Release Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Tor Books
Author: Cherie Priest
I just recently started writing and reading steampunk so after Tim Powers’ novel, The Anubis Gates, this was the novel I chose to tackle next.
Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, is a steampunk adventure set in the 1800’s in a semi-fictitious Seattle. There are two main characters; a mother and her son, their names being Briar and Ezekial Wilkes. Briar’s former husband, Leviticus Blue, was commissioned by Russian prospectors to create an invention that would be capable of drilling through Alaska’s thick ice in search of gold. On a test run, the machine that was created (called Boneshaker due to the fact that it produced bone-shaking rumbles as it was running) tore open the earth and unknowingly released a toxic gas that was later named The Blight and turned normal folks into zombie-like creatures called Rotters.
Fast forward to when Ezekial is a teenager and wants to clear his father’s name of any wrongdoing. He goes into the now-walled portion of the city the blight was emanating from in search of any clues as to his father’s innocence and meets lots of crazy steampunk characters on the way.
The enduring image that will stay with me of this world is that of a dirty dish sponge, yellowed and decaying on the rim of the sink as it’s forgotten and sitting in a corner while a new one is used. That dirty sponge would be the Seattle of this story; largely ignored by the Federal government as the Civil War rages on. A large portion of the city has fallen underground after Boneshaker knocked out entire city blocks by crumbling its foundations in its maiden voyage. A wall surrounds this devastation as the blight gas continues to seep from the cracks in the earth, coating everything in a yellow-brown, coffee-stained color. People live underground, struggling daily just to survive.
Cherie Priest was consistently good at one thing during the entire novel, and that was imagery. While being a novel set in a world of darkness and suffering, Cherie’s tone was fairly light and she had an underlying current of hope in her prose and her characters which carried through to the end.
I liked the novel and look forward to reading the other books in Priest’s series, but I hope the next ones are a bit more character-oriented and I also want to see way more steampunk aesthetic aside from just the goggles and airships.
JOE Rating: ★★★
Check out an excerpt of Boneshaker for free HERE
Audiobook Excerpt For Boneshaker