Saturday, December 25, 2010

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Zombies and airships and history; this book had everything!

There was gold to be mined, supposedly locked under the ice of the Klondike during the early days of the Civil War.  Russia commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a machine that could cut through the ice.  Levi created such a machine, but during the first test is took out a chunk of Seattle, releasing an underground gas that kills anyone who breaths it and turns them into the walking dead.  The city is evacuated and walls are erected to contain the gas.

16 years later, Blair Wilkes lives outside Seattle with her 15 year-old son Ezekiel.  Blair is shunned because she was married to Leviticus Blue, the man everyone blames for their troubles. Zeke is convinced that his father was innocent, that Levi didn't intentionally destroy the city.  Zeke sneaks back into Seattle, overrun by "rotters" and Blight gas to try and prove his father was a good man.  And now Blair must go in after him.

While I was reading this, I totally had a dream that I was bitten by a zombie and was slowing turning into one.  It was very unpleasant.

So anyway, this was delightful.  In general, I don't love the zombie books, but this was such a different twist on zombies I didn't mind at all.  Usually, when there are zombies, it happened out of nowhere.  People died and suddenly came back, there was mass panic, it spread world-wide, brings about an end-of-the-world scenario and the story is about some brave survivors as they try to cope in the zombie infested world.  In this (very) alternate history, zombies have been created by a gas that comes out of the Earth, and it has to be inhaled in order for someone to turn into a zombie.  There's no mass epidemic.  Yet.  They've contained the gas in one location and people continue on the best they can.  So it was a very different kind of world than we usually get when dealing with zombies.

I always enjoy alternate histories, although what was happening in the world was a lot less important than, say, Leviathan.  We have the backdrop of the Civil War, but that's all happening in the East and we're in Seattle which isn't even part of the United States yet.  So we have a time period to give us a picture of the world, but what's actually happening in the world, history-wise doesn't affect the characters so much.  Cherie Priest also notes at the end of the book that she took a lot of liberties with the history.  For example, the Klondike gold rush didn't happen until several decades after the Civil War.

As for the steampunk aspect, we of course, have airships.  Gotta have airships!  Leviticus was an inventor so lots of his inventions are introduced, along with various equipment to fight zombies, and all sorts of fancy gas masks (so that you can go into the city without being turned into a zombie).  Some people stayed in the city, and they have built themselves a pretty cool underground city connected by tunnels and tubes and so forth.

There's plenty of action and zombie fights and airship crashes.  Great adventure story to engage boys, plus we get a lot of the story from Blair's perspective, and she's pretty kickass, and also an excellent shot.  Don't mess with her.

The story itself moved right along and was totally engaging.  Poor Zeke just didn't have any luck when he got in the city.  He kept running into the wrong people.  Blair, on the other hand, runs into people who can help her right away.  Lucky Blair.  I liked the ending a lot as well; I was totally surprised about what had really happened to Leviticus, I wasn't expecting it.  Things were left pretty open at the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see a sequel.

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