Book Review – Dreadnought

Dreadnought
Cherie Priest
Paperback, 2010

Dreadnought is the followup to the incredibly popular Boneshaker, possibly Cherie’s most famous novel.
I love Dreadnought. It’s easily a 5/5 book. So when I found out that there was a sequel, I got really excited.
Dreadnought starts in Virginia with Mercy Lynch, a war nurse getting a couple letters. One tells her that she’s a war widow, the other is from her long estranged father, requesting her visit him in what we know as Washington state.
The book is part alternate history, part Steampunk and part Dieselpunk, with a smattering of western and a groaning of zombie thrown in for good measure. It’s an interesting combination, but I wasn’t disappointed in it.
See, in this book, the Civil War has been going on for about fifteen plus years. Texas was its own republic, with its own problems because of Mexico. Mercy gets her letters and military widow pension and for some reason, decides she needs to cross the country to visit her father, since it was his dying wish.
She then embarks on… pretty much the worst trip ever.
The dirigible she’s on crashes into what becomes the front lines of the war and she loses her suitcase. Every town she gets to, her red cross cloak – worn to help her get safe passage no matter who controls the territory she’s in – seems to draw her business. (At one point she even gets almost bit by one of the un-dead/un-humans.)
After what seems like an eternity, she makes it to Memphis and the Mississippi river, which she takes north to St. Louis before boarding the Dreadnought on a trip west. But that trip is frought with peril, too. The back and front of the train are carrying secret cargo and blocked off. Raiders and another train are coming in to attack, and somebody on the train keeps sabotaging the cars, disconnecting them in motion.
Also, 500 Mexicans are missing and that causes quite a bit of trouble in her trip.

So my comments. First of all, if you didn’t read Boneshaker, you can totally read this book. There are a few comments that relate it back to the first book, but if you hadn’t read them, you wouldn’t have caught it, and honestly, it didn’t really matter – they tell you enough to have played along on your own.
If you have read it, you’ll like how they tie in some things that are going on. I actually am really looking forward to reading the next book. I want to see how they link the stories together since they’re so different.
With that said, the book spends quite a bit of time – as in most of the book – with Mercy stuck on some form of transportation. While this isn’t that bad, it’s a little tedious after a while. I’m sure it would have been for Mercy, too, what with the trip taking weeks by train. But it does limit what can happen. For instance, on the “weeks and weeks” she spends on the train west, the only action we can get is her sleeping or playing cards or walking between the moving train cars.
And that was another thing. This was supposed to be a special train, all souped up and everything. Based on train speeds of the time and the way the book implies Mercy’s time on it, I question why the train trip took so long.
Also, this may be a weird comment, but the fact that Mercy and I share a last name was a bit distracting. I can’t fault the author for it, but I will say that it pulled me out of the story a few times, especially since they generally referred to her by last name instead of first. I didn’t include that in the rating, though.

Even with the book’s problems, I can’t help but wonder what is going to happen in the next one. So considering it’s #2 of 4 (I think), and I can’t stop thinking about how this is going to hook to the first one and continue on, I am going to give it a four out of five. It doesn’t stand as well as the first one on its own, but you’re definitely going to be sorry if you miss out on some of this stuff.

Advertisements

Book Review – Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker

Cherie Priest

2009

Trade Paperback

 

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.

%d bloggers like this: