Sci Fi Sunday — Oops, Monday. Again.
Owing to our annual holiday cookie party, I managed not to get this post up (or indeed, anything done) yesterday. Our last set of guests left after 9 pm. Whew! On to the review:
Cherie Priest’s steampunk novel, Boneshaker. Steampunk stories tend to have a lot of similar, recognizable elements: airships, zombies (why so many zombies?), dashing men and gorgeous women in goggles, ridiculous numbers of landed gentry — aka, the “Everybody’s a Duke” problem — and recognizable famous settings like New York, London or Paris. Boneshaker is different. For starters, it takes place in Seattle and although Priest admits in the book’s postscript to taking liberties with the history of Seattle, it’s an interesting look at the background of the people who settled the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s. Priest doesn’t shy away from addressing the issue of racism as it relates to the Chinese who were brought over to work on the railroad or the American Indians who were displaced by Gold Rushers and other settlers. In fact, that may be one of the most distinctive features about Boneshaker — nobody in it is wealthy or important. The two main characters are Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke, a 35-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy. Wilkes is important only because her late husband was the person who created the Boneshaker machine, which destroyed part of Seattle and caused the fog which has sickened many of the inhabitants and turned them into packs of roving zombies (yeah, you’re getting zombies here too). When Zeke takes off into the heart of the ruined city to find the truth about his father, Briar goes in to rescue her son and meets the people who’ve chosen to eke out a desperate existence among the poisonous fog. Most steampunk novels have a secondary plot that involves romance or mystery, but Boneshaker is steampunk as thriller. From the pacing to the characters to the intense plot twists, this book has more in common with a spy novel or Grisham’s The Firm than a historical romance. The world Priest has created stays with you; she revisits it via different characters in Dreadnought and Ganymede, which I am also eager to read.