You voted it book of the year for 2010, so let’s kick off 2011 with Boneshaker as book of the day.

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is far from the madcap romps of London gentlemen scientists. Instead, we have the zombie-infested, poison-filled ruins of Seattle. There is no great noble triumph in the technology. Most of it exists just to keep people alive, and the title device is what destroyed Seattle in the first place. There is not a parasol in sight, nor a monocle (although there are goggles!). Actually, reading the book makes you pretty sure most of the characters would, well, stink. Literally.

Perhaps it is fitting that Seattle (where Priest now lives) both gave us this book and is almost a character in the book itself, given that this could well be described grunge steampunk. Of course, for many people in many places, the 19th century was a grungy place. They didn’t have the daily hot showers and fresh food and sanitary water that so many take for granted today. The sanitary and work conditions are not something typically discussed in steampunk books, nor are the dwelled upon here, but Priest does treats them matter-of-factly and it help set the tone for the book.

Official description:

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors 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.


You can read the prologue to Boneshaker on Priest’s Clockwork Century website.


Reviews for this one are plentiful and easy to find, but here are a few links as has become customary:

Now, I know some of you have read this one. Chime in below or just post a link if you’ve reviewed it elsewhere.