In the 1860’s, the Russians look for a way to drill into the ice in the Klondike where there is supposed to be gold because they don’t possess the technology. To generate interest, they create a contest with a cash prize for the person who can create a machine that will access the gold for them. Leviticus Blue from Seattle is the lucky inventor that wins for his Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine. When he tests the machine, he tears through the city’s underground (and pausing at the banks) and returns home. Unbeknownst to him, his path through the city has caved in, leaving countless injured or dead. On top of that, it released a gas called the Blight from the earth that turns normal people into flesh eating zombies. Sixteen years later, after the city has been evacuated and walled up, Briar Wilkes is still dealing with the consequences of her late husband’s folly. Her teenage son, Zeke, convinced of his father’s innocence, goes into the abandoned city to clear his father’s name. Briar tries to follow him into the city, but his way in and out caved in after an earthquake. How can she get in the city to save her son? Is he even still alive?
When I first heard about this book, I was so excited! Steampunk, dirigibles, zombies, mad scientists, and alternate history: what’s not to like? I was not disappointed at all when I finally got to read it. Although the history is altered a bit to suit the story, I didn’t really notice the changes. This is partly due to the fact that I’m not a huge history buff, but part of it is because of Cherie Priest’s superb writing. Her style flows incredibly well, drawing the reader into the book. The details that she includes really bring the characters and setting to life. The Victorian era in post-Boneshaker Seattle isn’t what one would expect, but for good reason. The people who live in the Outskirts (outside of the wall from the Blight filled city) struggle to survive and make a living and feel isolated from the world as a whole. The writing also excels in fleshing out each character so they feel like real people.
Briar Wilkes is my favorite character in the novel. She’s a tough as nails, no nonsense woman who will go through, under, or over any obstacle to get to her boy. Discrimination or condescension from others has no affect on her and she does what needs to be done. Her life is made very difficult because of her involvement with Leviticus, the destroyer of Seattle, and a lesser person would have broken or given up. Briar is admirable and stretches herself to her limits. I enjoyed the chapters that were from her point of view much more than the chapters in Zeke’s. On each chapter header there is either a pair of goggles or a lantern to indicate who is the focus of the chapter (goggles for Briar and the lantern for Zeke). Zeke is a typical teenager, which is the reason for most of my annoyance with him. He’s kind of annoying and thinks it’s such a great idea to go into a city rife with zombies, poisonous gas, and criminals in order to wander around aimlessly and try to find where his parents used to live for some indeterminate evidence to clear his father’s name. With Briar’s narrative, more is known than just Zeke’s view about who to trust and who to be wary of and we see Zeke make wrong decisions about this at least a few times. It’s kind of frustrating, but in general, he’s a smart and industrious character.
Boneshaker is a fast paced, fun read. Even though the zombies aren’t the focus of the book, they still remain a constant danger that the characters always need to be aware of, giving the narrative that little dose of adrenaline and horror. I would recommend this book to fans of steampunk, alternate histories, and science fiction in general.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins
** The next book, Dreadnought, comes out on September 28. Pre-order it here!**
** This post is for Velvet's September Zombies!**