Thursday, 25 July 2013

'Boneshaker' a steampunk novel by Cherie Priest. Read, reviewed.

Having read the Mortal Engines series, I was was just about ready to give another steampunk novel a crack. Summarised as a steampunk novel in 19th Century Seattle, with zombies (Huzzah!), I was intrigued by the premise of Cherie Priest's 'Boneshaker'.

There's a lot of story, but I'll try not to spoiler too much. Essentially Seattle has been subject to a disaster apparently caused by the heroine's (Briar) husband, Leviticus Blue. The upshot is that a gas is released causing people to become 'rotters' (read zombies) and the city becomes a no-go area and walled off. Years later, Briar's son wants the truth about his father and breaks into the city where drug runners and other very random characters have made a (sort of) life for themselves. Of course Briar goes after him and the truth of Leviticus Blue's death, or otherwis, is revealed.

But that's not even a small proption of all the shenannigans! In fact, for me, that is the key slight weakness. It's not a long novel, and it's not that the descriptions are too slight compared to the action. It's just that the events and places come so thick and fast that perhaps any real sense of place and character is diluted somewhat. There is atmosphere, but we are at such a pace that it isn't given time to 'brew' sufficiently. To that extent the writing style was similar to a movie script. Particular dramatic moments seemed to be over-written in amongst a dramatic series of events in a longer quest story. There were very strong and simply drawn characters with clearly defined (and predictably developed) relationships. I think the movie script idea holds - indeed I have read that the rights have been bought and I think it would make a great film.

I liked Briar though, fiesty, at times awkward and unsure. Strong-willed and independent. The other characters were not so 'rounded' and left me a little cold in my opinion. There was a pantomime villain at the end and some interesting allies. But what do I know? For me it was a 2 and a half out of 5, but with potential.

Overall then, not as successful as my first steampunk outing. Modern steampunk may still be finding it's feet, so might Priestly. thnakfully still a few more to read though ... watch this space.


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