Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boneshaker - My first foray into steampunk literature


Three weeks ago my loving husband grabbed Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (official site :  Amazon page ) off the new release wall at our local library.  He figured I'd enjoy reading it as I've burned through most of the stuff I've been reading (new books coming, but not fast enough).  Things have been so busy that my three weeks were almost up (that's our local book check out length) and as return day approached I hadn't started the book :(  I did however get it renewed and finished it in 3 days!  I also learned that it's not the best thing to read for hours right before bed.

I'm not really huge in the steampunk scene, I mean I like it!  and I love the style, but I'm not really involved, yet.  Still, if you remember my longing for an airship that I posted about - still totally want one!, and if you've taken me seriously about how I write about ideas I've had that I haven't shared with you for designs, well you can tell that in my heart there is a part that is very steampunk.  While I mostly read fantasy/sci fi and epic tales, I have enjoyed several historical fictions and alternative history stories, which at the heart this is!

The story is set in an 1880s Seattle that could have been.  For my part I'm partially glad it wasn't, as Seattle within the story has been reduced to ruins within walls filled with zombie like characters known as rotters and the poison gas, Blight, that makes them.  The story is focused on a mother and her son who are intricately woven into the story of the fall of Seattle.  The mother, Briar Wilkes, is the daughter of a man who is either akin to a local god or a man who should have been hanged for releasing convicts during the evacuation of Seattle and she is the widow of the man who is suspected to be the source of why Seattle needed to be evacuated.  Living on the outskirts of the once glorious city, she is an outcast among outcasts, and growing up has been even harder for her son, Zeke.

Zeke as any adolescent boy who knows nothing of the men in his life, decides that history must be wrong about them.  He learns that not only can the old city be entered, but that people live within it's walls.  He decides to enter the city to find some kind of evidence that may clear his father's name.  Possibly giving he and his mom some respect.  Everything starts to go wrong when after he makes it into the city, he is sealed in by an earthquake.  His mother, fearing for Zeke's life, hitches a ride with an airship to ride over the wall and search the dead city for her son, armed with only a rifle and the reputation of her name, both good and bad.

The characters within the city are rough and colorful. There is a lot going on that isn't said, and a lot that has to be uncovered.  The book features some very strong female characters and some noble men, along with the unsavory characters that make for a realistic feel as well as an uncertainty for the relative safety of the separated family.  When the air can kill you, the rotters are after you, and you aren't sure if you can trust the guy following, or leading you, there are some very tense moments - which is why I had really crazy dreams after reading the first half of the book.

It did take me a while to care about Briar and Zeke.  The characters started very stiff.  Briar particularly isn't instantly likable for all that she is hard working, she doesn't seem to have ever really connected with the men who shape her life.  Once within the city she rises into her own element and there is a definite drive to want to see the family reunited safe from harm.  There are tangles and twists, but most characters are fairly straight forward, living on the edge of death all the time leaves little room for parlor games.

The technology is amazing and present at most times, yet it is not overwhelming or extremely unbelievable (aside from a prosthetic arm that rivals even the best of todays tech by at least 25 years!).  It definitely doesn't detract from the story.  Although, the introduction of the airships is a bit abrupt.  Airships are introduced as a matter-of-fact statement out of the blue.  Sort of like saying and she walked out of squaller and into a beauty parlor.  After the smack that, "oh hi, there are airships over here" is over they fit well with the rest of the story and the world.

Boneshaker isn't the most amazing thing I've ever read, but it was a good story that was very compelling, especially in a nearly straight through read (only 3 days).  The descriptions are good, the fighting is some of the best writing of that style I've seen, extremely cinematic!  Jumping between the two characters more or less every chapter was good most of the time, but occasionally, I did lose sense of which events were happening concurrently and what had already happened, but the other character had no knowledge of it.  This was really minor and only happened at the end when the characters were sleeping a great deal between chapters and the main antagonist was trying to deceive them both.

If you are bored and looking for a good adventure/action story.  I'd give this one a go!

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