Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Earlier this year, when the novel nominees for the 2010 Hugo Award were announced, I decided to read all six.  Boneshaker by Cherie Priest is the fifth story I’ve finished, and I thought from the book’s blurbs the one I’d like the least.  I was wrong.  I thought I had a zombie prejudice, but evidently if you mix a colorful steampunk novel with great characters, zombie prejudice can be overcome.

boneshaker-by-cherie-priest

Actually, I would find it hard to imagine any reader not liking this novel is they gave it a serious try.  Sure it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re reading a novel about zombies – that is embarrassing – but I’ve found that biting the bullet and just accepting the undead as literary fashion and remembering this too shall pass, allows me to concentrate on the quality story that Boneshaker presents.

Here’s the situation, a woman and her teenage boy are the wife and son of a man that everyone hates in a alternate history 19th century Seattle.  Their lives has been destroyed by this hatred, and the boy desperately wants to prove his dad had some virtues, despite what his mother confirms about his father. 

This Seattle, Washington is unlike the one we know.  The civil war has been going on for twenty years, and an evil inventor has caused gases from beneath Seattle to well up and kill thousands of people.  To protect the country a giant wall is built around Seattle to contain the gas.  However, years later some people remain within the city, living in pockets of good air, knowing that if they breathe the gas they will die, or turn into a zombie.

That description does absolutely no justice to how colorful the setting is for Boneshaker.  But I don’t want to tell you too many details.  I listened to the audiobook edition of this novel without knowing much about it other than it had zombies, and people called it steampunk.  I would have been better even knowing less.  I had low expectations and even dreaded reading it. 

As soon as I started listening I didn’t want to stop.  Here’s the reason why it’s up for the Hugo – it’s a damn good story.  It’s just a good old fashion tale with lots of colorful characters and thrilling adventures.  Robert Louis Stevenson would have loved Boneshaker.  Ditto for Edgar Allan Poe, and maybe even Charles Dickens.  Edgar Rice Burroughs would have been jealous of its skillful twin narratives.

And I highly recommend the audiobook edition read by Kate Reading and Wil Wheaton.  Yes, that’s Wesley Crusher reading the boy’s part and he gives an impressive performance.  Of course Kate Reading is a superstar of the audiobook world.  The Boneshaker audio production is top notch and the dramatic reading brings out all the color of the novel.

Be sure and visit The Clockwork Century where Cherie Priest lays out plans for more novels set in the strange version of our 19th century America.

By the way, this effort to read all the Hugo nominee novels has paid off handsomely.  The diversity of story telling is impressive, but more than that, it’s a great snapshot of what science fiction and fantasy has become.  I shall do this again next year.  I’ve got one more novel to go, Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente, but the audio edition won’t be available until August 15th, still plenty of time to listen to before the awards are given over the labor day weekend.  So far, they’ve all deserve the Hugo.

JWH – 7/29/10

One thought on “Boneshaker by Cherie Priest”

  1. So there are TWO Hugo nominees with the same title, “Palimpsest” – one novel and one novella? That’s weird, isn’t it? It’s not exactly a common word.

    “Boneshaker” sounds interesting, Jim. Of course, I have nothing against zombies. 🙂 I loved “World War Z” by Max Brooks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

A Deep Look by Dave Hook

Thoughts, ramblings and ruminations

Reißwolf

A story a day keeps the boredom away: SF and Fantasy story reviews

AGENT SWARM

Pluralism and Individuation in a World of Becoming

the sinister science

sf & critical theory join forces to destroy the present

Short Story Magic Tricks

breaking down why great fiction is great

Xeno Swarm

Multiple Estrangements in Philosophy and Science Fiction

fiction review

(mostly) short reviews of (mostly) short fiction

A Just Recompense

I'm Writing and I Can't Shut Up

Universes of the Mind

A celebration of stories that, while they may have been invented, are still true

Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Make Lists, Not War

The Meta-Lists Website

From Earth to the Stars

The Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine Author & Editor Blog

SFF Reviews

Short Reviews of Short SFF

Featured Futures

classic science fiction and more

Sable Aradia, Priestess & Witch

Witchcraft, Magick, Paganism & Metaphysical Matters

Pulp and old Magazines

Pulp and old Magazines

Matthew Wright

Science, writing, reason and stuff

My Colourful Life

Because Life is Colourful

The Astounding Analog Companion

The official Analog Science Fiction and Fact blog.

What's Nonfiction?

Where is your nonfiction section please.

A Commonplace for the Uncommon

Reading, Ruminating, Writing, & Other Neurological Disorders

a rambling collective

Short Fiction by Nicola Humphreys

The Real SciBlog

Articles about riveting topics in science

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

The Subway Test

Joe Pitkin's stories, queries, and quibbles regarding the human, the inhuman, the humanesque.

SuchFriends Blog

'...and say my glory was I had such friends.' --- WB Yeats

Neither Kings nor Americans

Reading the American tradition from an anarchist perspective

TO THE BRINK

Speculations on the Future: Science, Technology and Society

I can't believe it!

Problems of today, Ideas for tomorrow

wordscene

Peter Webscott's travel and photography blog

The Wonderful World of Cinema

Where classic films are very much alive! It's Wonderful!

The Case for Global Film

Films from everywhere and every era

A Sky of Books and Movies

Books & movies, art and thoughts.

Emily Munro

Spinning Tales in the Big Apple

slicethelife

hold a mirror up to life.....are there layers you can see?

Being 2 different people.

Be yourself, but don't let them know.

%d bloggers like this: