Oh. So *that’s* what all the hype was about.
I’ve heard about Boneshaker for quite a while now, and it’s always been somewhere over there on my reading list. From what I heard, I knew it as one of the better known books in the Steampunk movement, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. And now that the trend is to slap a few gears on something and decide that it counts, I decided that I’d wait until I was in the mood for that, or just gave in and read the darn thing already. What I ended up doing was a little bit of both.
Anyway, I picked the book up from the library, and didn’t really know anything about it other than it was Steampunk. When I started reading, I realized that merely calling it that doesn’t do it justice, because there’s just so much involved with the story, and Priest does an incredible job of putting us right in the middle of it.
The story switches back and forth between two main characters – Briar and Zeke. Briar is the daughter of the infamous Maynard Wilkes and the widow of the criminal Levi Blue. Blue was responsible for the blight that tore Seattle apart. Briar spent her life trying to get away from the stigma of the men in her past while saving the last person in her life that mattered worth a damn, her son.
Except for one problem. While the Blight has been running off unchecked for sixteen years, merely walled off and ignored by the untouched parts of the city, Ezekiel – Zeke – has been growing up without a history and has now run off unchecked right under the wall and into the mess. Totally unschooled and thus unprepared for whatever he would find on the other side.
You can’t fault the boy, really. His father single-handedly destroyed half the city, and his grandfather was the legend of a jailbreak. All he wanted to do was clear his father’s name and understand his past. He thought he’d be gone for ten hours – that’s how long his gas mask would last. He was wrong.
Actually, he was gone for so long that his momma had to come save him. There are some interesting characters they meet along the way, too. Minnericht (is he or isn’t he Levi Blue?), Lucy, the half-armed (and I’m not talking weaponry) barkeep, Chinamen, airboat captains and crew, the rotters…
But in the end, this is a story about love and perseverance.
For those of you who are shaking your heads, saying you won’t read Steampunk, no matter what I say, really, you need to. Because this is the type of story where you can strip away a few details and your story works in any world. You could easily change the airships and some of the visuals and set this story in a modern world. This is why I like it – the essence of any good genre piece is that it stands away from the genre as well.
No wonder this is one of the go-to Steampunk pieces. No wonder it’s said to be the best book Priest has ever written. No wonder I’m giving it the full five page rating.