Do you like zombies? Do you like your zombies historical? How about alternative historical? Say, around the civil war-era, if it had lasted twenty years. Except you’re in Seattle.
If that sort of thing floats your boat, then Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is going to be a real treat for you. If it doesn’t … well then this probably isn’t going to be a very interesting review. Because that kind of sums it up.
I really loved the promise of Boneshaker. The first few chapters draw the picture of the city without telling you to much. Priest let’s the world unfold slowly, chapter by chapter. Even the time frame of the story, and the way she’s played with the timeline, aren’t apparent for quite a while. These opening sequences are beautifully written as she explores the characters and the world they inhabit. Priest leaves you entranced by the world she’s creating and nervous about the promised horrors to come.
However, it doesn’t always quite hold up.
Despite the horror setting, there were repeated points when I got a seriously Young Adult Fiction vibe from Boneshaker. That may have been because one of the protagonists is a teenage boy. Perhaps my old age just doesn’t allow me to relate to them anymore.
Priest’s descriptions are often packed with details that actually left me more confused than informed. The action sequences in particular are best skimmed, getting a feel for the chaos without reading the messy detail.
There are also several characters that seem unnecessary and dialogue in desperate need of an edit. It may be the way people talk, but it isn’t the way we want to read people talking.
Priest also chose to center much of the story around a family drama that I found boring. I didn’t care whether one of the characters was an imposter or not, and yet as the story progresses, that becomes almost the only focus of the story. There were other fascinating aspects of the family history that Priest chose to leave vague or unexplored, and I think that’s a shame, as well.
However, in the end, the story swings back onto a more interesting thread, which saves the novel. And there are sections that are just beautifully written. While there are sections in the middle that lack polish and direction, the novel is a very quick read with a fascinating premise. It’s far from perfect, but despite its faults, Boneshaker is a book well worth reading.