December 15th, 2009

there!, Hello

Steampunk, Air Pirates, Zombies, and a Really Nasty Mad Scientist . . .

80)Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (2009, Tor Books, 418 pages)

This alternate history/steampunk/dark science fantasy follows single mother Briar Wilkes and her son amidst the ruins of a walled in Seattle (circa 1880s). Zeke Wilkes is searching for a way to clear the legacy of his father, Leviticus Blue: the man responsible for building a tunneling machine called Boneshaker, which pretty much demolished the city and released a toxic gas from the earth (called The Blight) with the awful property of turning the living into the walking ravenous. Briar is searching for her wayward son before he gets himself killed. Though most of the locals dwell outside the walls of Seattle, the protagonists soon discover a strange subculture of gas masked danger seekers, drunks, Chinese machinists, steamtech low lives, and a peculiar mad scientist making homes amidst the Blight fogged ruins.

The deliciously original setting is a delight here combining some of the better parts of weird westerns (ala the Deadlands RPG and the work of Joe R. Lansdale), wild zeppelin adventures, and zombpocalyptic fiction. However, all of these disparate elements work in a relatively seamless whole, with a character motivated, suspense-filled plot that zips along. Priest is a wonderful storyteller, and I hope she will tell more tales in this intriguing world.