Saturday, December 1, 2012

Boneshaker, Cherie Priest

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 Blackbirds would 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.

This was a re-read for me, I'm glad to see these finally hitting the UK, but I got my copy from the US way back. I didn't get any further along in the series though, so I thought now would be a good time to delve back into The Clockwork Century as the titles line up on UK shelves.

For a second pass, it held up well. Boneshaker is a fun read, with some gorgeously original concepts and beautifully depicted scenes. I have to confess though that having read a lot more Steampunk since I first picked this title up, it doesn't wow me quite as much as it originally did.

Boneshaker is a slow-paced read, with the whole novel covering just a few days. It's richly detailed, but if rip-roaring fact-paced action is what you're after this probably isn't for you.

It's definitely steam-filled, there are airships, goggles and gasmasks everywhere you look. But as for the punk? Hmmm, I'm not so sure. On the second read a lot of the 'steampunk' elements read as really quite superficial. That's not to say that it's not a dirigible-load of fun, because it is, but it definitely lacks the punch and powerful individuality that the genre is capable of.

Dilute Steampunk for the masses, maybe?

Either way, it was still a win for me, largely because I really enjoy the relationship between Briar and Zeke. As a Mum myself, it's so nice to for once be able to read a novel where the Mum is the hero! So much of the Fantasy genre is packed with irritatingly stereotypical 2d "kick ass" (*shudder*) 20-something females, all lycra and tattoos and all completely incapable of anything without their big buff love interest. Briar is the perfect antidote to that particular type of drivel. Zeke may be a bit of moron, but Briar is a layered character who's really interesting to spend time with.

The zombies here...are awesome. Huge bonus points for the rotters! And the concept of a walled City is always a winner. But just like with the steam elements, they're there purely for entertainment and there's just...a layer missing. For me at least. If you're wanting to really dig your teeth into a challenging Steampunk title, you're going to be left still feeling hungry after this.

I can't throw a review out there without mentioning the sepia font. Too cool. I don't think I've ever seen that in a novel before. There are so many cool aspects to this book that tick all the right entertainment boxes. It's the risk of endlessly repeating myself, a little lacking in substance.

On the whole, Boneshaker is massive amounts of fun. There are two female characters who really stand out, and the central Mother/Son relationship was a win for me. It does have a tendency to drag in places though. And if you're hardcore Steampunk, I'm not sure that this will hit the spot.

I'm keen to carry on into the series though, and see how things develop.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that it didn't hold up as well the second time around. I really enjoyed it and I thought it was quite well paced (given that my previous read was a bit of a plodder, this might have had something to do with it). I can't wait for the rest of the series!