative, so terrifying that I read this book with the doors locked and a gun on my lap. Boneshaker is a steampunk menagerie of thrills and horror.” ―Mario Acevedo, bestselling author of Jailbait Zombie

“This exquisitely imaginative steampunk adventure is a joy to read! My favourite of Cherie's books.” ―Cassandra Clare, bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments trilogy


“Everything you'd want in such a volume and much more.... It's full of buckle and has swash to spare, and the characters are likable and the prose is fun. This is a hoot from start to finish, pure mad adventure.” ―Cory Doctorow, bestselling author of Little Brother

“Boneshaker is without a doubt Cherie Priest's breakthrough work: this hollering, stamping, crackling thing is the best fun you'll have with a book all year.” ―Warren Ellis, bestselling author of Crooked Little Vein

“A gorgeously grim world of deadly gasses, mysterious machines, zeppelin pirates, and a relentless plague of zombies. With Boneshaker, Priest is geared up to begin her reign as the Queen of Steampunk.” ―Mark Henry, Author of Road Trip of the Living Dead

“A rip-snorting adventure in the best tradition of a penny dreadful. Priest has crafted a novel of exquisite prose and thrilling twists, populated by folk heroes and dastardly villains, zombies and air pirates, incredible machines and a heroine who'll have you cheering. Boneshaker is the definitive steampunk story, absolutely unique and one hell of a fun read.” ―Caitlin Kittredge, author of the Nocturne City novels

“A marvelous book, crammed with readerly pleasures--zombies, pirates, cracking adventures, historical conceits and characters that make you wish you could linger inside it long after turning the final page. Cherie Priest is one of my favorite fantasists.” ―Kelly Link, acclaimed author of Magic for Beginners

“If Jules Verne and George Romero got together to rewrite American history it might go something like this. I loved it. I want more.” ―Mike Mignola, bestselling author of Hellboy

“If the Wild Wild West had been written by Mark Twain with the assistance of Jules Verne and Bram Stoker, it still couldn't be as fabulous and fantastical as Boneshaker. Cherie Priest has penned a rousing adventure tale that breathes a roaring soul and thundering heart into the glittering skin of Steampunk. Stylish, taut, and wonderful, it's a literary ride you must not miss!” ―Kat Richardson, bestselling author of Greywalker

“A steampunk-zombie-airship adventure of rollicking pace and sweeping proportions, full of wonderfully gnarly details. This book is made of irresistible…. It totally pushed all my buttons.” ―Scott Westerfeld, bestselling author of Uglies and Peeps

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Product Details

  • Series: Clockwork Century (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Original edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765318415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765318411
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (331 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cherie Priest is the author of more than a dozen books, including the steampunk pulp adventures Dreadnought, Clementine, Ganymede, and Boneshaker. Boneshaker was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award; it was a PNBA Award winner, and winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Cherie also wrote Fathom and the Eden Moore series from Tor (Macmillan), Bloodshot and Hellbent for Bantam, and three novellas published by Subterranean Press. In addition to all of the above, she is a newly minted member of the Wild Cards Consortium - and her first foray into George R. R. Martin's superhero universe, Fort Freak (for which she wrote the frame story), debuted in 2011. Cherie's short stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in such fine publications as Weird Tales, Subterranean Magazine, Publishers Weekly, The Living Dead 2, and the Thackeray T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. She presently lives in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband, a fluffy young dog, and a fat black cat.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Now I know by giving 3 stars, many readers will ask "did you hate it?" No, I didn't hate this book, but I must say I was unimpressed by it. Steampunk designs, airships, and zombies...how can one go wrong? Well, the answer is to make the plot wandering and the characters not that interesting.

I won't offer a summary of the book, because nearly every other reviewer has done the same. I'll start by saying that the synopsis on the back cover is kind of misleading, especially about the part regarding "rewrite history." It's a shame that portion is nowhere to be found in the novel. By that token, I was expecting the characters to come to some certain uncovering of secret history, and also come to some inner realization about themselves. Sadly, they don't. Zeke's request to clear his father's name unfortunately falls into a simple tale of "overthrow the bad guy." And as the story ends, the world they inhabit isn't changed in the slightest between the beginning and the end of the story.

