Leviticus Blue

Boneshaker

BoneshakerI 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.

3 stars