I finally finished Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. It seems like everyone on the planet has already read the novel. It’s the first in the Clockwork Century series by Priest; the series is already on it’s fifth novel. Anyway, Boneshaker was published in 2009 by TOR. It won a lot of acclaim. Specifically: a Locus Award and was nominated for a Hugo (2010). A lot of people really liked the cover art as well, which was done by Jon Foster.
This book has a lot going for it. First of all, it has some very strong female characters. By “strong,” I mean the typical sense: not wilting flowers, pro-active, heroines. The entire novel is built around two things: (1.) the act of Leviticus Blue in building a “bone-shaking drill” by which he commits a robbery; and (2.) the relationship between a mother and her teenaged son (i.e. Briar and Ezekiel Wilkes). It works well as a first book in a series – but also works completely well as a standalone novel. There really is no necessity to read beyond this book – in terms of storyline closure.
This is steampunk, I am told. Probably because there is toxic gas and gas masks. Also, because they utilize airships and rifles. However, there is also a smattering of neat inventions, the background of a gold rush, and the American Civil War. Granted, this is still an alternate reality – things may have the same names (Civil War, Klondike), but they are not the exact same as in our history books.
I like the concept of an artificial walled-city built to keep the toxins in. I like the added bonus of people using the toxins as a type of addictive drug – doesn’t that just seem exactly how people would do it? One thing I am undecided about is the zombies. Did there have to be zombies? Did zombies add to or take away from the story? Rotters, if you will. I am not sure. I am really not fond of the zombie-craze of the last few years. Sure, I’ve seen some Walking Dead episodes. And I don’t hide from stuff with zombies in it, but I do not really go seeking out zombie-stories or whatever. So, I am not sure about this aspect of the novel.
One thing I had a difficult time with was the movement and description within the walled city. I don’t know if Priest is not good at describing complex, multi-leveled things or if I was just not paying attention, but I could never really grasp in my imagination what was going on with the setting. Up, down, in the dark, old elevators, stairways, tunnels – this is all reasonable for the storyline, but I could not really picture any of it.
Finally, as a last complaint, well. . . . I found the book a little boring in parts. There were parts where I felt it was dragging and I lost interest. Maybe it was the zombies – or the toxic gas. The book starts off excitingly and ends semi-predictably, but the middle did not hold my focus. This is not to say that the writing style was bad. Somehow, I just got bored in the middle. All in all, though, it is a fairly fast read and Priest does have a different “voice” as opposed to what I have read recently. In other words, she has a unique voice that comes through her writing.
I’ll probably eventually read the next novel in the series.