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A Reader of Fictions: They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! AHHHH! - Sufjan Stevens

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, October 3, 2010

They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! AHHHH! - Sufjan Stevens

The Clockwork Century, Book 1

Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: steampunk
Pages: 416

Brief Summary:
In this revisionist, steampunk history, the city of Seattle, because of the Klondike Gold Rush occurring earlier, became heavily populated in the 1850s. The Civil War continues to rage in the east, having dragged on for 18 years by the time of the main portion of the book. In January 1863, the inventor Leviticus Blue tested his drill, meant to be used for gold mining, underneath the city of Seattle. He destroyed the financial district and released toxic fumes, known as the blight, from underneath the earth. The blight turns people into zombies, or rotters. To halt the spread of the disease, the citizens evacuated and built a wall around the ruined portions of the city.

Fifteen years later, Blue's widow, Briar Wilkes, is trying to raise her son, Zeke. They live in the Outskirts, the city that built up right by Seattle's walls. Despite the danger, people lacked either the motivation or the desire to travel much further from their old homes. Zeke and Briar suffer the ignominy of their relations, father and grandfather too. The grandfather, the sheriff of old Seattle, is at least a folk hero in some circles, but there was little to be said for Blue. Zeke however does not want to accept that his father was all bad, especially since his mom isn't talking, so he decides to find out for himself by venturing into the walls. When Briar finds out, she will risk anything to get her son back alive.

Cherie Priest knows how to write and she has done her research. The alternate history she has created here is all kinds of fun (for the reader, not for anyone living in the fictional America). She responds at the end of the book to anyone bothered by the liberties she has taken with historical fact: "I realize that the story is a bit of a twisted stretch, but honestly--isn't that what steampunk is for?" (416). Personally, I think she's right and she has done the work to really make it believable within her framework.

I saw Cherie Priest speak at a panel about science fiction and fantasy at ALA 2010 (which is how I got a sweet, free autographed copy of Boneshaker). She mentioned the zombie element, something she probably frequently gets questions about, as they are not perhaps a necessary element. Her response, I believe, was just that she likes zombies. That's fair, considering she wrote the book. And the zombies do add an additional element of danger to the city.

Boneshaker will probably be read primarily by young adult audiences, what with the zombies and all, but I think adults would probably enjoy it to. In fact, the story tends to follow Briar more than her fifteen year old son. My only criticism would be that I found myself much more interested in the side characters, like Jeremiah and Cly, than in Briar and Zeke. Briar got more interesting toward the end when she started being open about the past, so this may be an untrue statement when it comes to the sequel, which I will be reading next.

I heartily recommend Boneshaker to steampunk or alternate history fans, as well as zombie enthusiasts.

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