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The Inexplicables: A Novel of the Clockwork Century Paperback – November 13, 2012
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The latest installment of Priest’s steampunk series, Clockwork Century, returns to the alternate Civil War–era American landscape she introduced in Boneshaker (2009). Her eccentric protagonist this time is Rector Sherman, who, at 18, has just left the only home he’s ever known, an orphanage just outside a toxic, gas-infested, late-1800s Seattle. Hoping to eke out another few years of existence by selling and using sap, the area’s gas-derived drug of choice, Rector scales Seattle’s imposing walls and seeks out the ruined city’s criminal underworld. Aside from making a living, Rector is also hunting the remains of his old friend, Zeke Wilkes, hoping Zeke’s troublesome ghost will finally let him be. Yet not only is Zeke very much alive but the reunited pair must contend with a cross section of Seattle’s worst elements, including the zombie-like “inexplicables” and a band of sinister gold prospectors. Priest’s narrative has all the compelling ingredients that keep the steampunk subgenre going, including riveting characters; a vividly realized, atmospheric setting; and a well-told story of adventure. --Carl Hays
“Maternal love faces formidable challenges in this stellar steampunk tale.... 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.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review on Boneshaker
“Priest delivers a fast-moving story filled with cool steampunk technology and scary zombies. Fans of science fiction will find much to enjoy here. An impressive and auspicious genre-hopping adventure.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Boneshaker
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Unlike DREADNOUGHT and GANYMEDE, the plot of THE INEXPLICABLES is not a downhill ride to a wild conclusion, but a slow climb where the journey is worth more than the destination. Bringing the reader back to the setting of BONESHAKER, Priest sprinkles in familiar characters and settings that make the story immediately feel familiar. Unlike the previous novels, the main character, Rector Sherman, is not immediately likable and it is that contrast between the comfortable, familiar setting and a rough, abrasive main character that makes the story work.
Framed around a threat to the familiar and dangerous Seattle and a minor mystery around the titular inexplicables, the overall plot of the book is not its strong point. However, THE INEXPLICABLES is, primarily, a story of Rector and his maturation from boy to man, from junkie to sober, and, overall, from loner to friend. Those looking for the the wonder of BONESHAKER, the breathless speed of DREADNOUGHT or the intricacy of GANYMEDE won't find it in THE INEXPLICABLES. But if you are looking for a quiet story of growth and maturation, an appreciation of personal discovery and above all, a last love letter from Ms Priest to the characters and settings of The Clockwork Century, do yourself a favor and pick up this book.
You won't regret this one last trip around the block.
Perhaps because this story comes back inside Seattle, I felt The Inexplicables was the strongest since the original Clockwork Century novel, Boneshaker. The big twist here, without giving away too much, was a guest appearance by Sasquatch. While some may argue that the Sasquatch related elements could be removed without influencing the plot, I have a distinct feeling this character will be back. I've come to appreciate Ms Priest's storytelling and don't think she would introduce such an element unless there was a really good reason to bring that character in.
I am also coming to appreciate some of the underlying social commentary that runs through this Time That Never Was. In addition to advancing the Good Guys vs Bad Guys plot, we have a story of redemption. Rector Sherman, the newest character, lives in an orphanage and makes money on the side selling "Sap" . . . when he's not sampling from his latest batch. When we meet Rector, he is at the end of his time in the orphanage and possibly near the end of his life because of the drug usage. Through support of friends he finds physical redemption and by the time we leave him, he is well on the road to physical recovery. My compliments to the author for getting this across, without having to hit the reader over the head with this moral, while still advancing the rest of the plot.
The action is well paced and the dialog is well done. The development of the main characters is very well done. The flaws lie in the development of secondary characters. For the most part, they are confined to the wings: they are talked about, but there is no real history revealed about them and not much development of these secondary characters. While the science may be somewhat flawed, you just need to remind yourself, this is Steampunk. Science is reinvented and reconceived as needed to fit the times.
Despite these misgivings, The Inexplicables is thoroughly enjoyable and a welcome addition to the Clockwork Century. Overall, I'll go four stars for this work. If you're a fan of this series, you need it for your collection. If you are new to Steampunk, the American twist is refreshing.
(Review Originally Published on Librarything)
Rector is a fairly unlikeable and unreliable protagonist. That's always a tough one to write; hiw to get readers engaged in the novel when the voice into it is unpleasant? Priest finesses this by making her unlikeable protag not as unlikeable or as unreliable as would probably work better given the way he's described. He's not even a reluctant hero- a trope I love- he's just a sort of lazy and apathetic hero.
Still! The world is well-written; I loved learning more about how things actually worked in this Seattle. W got some character exposition of other characters we may have met in previous novels. The plot arc proceeds.
In short- it was a very satisfying read, and I look forward to the next.
However, this book, like Clementine, didn't really thrill me the way the first 3 books did. It reads more like a YA book - the protagonist and his friends are adolescent, with all the posturing and sneering and backbiting that implies. We see very little of some of the main characters of the 3 previous books, although we do get a greater characterization of the Princess Angeline.
While there is some advancement of the plot for the entire series, I think it just lacked a little something. Not up to her usual pacing and intricacies.
In short, not a bad book, but it doesn't really live up to her previous works in this series.