If that isn’t enough to get you sold on Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, then I can add that it is a fast-paced reimagination of Seattle as a bowl of poisonous gas with hidden tunnels and clusters of badass survivors, villains and heroes alike. There be guns, there be airships, and there be the rumblings of the civil war in the east.
The premise of the story is as follows:
Civil war rages in the east but Washington has its own trouble and it is called Seattle. Sixteen years ago, Seattle was ravaged by the Boneshaker, a destructive vast mining machine made by Dr Leviticus Blue. It released the Blight, a noxious gas turning people into mindless creatures, ‘rotters’, hungry for flesh. The city was evacuated and a great wall erected to stop the Blight, but some survivors have dug their nails in, clawing out spaces for themselves between the Blight and the rotters, and not all of the survivors are friendly.
Briar Wilkes lives in the settlement outside the wall with her son Zeke. Daughter of the infamous prison guard Maynard Wilkes who died letting prisoners escape during the evacuation and widow of the reviled Dr Blue, she has few resources to call upon when Zeke sneaks into the city looking for evidence of his father’s innocence. Few resources but an old gas mask, a gun and grit.
When reading, I couldn’t help but think that it would be a fantastic, mad romp of a film, buckle aplenty and swash galore. Apparently, there was talk of a film about 5 years ago, but so far there’s been little news. If the steampunk Oliver Twist fares well, then perhaps Boneshaker would be next in line. And it would richly deserve to be so. The imagination in this book threatens to spill over, like the Blight slowly edging the top of the Seattle wall, but in a nice way.
It is an absolute pleasure to read, with good characters (including a female protagonist older, wiser and grittier than your average starlet) and a solid plot that kept me from putting the book down (and sometimes from breathing for several paragraphs at a time, because Zombies!). It is, however, in the world-building that Boneshaker truly shines. It’s rich, vast and detailed, like a huge machine packed with wonderfully intricate cogs and wheels, shifting and moving all around you. Also: steampunk zombies!