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Boneshaker Paperback – September 29, 2009
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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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“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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This book was well written, with a great premise and a post-apocalyptic Seattle crawling with the walking dead and steam punk like technology. It starts out very strong but starts to peeter out in the end, losing some steam, if you will. I would still recommend it as it is a great read and it's better than 3 starts but not quite 4 do to the finish that left me wanting a bit more.
My longer summary here, with some spoilers so read on forewarned:
So I do give it 4 stars because of the strong start and it's better than the only other option, a 3.
I found the alternate history created to be intriguing. The entire Boneshaker incident that ends up with the Blight being introduced upon 19th century northwest and the undead twist, something original I hadn't read before. The author does a great job of keeping the undead initially in the periphery, in the shadows, out in the mist of the Blight, this effect adds to the tension nicely I thought.
The entrance of Zeke into the city, followed by his mother chasing after him and their subsequent adventures I thought was all well written, descriptive and kept me riveted.
However, I felt that once the "main antagonist" was introduced, it happened all so quick and he was dispatched much too easily. Several others have alluded to this in other reviews. I wanted a bit more from him than what I got. Perhaps that is what the author was going for, that he was a paper tiger living off the fear of the "doornails" using the name and legend of Leviticus Blue to do so, so it didn't take much to topple him once he was challenged.
Some others have pointed there were some other inconsistencies that left them scratching their heads, like the unused fort. Perhaps while it kept the "rotters" out, but with the Blight, it still wasn't livable for long term. But these were really minor things from my vantage point and not really out of the realm of suspension of disbelief.
Biggest unanswered question. Where did the Blight actually come from? We never get the answer to this and instead we get a few theories that are never even fleshed out at all. A missed opportunity.
This book had the potential to be three books, in my opinion. We really had a lot of material to work with, characters and their relationships to flesh out and get deeper into the whys and hows. The "zombies" could always be the troublesome and ever present threat that complicate the attempts of the protagonists and antagonists alike. But the main antagonist had so much untapped potential. Well, most of the characters had so much untapped potential.
All of that being said, I read this book in two days as I was riveted to seeing which direction it would go, as well as hoping to have some answers to what happened to Leviticus Blue and what caused the Blight......
INSTANT UPDATE: It appears that Ms. Priest HAS written a "sequel" to 'Boneshaker', 'The Inexplicables' (along with a few others books set in that world.) This doesn't change my opinion that Boneshaker itself could have stretched into more than one book, but perhaps I'll eventually get my answered about the Blight.
The Boneshaker by Cherie Priest is a story set in Washington Territory in 1880, with references to the Alaskan Gold Rush and an unusually extended American Civil War. Imagine, if you will, a contest to create a machine to extract gold from the ground as fast as possible. Imagine, then, the pressure put on an inventor to get it up and going. The inventor has grandiose plans for this particular invention of his...and it all went awry the day he tested it. Or did it? The impact on the frontier city of Seattle was catastrophic.
When the devastation was over, Seattle had built around its commercial area a wall 200 feet high to protect those in the Outskirts from Blight, Doornails, the undead and various and sundry other atrocities that came in the wake of the ensuing disaster.
Questions, speculation and rumours about The Boneshaker's inventor, Leviticus Blue, spun both inside and outside the walls for 16 years. Stories about Briar's father, 15-year-old Zeke's grandfather, also grew. Within the walls, Maynard Wilkes truly was a hero. Outside the walls, his reputation was questionable, but not as evil or protracted as that of Briar's husband, the infamous Leviticus Blue. Some said he was still alive and had taken another name. Others said he was dead, and someone else had taken over his penchant for ingenious gadgetry, as well as new and deadly extractions of the Blight most welcome on the clandestine drug market.
In an effort to find the truth, Zeke takes off through the underground to get inside the walls and learn more about his grandfather and his father. Briar takes to the skies to find him before it's too late.
The chapters that follow introduce you to sky pirates, the living, the undead, and all sorts of magical gadgets. Primary to the story are the characters of the imposing Jeremiah Swackhammer, sly but knowledgeable Princess Angeline, sinister Yaozu, the evil Dr. Minnericht, the daring Lucy O'Gunning, and the zombie-killing contraption lovingly known as Daisy.
The traps, pitfalls, encounters and lovely, lovely gadgets will enthrall most readers who enjoy Steampunk. I know I enjoyed it, and - true to form - it will become a film in 2013.
HOWEVER, I have recommended this book to many people because I love it. There are so many memorable characters, and the author Cherie Priest really put a lot of work into the background and setting of this novel. It mixes just about every awesome thing about Steampunk into an alternate history where the Civil War hasn't ended, and Seattle is a war zone of its own (between Humans and "Rotters", that is). Having two main characters is definitely different from the norm, and although it has its problems, the concept was utilized well.
The book takes place in what Priest dubs "The Clockwork Century". If you find this book at all enjoyable, then the rest of the novels are all worth the read. The characters reappear in the following stories, and each one is developed further and further. It's a great way to see what happens to your favorite characters after each book is over and from the viewpoint of a different protagonist.
TL;DR The setting and memorable characters easily make up for a few rushed points. It's a great read, especially for Steampunk fans.