Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up this book because I was looking for an interesting read in a genre I hadn't read much of before. I figured that a steampunk, zombie hybrid would at the very least be harmless fun. I'm glad that my expectations weren't all that high, because that is all this was; harmless fun.
Priest sets up a world in which Seattle has been overrun by a poisonous gas that can kill you and turn you into a grey skinned, decomposing "rotter." Enclosed in towering walls, the denizens of zombie infested Seattle live underground in a desperate, dark world that is run by a mysterious doctor. There are dirigible flying pirates, Civil War deserters (because the damn thing has been going on for a decade), one-armed bar keeps, and lots and lots of gas masks. Probably more gas masks than a WWI trench.
So, how does she manage to make it unexciting?
One reason could be that she tells everything rather than shows. I couldn't get interested in how her characters felt, or might feel since she never gave me a clear idea. I got frustrated with trying to figure out how her protagonists Briar and Zeke (a mother and son) really felt about the horrible situation they managed to stumble into. The worst part was that I couldn't connect with them, at all. I found myself liking and preferring the secondary characters over the protagonists of the story because they were more interesting and likable.
Second, the book takes forever to get off the ground like a damaged air-ship, and then stumbles around in the moist, claustrophobic dark. Don't get me wrong, Priest is a clear writer with straight forward prose, but I wish the main characters spent less time trying to get places they didn't know they were headed and achieved some goals along the way. There were moments where Briar could have been looking for a lost set of keys instead of her son, and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference.
Third, well, the prose is dry. In other words, it wasn't interesting to read. I felt myself nodding off or having to walk away because I simply lost interest. This most likely is due to her inability to connect me to the characters or environment that they act in.
Despite my words, don't let them turn you away from this book if you want some fluffy popcorn for desert. It's fun, but it just couldn't grab my attention for very long. She has a very fun concept; it just seems that she didn't quite manage to electrify it to its full extent. I might read another one of these Clockwork Century books. I'm just going to need a little space first.
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