For What It's Worth

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)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. (Steampunk)

(Note: This review was written by Kevin - Karen's hubby)
Boneshaker was my first official ‘steampunk’ novel. However, what got me to read it was the cool cover and the word ‘zombie’ in the description…yeah I know I’m so predictable. Anyway, on to the story.
Leviticus Blue, created the Boneshaker, a machine to mine gold in Alaska but when taken out on a test drive it destroyed parts of Seattle, releasing a deadly blight gas that turns people into rotters (aka, zombies). Seattle is now a no man’s land surrounded by a large wall to contain the blight. Leviticus vanished right after the incident. Some say he died, others say he took all the money from the city and fled. Either way the name Blue is reviled, leaving his wife Briar and their son Zeke to live with the aftermath causing them to leave the city. The Seattle inhabitants that stayed behind have formed into various groups in order to survive. You would think that no one would have stayed in a city filled with a gas that turns you into a zombie but they have their reasons.
Briar and Zeke try to move on but are still treated with scorn. Unfortunately, Briar’s lack of openness with Zeke in regards to what happened to Leviticus leads him to believe that he can clear the family name by going back into what’s left of Seattle and proving his father wasn’t the cause of the disaster. After Briar finds out what Zeke has done she goes in after her him. While in the city she discovers something far scarier than the blight and the rotters… Dr. Minnericht. Who is this man? Briar’s ex-husband, Leviticus, or just a mad man who runs Seattle? And what does he want form Briar? This is when the story kicks in and you’re not sure who to trust. I give unto you one spoiler…..don’t trust rotters. Duh…
Briar is one of the first female characters I’ve read that comes across as realistic to me in the sense that she is not meek nor is she a superhero; she does what she has to do to save her son. She learns from any mistakes she makes. I really liked when she went into the city to find Zeke and particularly the friendship she forms with Seattle resident, Swakhammer, a big lug of a guy that helps her find Zeke. Briar reminded me of my all-time favorite kick ass movie heroine: Ripley from Aliens – once her maternal instincts kicked in she did whatever she had to do to survive and protect Newt. Now imagine Ripley in the world from the movie Escape from NY and you'll have a good idea of what Boneshaker is like.
I enjoyed how Priest created the world using familiar sites and times in history but with steampunk elements and found myself engrossed in the dialogue and the world she created. Now that’s not to say everything is perfect. I would say my biggest disappointment was the ending. It seemed too convenient as compared to complexities leading up to it. I do think those complexities offset the disappointing ending and I would still recommend it but it was a bit of a letdown.
I also enjoyed the Authors Note at the end which basically tells the historian buffs out there who are complaining about the historical inaccuracies to get over the fact that she has taken liberties in writing this novel. As Priest says, “I realize that the story is a bit of a twisted stretch, but honestly – isn’t that what steampunk is for?”

Rating: 3 of 4

Author's website:
Buy the book! Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)


  1. This in my reading pile and great review Kevin.

  2. Great review! I was wondering if I should give this book a shot, I'm not much of a zombie fan but it sounds like it'll be a really good read :).

  3. Thanks for the review! I love steampunk, and I appreciate complexity in a novel--this is going onto my TBR.

  4. Great review (:

    I'm just as shallow as you are. Say zombies and I'll want to book, regardless what the rest of the story is about. I'm glad this is actually a good book. I appreciate a strong heroine that isn't superhero-like

  5. Ripley's really the golden standard for action heroines in a lot of ways. I had heard much bad about this book, but now I think I'm more likely to pick it up after being better informed about what to expect!

  6. I've never read any Steampunk but this one sounds really cool! Thanks for reviewing it.