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Topic: Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

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Subject: Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
Date Posted: 3/6/2010 12:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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I've started this thread because the book has been placed on the final ballot for 2009 Nebula Best Novel award, and it looks like several of us will be reading it over the next few weeks.  If you've previously posted about it, feel free to re-post your comments here.

We should avoid posting an ending spoiler, but detail spoilers are inevitable.  If you are planning to read it soon, and do not want to see detail spoilers, I recommend you not read this thread yet.

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 2:24 PM ET
Member Since: 10/31/2009
Posts: 84
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I think Priest did an amazing job of writing both a Verne-style steampunk adventure and a novel that captures both the creeping horror and outright terror of zombie fiction and making the combination work.

Subject: Tom Hl's review
Date Posted: 3/6/2010 8:02 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Cherie Priest has created a fascinatingly odd setting in 19th century Seattle, where she admits to having fudged dates of some historical events a little.  This alternate Seattle has been transformed through the actions of inventor genius Leviticus Blue, whose Boneshaker is a machine ostensibly designed to carry a driver down through earth and glaciers to the goldfields of the Klondike.  However, before that happens, the machine is used to drill from his house on Denny Hill to the banks downtown and home again - devastating large areas of the city, creating the opportunity for the banks to be robbed, and jails to be broken out of.  Not only that, poison volcanic gasses are released from under the city.  So far so good, but it is also the nature of these gasses to reanimate all the dead of Seattle, who now want to eat all the living and transform them also into zombies.   Sorry, but my ability to suspend disbelief in the concept broke on that one.  It's just nonsense.  Previous steampunk I've read - notably The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling - stuck much closer to plausibility.

But all that is really just the background to the story.  Years later, Blue's widow Briar is living outside the big wall built around the contaminated zone with their teenage son Zeke.  They don't get along so well, and Zeke runs away to sneak through the wall to find his parents' old house and to understand the secrets of his parents' lives which his mother has hidden from him.  Finding him gone, Briar immediately abandons her job and home and finds her own route into the contaminated zone as well.  Zeke is pretty well done, but I had trouble connecting the Briar from before Zeke runs away to the Briar after Zeke runs away.  It just seemed like two different characters.  There is some reason for her seemingly uncharacteristic response, but it is not known to the reader until much later in the book.  It turns out there is some self-interest involved as well.  But at the point it happened it just seemed inconsistent.

This didn't make for a very good start to the book for me.  However, the strength of this book is in the plotting.  It is an excellent example of "3rd person limited narrator from multiple perspectives", with Zeke bouncing through a wild series of events in Seattle, at the same time Briar is swept through her own adventures, occasionally interacting with some of the same background characters.  I read with a great deal of anticipation waiting to see which kaleidoscopic event might finally throw them together.  No ending spoiler here, but the end does tie up all the threads satisfactorily and with surprising heart.

This is definitely a worthwhile read, but the initial set-up was just a little too wacky for me.

Last Edited on: 3/6/10 8:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: steampunk and zombies
Date Posted: 3/14/2010 12:00 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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I got a little bored with it, but I'm just not into zombies that much.  Yes, I know the book doesn't really deal with zombies all the time.  It's more characters interacting in a dangerous undergound setting with poisonous gas and territorial fights and such.  Good descriptions, the tone was set with steampunk atmosphere and a scary, abandoned, ruined inner city.  But it rather dragged on, I kept wanting to get to the end and discover the secrets.  If there were more plot twists and discoveries, something to spice it up......  Only 3.5 stars from me.

And I didn't really like the brown ink and no, I'm not judging the book based on the print color.

I plan to read some of Priest's other books because she's a good writer, I just got tired of the Boneshaker story.   

Date Posted: 3/14/2010 4:03 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Brown ink?!?!?

That doesn't sound pleasant. . . especially as I am given to reading in low-light situations!

Subject: brown ink
Date Posted: 3/16/2010 9:38 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Yeah.  Brown ink.  Yuck.

Subject: New to me
Date Posted: 8/6/2010 11:54 AM ET
Member Since: 5/12/2010
Posts: 12
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I will have to check out this series.

Date Posted: 8/6/2010 3:48 PM ET
Member Since: 4/9/2009
Posts: 360
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I hated it. Right from the beginning to the very end. Boring, stupid, idiotic characters. Hand wringing and "oh my goodness, what do I do now?" galore.

Yeah, not a big fan. And I'll never read anything else by her.

Date Posted: 8/7/2010 5:06 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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It was too dark for me.  DNF.   (I do usually avoid horror books.  The glowing reviews tempted me.  I like my steampunk much lighter.)

Last Edited on: 8/7/10 5:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Shot
Date Posted: 8/19/2010 11:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/12/2010
Posts: 12
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Giving it a shot - not bad so far. PhoenixFalls - I also read in low light and the brown type is not as bad as I expected.

Subject: Boneshaker
Date Posted: 10/5/2010 6:45 PM ET
Member Since: 10/5/2010
Posts: 1
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Couldn't finish it. Just wasn't able to appreciate the steam punk thing.