I like Steampunk.
In fact, Steampunk is my favorite genre. I also really like zombies. (Odd considering Treasonists involves neither.) So when I picked up ‘Boneshaker’ by Cherie Priest, a ‘Steampunk-zombie-airship adventure’, I was really excited. A little jealous I hadn’t done it first, but excited.
Unfortunately, it was a big letdown. The main characters are flat and I never really ‘connected’ with them or cared about them, which is a shame because if they were fleshed out some more it could have led to a very touching ending. The plot itself was largely fate driven, with characters flopping around until the antagonist was introduced in the last third of the book. The plot starts off with Zeke’s quest to prove his father’s innocence and ‘rewrite history,’ but that gets lost somewhere in all the floundering around and it turns into a simple ‘overthrow the bad-guy’ plot. I guess I can’t talk, considering that’s what Treasonists is, but I think I’ve done it better. The characters themselves don’t ever contribute to the plot (besides to get it rolling at the start), and just followed other characters. Even at the end of the book, they don’t do anything that couldn’t be achieved by a nice painting hung on the wall. During the climax, a large-scale battle breaks out. However, we only hear about it because the POV characters never take part. I think, at the very least, Priest should have head-hopped to a side character’s POV so we could take part in the action, as it felt a little like watching an action movie from the POV of someone sleeping in another room. I honestly think the book would have been much better if it were about the side characters and their tensions with Dr. Minnericht. There is a good book here, It’s just about the wrong people.
I think Priest could have done better if she fleshed the world a little more, developed the characters and strengthened the plot. Which doesn’t really leave much, does it? I honestly think she relied on the concept of the book (which is awesome, a quarantined city teeming with Rotters , scavengers and a tyrannical mad scientist) and forgot she needed to develop anything for it to work. I feel bad for saying that, because I know a lot of work probably went into the book – it just doesn’t seem like that.
Don’t let this spoil your views on Cherie, though. I’ve also read Dreadnought which was a an exciting novel, once it got started. It did take a while to get started. But it’s better in every way – better plot, better characters, and better zombies. That makes sense, considering it is a sequel (in the sense it’s set chronologically after Boneshaker and in the same world, and written after Boneshaker. They are entirely stand-alone.) I would recommend Dreadnought to any Steampunk fans, or zombie fans, or train fans. But unfortunately I can’t say the same about Boneshaker. I’ll admit I’m looking forward to reading the next one, Ganymede (And Clementine if I can get my hands on a copy), and if that has the same leap in quality as Boneshaker-to-Dreadnought has, it could well become one of my favorite books, especially considering its premise. I mean, who doesn’t love sky pirates?
But then, I said something very similar about Boneshaker a few weeks ago.