Book Review: Boneshaker

I’ve never actually read steampunk before. Sure, the genre is now ubiquitous, so I know the general feel it’s going for, but I had not plumbed those depths for myself. Boneshaker was a page-turning introduction that will doubtless have me reach for more in the near future. 

As always, you can reach out to us if you have a book you would like to see reviewed in this space. 

The Basics:

Title: Boneshaker
Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk, Alternative History
Publisher: Tor, 2009

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

In an alternative Civil-War-era Washington territory, a scientific experiment gone wrong nearly destroys downtown Seattle. Soon thereafter, men and women everywhere take ill and die. Unfortunately, they don’t stay dead. Before the flesh-eating undead overflow into the territory, the settlers wall up their former hometown. 

Then the adventure begins. 

The son of the mad scientist who started it all ventures into the wall, searching for answers. It is up to his mother to extract him before his foolishness gets him killed, or worse.  Her odyssey of survival, faith, betrayal, and love grips the reader and never lets go.

Why this book might be for you:

Boneshaker is a beautifully written character study that also happens to be filled with chill-inducing scenes of terror and heart-stopping action sequences. The relationship between the protagonist single mother and her teenage son is complex and authentic. We feel her heartache and desperation as she struggles against impossible odds to bring her boy home. The setting’s horror is an artful backdrop which serves to ratchet up the intensity of the interpersonal drama and does not, in my opinion, overshadow the story.  

For fans of steampunk, the gears and pistons are more than just decorative. The ingenious ways Ms. Priest presents victorian-era sci-fi tech to solve the problems of a post-apocalyptic hellscape are delightful.

The roster of strong women in this text will resonate with fantasy fans tired of angst-filled or macho caucasian male protagonists. I want to wax poetic about the specific, fascinating women who drive the plot, but suffice it to say that they live in no man’s shadow.

Why this book might not be for you: 

I can imagine some of the more fanciful developments could take certain readers out of the narrative. If you’re tired of zombies, move right along. This book is filled with them. The same goes for all things related to steam and/or punks. If you absolutely must have your books historically accurate to the extent that alternative timelines bother you, then this book will too.  

Where can you find more?

You can find Cherie Priest at her blog, The Haunt. If you’re looking for more commercial options, you can find her at Tor.com or on Amazon

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