Review: Boneshaker

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: BoneshakerBoneshaker by Cherie Priest
Series: The Clockwork Century #1
Published by Tor Books on September 29, 2009
Genres: Adventure, Horror, Steampunk
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: ALA
Goodreads
three-stars

Cherie Priest's much-anticipated steampunk debut has finally arrived in the form of a paperback original. Its plot features the sort of calibrated suspense that readers of her Four and Twenty Blackbirdswould expect. Boneshaker derives its title from the Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, a device designed to give Russian prospectors a leg up in the race for Klondike gold. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: On its trial run, the Boneshaker went haywire and, long story short, turned much of Seattle into a city of the dead. Now, 16 years later, a teenage boy decides to find out what is behind that mysterious wall. Can his mother save him in time? Zombie lit of the first order.

Cherie Priest knows how to write and she has done her research. The alternate history she has created here is all kinds of fun (for the reader, not for anyone living in the fictional America). She responds at the end of the book to anyone bothered by the liberties she has taken with historical fact: “I realize that the story is a bit of a twisted stretch, but honestly–isn’t that what steampunk is for?” (416). Personally, I think she’s right and she has done the work to really make it believable within her framework.

I saw Cherie Priest speak at a panel about science fiction and fantasy at ALA 2010 (which is how I got a sweet, free autographed copy of Boneshaker).She mentioned the zombie element, something she probably frequently gets questions about, as they are not perhaps a necessary element. Her response, I believe, was just that she likes zombies. That’s fair, considering she wrote the book. And the zombies do add an additional element of danger to the city.

Boneshaker will probably be read primarily by young adult audiences, what with the zombies and all, but I think adults would probably enjoy it to. In fact, the story tends to follow Briar more than her fifteen year old son. My onlycriticism would be that I found myself much more interested in the side characters, like Jeremiah and Cly, than in Briar and Zeke. Briar got more interesting toward the end when she started being open about the past, so this may be an untrue statement when it comes to the sequel, which I will be reading next.

I heartily recommend Boneshaker to steampunk or alternate history fans, as well as zombie enthusiasts.

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