What could be better than alternate Steampunk American history with zombies? Cherie Priest’s fantastic Boneshaker has it, and a touching story of the relationship between a mother and her son.
In Ms. Priest’s world, introduced with an excerpt from a “historical text,” a man called Leviticus Blue invents the Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, or Boneshaker, intended to mine gold from under the thick ice in the Klondike. Instead, it burrows under the streets of 1862 Seattle, releasing Blight Gas from deep underground. Many of those the Blight kills do not exactly stay dead…
Sixteen years later, the story proper begins. It is obvious that the “historical text” of the prologue which you thought explained everything hasn’t given you more than a vague idea of what actually happened. A wall surrounds the Blight-affected areas and the widow of Leviticus Blue lives with her son in the dystopian Outskirts. The exposition unravels with tantalizing hints at the true story of the Blight.
Briar Wilkes, the unfortunate widow of Leviticus Blue, is a tired, close-mouthed, practical woman who isn’t quite sure how to relate to her son, Zeke. Zeke, or Ezekiel, is an idealistic boy of fifteen who decides to discover how much of what he’s heard about his father is true.
When Zeke crawls under the wall into the Blight-ridden city of Seattle, Briar must follow him and face the past she’s tried to forget. The zombies crowd the streets, the Blight Gas has only thickened, and the tyrannical mad scientist Dr. Minnericht rules what is left of the city.
What follows is a twisting, rollicking, zombie-crammed adventure that takes our heroes far above and far below the walled city with a cast of distinctive rough-and-tumble characters who have made lives for themselves among the zombies.
The prose is touching and gritty. The no-frills characters are harsh and human by turn. Each of them seems alive. Well, excepting the zombies, or rotters.
I give Boneshaker five gears out of five. It is a work of art as well as a gripping adventure.
Your Correspondent from the Bookstore.
Penny J. Merriweather