In the early days of the Civil War, rumours of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.
But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.
Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.
His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.
Scott Westerfeld really did word it best when he described Boneshaker as a "Steampunk-zombie-airship adventure of rollicking pace and sweeping proportions, full of wonderfully gnarly details." I have always loved a good zombie story and I have always liked steampunk for its visual elements - the fashion and the style - but as of yet had not ventured very much in to reading the genre. For others looking to explore the steampunk genre for the first time Boneshaker is an excellent place to start.
The story passes back-and-forth between Briar and Zeke. Priest has a knack for knowing just how long to leave us following one character before the need to find out what is happening to the other becomes too overwhelming. There is at times quite a bit of walking around under the city but Priest breaks it up with interesting and well rounded characters. I found Briar a particularly fascinating character to explore with many different facets as a mother, a woman, granddaughter, and her past as a wife and then now as the widow of a notorious man. But not only were the main characters well characterised, but Priest includes a support cast of quirky and unique characters.
At the end of the book Priest admits to the warping of both geography and history to suit her story. Knowing absolutely nothing about the history of Seattle I really would not have known otherwise but I certainly do appreciate the research that went in to this and the consideration that she has put in to these changes. Also, I love her response on her website FAQs to the history in her books being inaccurate: "It isn’t inaccurate, it’s alternate."
Another really nice touch was cracking the spine and discovering the brown coloured font within. It was a nice little surprise that added a little to the steampunk feel of the reading experience.
Boneshaker is a well paced, action packed, and exciting read. It is a great place to start for those looking to foray into the steampunk genre as well as being an excellent and unique addition to the zombie genre.