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Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest



Highlights: Science Fiction meets Historical Fiction meets Horror.
Synopsis: Set in the 1880's in the Pacific Northwest. A woman follows her son into a terror-stricken city to fight zombies and restore her husband's good name.
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A fantastic world fit for Steampunk fans.


I felt no passion in Priest's writing. I often felt that the characters, events, and even the settings were unrealistically ridiculous.

Posted August 4, 2014 by

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Well known authors H.G. Wells  and Jules Verne can be counted as  the godfathers of Steampunk. Over the past decade, the science fiction sub-genre of Steampunk has become mainstream and is gathering quite a fantastical following: including myself. Typically based in Victorian England or the American “Wild West” era, science fiction meets historical fiction…the best of both worlds! Cherie Priest has introduced an interesting alternative history in the Steampunk universe where small dirigibles fly; toxic gas is processed into an addictive, and deadly, drug; and a large scale taser incapacitates anything living or undead.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest is the first installment in the Clockwork Century Universe. Set in Northwest America in the 1880’s gold rush, the Boneshaker is the name of a machine commissioned by the Russians to drill through miles of ice, gaining access to untouchable gold reserves. Unfortunately, the trial run of the Boneshaker brought devastation and terror. The tunnels dug during the experiment caused massive cave-ins throughout the city, resulting in many deaths and injuries. Many of the first responders were then killed by a thick gas released from deep within the tunnels…if they were lucky. The unlucky were infected and changed; they raged through the streets in hordes and hunted human flesh. Survivors were forced to evacuate and build a giant wall to keep both the gas and the “rotters” inside the city proper. Life on the outside of the wall was miserable, no matter what socioeconomic class you held when fleeing the city.

After the tragedy, survivors held one man responsible; unfortunately, he died during the event, leaving his wife, Briar, and son, Zeke, to bear the burden of hatred. After 15 years of being persecuted and shunned, Zeke decides to prove that his father wasn’t a monster. To do this, he needs to go behind the wall into the gas and fight the zombies to find a home he doesn’t even remember.

Briar and Zeke Wilkes go to hell and back again inside the walled city, but unfortunately this story isn’t as interesting as the backstory of the Boneshaker and the Russian involvement. Briar has so much potential to be a strong female character, but she is left flat and lifeless, as are most of the characters throughout the book. I often felt that the characters, events, and even the settings were unrealistically ridiculous; I was not compelled to connect with anyone.

Cherie Priest has more books in the Clockwork Century Universe series. Each is a stand-alone story, in the same basic setting. I may not have enjoyed Boneshaker, but I very much enjoyed the universe Cherie has created and I will definitely be picking up the next installment.




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Rachel Storey

Software engineer by day, bookworm by night. I love reading. I love writing about reading. I love talking about writing about reading. I joined Bookkaholic to have great conversations about literature, so please feel free to leave comments and discussions.


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