Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1)
by Cherie Priest
In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.
But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.
Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.
His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.
I fell in love with the idea of Boneshaker the minute I heard about it, and coveted it's release.I finally went out and bought it a couple of months later, and for weeks I kept it out on my computer desk so I could look at it, even though I knew I was too busy to read it. Then it got shelved, and though I would think about it on occasion, and wanted to read it, somehow it kept getting pushed. I even saw Cherie Priest speak at ALA (funny blue-haired gal of awesome), and had a chance to get mine signed (which I didn't take -- a week of walking on a hurt and bound foot finally took its toll), but still I didn't read it. Then September Zombies came along, and a part of me debated whether to read it, telling myself I "probably wouldn't have time." What the hell was wrong with me, you ask? I think I was afraid of the letdown. I mean, a cover like that, an idea to match, and a title full of win? Bound to be crushingly disappointing. I always get my hopes up, and lately I've wanted them to stay up -- even if it means not reading the book I really want to read. It's like Post Bad Book Disorder.
But I committed. (Or should be committed.) I took the plunge into Priest's steampunky, zombielicious, Blighted Old West Seattle.
And I loved it.
I mentioned when I rated this on Goodreads that I was going back and forth between rating this a 4 or 5, but something finally settled it. You see, I had been reading this on my lunch breaks at work, and then again when I got home at night. One day, I was at work and it was almost time to leave, and I had the thought "Ooh, I can go home and snuggle up and read some Boneshaker," and then felt crushing disappointment when I realized that I couldn't -- I had stayed up late and finished it the night before. I felt like I had lost something, or like a friend had moved away. That settled it, and 5-stars it was.
The world Priest creates is so atmospheric and evocative. I felt like I knew Zeke and Briar (especially Briar. Kick-ass lady extraordinaire.) There were great levels, great questions to address, a great back drop -- everything just worked. Priest did her legwork and brought not just Seattle, but an authentic-feeling alt-Seattle alive. The rotters (aka zombies) were dealt with really, really well, in that they weren't always mainstage. Having them continually lurking in the shadows, keeping everyone on edge, added this delicious layer of tension to the whole thing. There was an immediacy to everything that happened, and a -- I don't know how else to say this but a tenuousness. A fragility about the stability of the world that contrasted nicely with the bad-ass and likeable (or unlikeable) characters. And there was a sense, too, that Priest really had created a world, that Blight-Seattle didn't exist in a bubble, but that Priest had considered things outside of her story, and made sure that it fit and made sense. She added an element of veracity that made the whole thing work.
(Okay, I'll stop using big words on you now.)
Just -- it's full of awesome, ok? It should be made into a movie, but one that doesn't suck. Filled with unknown actors who can really become the characters.
But you should read it first.