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New Year Resolution: Avoid trying to predict the future.

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Book Review: Priest, Boneshaker

Cherie Priest

It’s been awhile since I finished this, so I checked the Wikipedia page to make sure I didn’t forget anything important.  The first line of the entry was a good tweet-sized book description; “Boneshaker is a science fiction novel by Cherie Priest which combines the steampunk genre with zombies in an alternate history version of Seattle, Washington. It was nominated for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel.”

This book was in my queue for a long time.  It had been built up, lots of praise, and I wanted to give it my full attention.  It was excellent, and I have only one nit.  That being the title refers to a machine, The Boneshaker, that I was expecting would carry a bigger role.

The book is pure steampunk.  Probably reference-able as definitive steampunk.  It doesn’t throw steampunk into your face, steampunk tech is just the way things are in the book.  The book also has engaging characters with backstories revealed at a comfortable pace, a setting that is described in a way the reader can easily visualize, and steampunk tech that the reader can accept without stretching.

Boneshaker also includes a complete roster of humans in roles of adventurer, survivors, victims, and villains.  Some blurbs describe the victims of the blight gas as zombies, and that might put some people off with “zombie-fatigue” (they seem to be everywhere).  But in this case, in a steampunk novel these non-mechanical features are really neo-zombies (not the modern trendy version, but a sadder variety).  There’s also an interesting subtext; what happens when an entire section of a major city has been walled off due to a disaster.

The book starts by establishing the environment and some recounting of past events that led up to Seattle being broken so badly.  Then the plot transitions into a bit of an explorer’s story, which goes wrong and leads to a rescue mission.  Finally the book wraps with a daring escape attempt that has consequences (left out of this review to avoid spoilers).

Still catching up on reviews, next up is a serialized book I read in the newspaper.



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