Genre: Fiction, Steampunk, Altered History, Science Fiction
Edition: Softcover; Library
Page Count: 416
Pub. Date: September 29, 2009
Series: First installment of The Clockwork Century Universe
My Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Amazon.com: 4.5 stars
Goodreads: 4.13 (Average)
Recommended For: Fans of steampunk or those looking to delve into the genre, Readers who like an inventive story (that happens to include zombies), Folks with imagination
My Summary & Thoughts:
An alternate-history novel based in the late 1800's with destruction, adventure, dirigibles, sky pirates, a mad inventor, AND zombies? COUNT ME IN. A book just as fascinating as its cover. You guys, Boneshaker was so much more than I expected! Such a brilliantly imaginative tale with flair and grit.
To start it all off, let me just talk about the appearance of the book. The cover is so lovely in person. A beautiful mix of art and design, all while giving a hint to what the story will hold within. And the pages - toned to a light sepia color with brown font, giving it that aged look and feel. The only thing it was missing was the musty smell that can only gather with time. (Though I settled for the new book smell!) From the start you can tell that every detail was doted upon in the process...much like the writing style. Which I absolutely fell in love with. Wonderfully descriptive and engaging; I could envision everything as if I was watching it unfold right before my eyes.
Boneshaker begins with a journalistic piece from a one, Hale Quarter. A young journalist who sets the ground work and describes the events leading up to creation of the terrible Bone-Shaking Drilling Machine at the hand of Dr. Leviticus "Levi" Blue. A single man and machine responsible for a disaster that caused most of downtown Seattle to cave in on itself, while bringing disease and terror in the form of a toxic substance known as The Blight.
While the early days of the Civil War were taking place, the Russians were looking for a way to drill trough the icy Klondike where a fortune of gold supposedly awaited any man who dared. After many had tried and failed, esteemed inventor Leviticus Blue won a contest offering him 100,000 rubles and six months to build a machine strong enough to penetrate the buried vein of gold. But being the smart man that he is, Levi finished well before the deadline. During an unannounced test run on the afternoon of January 2, 1863, the Earth shook under the vast central business district of the Seattle streets. The foundations of four major banks were ground to oblivion, taking with it hundreds of innocent bystanders.
However, no one could predict the kind of destruction that would follow. The streets were in an upheaval sure, but what was worse was the mysterious gas leaking from the tunnels created by the monstrous machine. Slow and sickly, the odorless and colorless gas crept along inch by inch poisoning all those who were nearest. Temporary measurements were taken until a city wide evacuation was the only way to survive. One by one the plans to contain the gas failed. Thousands of people fell ill and thousands more after. Simple barriers were not enough to hold it until, approximately one year later, the entire downtown area of Seattle was surrounded by an incredible 200 foot high brick and stone wall.
The story begins sixteen years later with Briar Wilkes (formerly Briar Blue) and her son Ezekiel "Zeke" Wilkes. The two live in the Outskirts just beyond the wall but not so far from it that they can forget it ever happened. Due to the endless plague the Blight reigns upon the city, the water has been poisoned and must be boiled and treated for 17 hours at the factory in Puget Sound where Briar works. Day after day she works to provide for her and her son, trying ever so hard to leave behind the tarnished legacy of her dead husband. But it's not so easy. Who can forget the man that changed all their lives? Zeke, having never met his father, is forced to rely on the horrid stories passed from one person to the next since his mother refuses to relay the truth or any information to satiate his growing curiosity.
But one day, Zeke decides he's had enough. He determines to make his way inside The Wall, back to a home he never knew and clear his father of the terrible crimes that have plagued their family for 16 years. If only he can get his hands on the papers the Russians sent demanding Dr. Blue do an early test run, if they even existed, then it would all be over. Provisions in hand, Zeke sets off through the underground tunnels that run up through the downtown. But he never expected just how bad the Blight had infected the city...or its undead inhabitants.
After hours spent fretting with worry and guilt, Briar does the only thing a mother could do - she sets off after him. After nearly beating information from Rector, a boy up to no good and a friend of her son, Briar sets off for the same exact tunnels Zeke allegedly took. But as she waits near the entrance, an earthquake shatters all means of hope and escape for her only son. Now that the option of going under is taken away, Briar is left with but one other choice: Over. Seeking the help from the air captains and sky pirates, Briar is led to Andan Cly, captain of the Naamah Darling, who just so happens to be in debt to the Wilkes family.
Flying high and dropping into the city, Briar is led by survival instincts and using all means necessary to find her son. But what surprised her the most was not how much the city has been polluted, but the fact that there were people living there. The dead and undead alike. What kind of trouble lies beyond the wall? Can Briar do it alone? Will she be able to survive the the Blight and the creatures it created? Can she outlast the rotters, the undead who feast on flesh and feel no pain? More importantly, will she find her son alive?
...Those are questions you will have to answer yourself! :)
Seriously, I cannot begin to describe how imaginative and ingenious this tale is. Once you start you won't want to stop until you reach the very end. And then you'll just want more. Boneshaker is totally unique in its vision of combining very real, albeit altered, history and science fiction. Trust me when I say that I am not really a big fan of zombies or anything related, but this story would not have been the same nor quite as exciting without them.
Same goes for each and every character. Without them the story wouldn't have the same warmth and purpose as I felt while reading. Briar is a no nonsense type of woman with admirable qualities, surviving on what little she can afford and wanting what's best for her son. The people she meets only fuel her desire to continue on and provide a shining light in the darkness.
Overall consensus: There's so much more I could tell you about the story but I'll just leave you with the words: Exciting, original, intense, unique, and satisfying. Being that this is my first outing with Cherie Priest, I can conclude that it will not be the last. If books like Boneshaker are what I have to look forward to in the steampunk genre, then count me in because I'm not going anywhere!
(On a sidenote: While I consider this an Adult read, I would also classify it as suitable for Young Adults. And well...everyone!)
- Also reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads