Sunday, January 17, 2010

RAview: Cherie Priest's Boneshaker

First of all, long time no post, I know. Happy New Year! I have this crazy notion that once I get a Sony reader (next week!), I will magically be able to read faster, so I should be less neglectful of my little blog.

I'm also about halfway through Laura Joh Rowland's The Cloud Pavilion on audio, so there is more fun coming soon!

For now, I just finished my first steampunk novel, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. It was a lot more accessible than I thought it would be, if only because I prejudged it based on the sf subgenre's intimidating name. For the uninitiated, here's a Steampunk 101 article that helped me a lot.

The details of Boneshaker are primarily related to gadgetry/inventions/mechanics, which seems like a standard of the genre. What makes it more generally appealing, I'd say, is the characters. A mother and her son, both plagued by their family's past, end up inside Seattle's walls, where the Blight, a gas leaking from the ground, turns anyone who breaths it into a zombie--Going into this book, I didn't know there were zombies involved, and I'm a little sick of them having just read World War Z; however, they're not the main point or even the main conflict of the book, so it didn't bother me too much.

The narrative alternates between the two main characters' points of view, and they both have distinctive, stubborn, kick-ass personalities. The boy, Zeke, has the attitude and perspective of a the young teen he is. In their separate adventures, both meet sundry people in rag-tag clans who've, against all logic, made a life inside the abandoned, poisonous city. The pace is quick, as the reader knows if the two separated characters are close to each other and don't even know it or are trusting the wrong people, and the alternating chapters make for suspense as you naggingly wonder what's going on with the other character who we last left in peril.

The tone is suspenseful but somewhat uplifting, as the mom and son have left a dull life and are on a [dangerous] journey of discovery. The technology is intriguing and exciting. Transporting.

Story line: motherhood, romp, steampunk, Seattle, Victorian technology, alternating narrators, family pasts, local/underdog heroes, the drug world, zombies, airships, determination, character judgments and misconceptions.

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