The characters of Briar and Zeke aren't that compelling, either. Their only purpose in the story seems to be transitioning the reader from Plot Point A to B to C--which is *part* of the reason characters exist, but it shouldn't be the main portion of who they are. Why do they do what they do? What drives them? We don't get much internal dialogue or conflict, everything they feel is spoken.

In the same vein, they don't affect change within the story at all; everything seems to happen without them doing anything or contributing to the goings-on, like they're part of the scenery as opposed to full-fledged characters. So if they don't really *do* anything except move around as per the author's directions, then are they even really empathetic at all?
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Pros:

Compelling setup and central mysteries. Thought the story between the lead protagonists was reasonably well done.

Cons: Author did not care to develop her world.

Example - Head villain has a scary right hand man, as is typical of adventure stories. He strikes fear into the hearts of the locals. Yet in the final battle, he appears briefly and avoids the final confrontation. Why introduce him? The secondary characters are compelling, until they're abandoned. The lead fighter amongst the good guys appears to be dying, yet we're led to believe he might be saved by 19th century medicine?

Additonally, the central threat within the town (the zombies dubbed rotters) are never well developed. Minnericht can send them at his enemies, but loses control of them in the end. Why? They run the streets of the city, forcing the human residents into a subterranean existence, yet they can be repelled by bonfires? Moving a block or two in the city calls up hordes of rotters, yet the leads can linger in a house for nearly an hour? And what of the citadel like fort within the walls? Everyone agrees it's safe from the rotters, yet it's abandoned.

But the biggest problem with the story: it hints early on that living within the city walls is near suicidal (and even life in the outskirts is pretty illogical), yet no compelling reason is ever provided for why the residents stay. It's apparently not too difficult for humans to leave the city. Yet many reasonably upright citizens have spent a decade or more running for their lives from the rotters while being manipulated by a mad professor. Say what? I know the setting is an alternate history where the civil war rages on, but America is a big and open country in the late 19th century.
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Format: Paperback
This is an adventure story told from the varying point of views of a mother and son. The son, Zeke, goes into a walled in city of toxic gas, zombies, and dangerous people to learn more about his scientist father. The mother, Briar, goes in after him to save him. Both wander through the city (a post-apocalyptic 1800's Seattle) encountering the many dangers while making some new friends.

At a thick 414 pages, you would think the story would be pretty complex. It isn't. It's really a pretty basic story about a mother and son trying to survive a dangerous world and make it out alive. Any questions the reader has are answered in a couple pages at the very end, a quick wrap up, and then it's over.

This is the first "steampunk" novel I have read, and it's not as out there as I anticipated. Priest alters history for her own purposes, moving events like the civil war and the invention of electricty around to suit her purposes, which is no problem in my opinion. Fiction is fiction, do what you need to.

Generally this novel was just alright. A warning to zombie novel lovers: it's not really a zombie novel. Zombies play a role but they function as background scenery more than anything else.
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As a native Seattlite I really wanted to like Boneshaker, but it's a frustrating book. It starts very strong, then drags as the narrative restrictions of the environment become clear, then ends with a whimper, and is punctuated by a defensive author's note that comes off as a whine (put your disclaimers at the beginning!) The world Priest imagines is rich and intriguing and seemingly primed for a terrific alt-history adventure/mystery, but it feels like that world was much easier to construct than to set into motion. The writing itself is solid but, after the initial novelty, the story ends up being really conventional, and there are so many plot points left dangling that this feels like a deliberate effort to kickstart a series. That's fine, but a series for whom? Sometimes it feels like an adult-oriented genre thriller, other times a basic adventure for teens (Zeke is a big reason for this vibe.) Or, ahem, a sketch for a video game world. Someone here said this book needed another year to cook and another hundred pages. I agree with that.

Edit: Per Wikipedia this is part of a planned three-book series in this particular alternative-history setting. That could explain some of the danglers, especially in re the war.
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