If you read geeky stuff (and what are you doing here if you don’t?) then you’ve probably seen the cover of this book at any number of other web sites. It’s a sepia-toned close up of a woman wearing brass steampunk goggles with an ornate airship reflected in the lenses (actual image here just in case you haven’t seen it). If you’re wondering if Boneshaker might appeal to you, that image right there has 90% of what you need to know.
The only thing it leaves out is the horde of zombies.
First, some background: Roughly fifteen years before the start of this book, a brilliant but eccentric scientist took a commission from the Russian government to build a tunneling machine to help with their mining operations. He succeeded in building a gargantuan drill-fronted vehicle, but then something happened. The machine, nicknamed “Boneshaker”, was activated, burrowing out of the underground laboratory and undermining a huge swath of downtown Seattle before it reversed course and re-emerged in the scientist’s basement. An investigation was launched, but quickly abandoned as a new crisis suddenly developed: a strange gas was now leaking up from underground, turning people into ravenous, mindless, shambling zombies. Seattle was evacuated and a wall was hurriedly built around it to contain the zombies and the gas. One of the last people out was the city Sheriff, who had gotten his family out and then gone back in to let the criminals out of jail so that they wouldn’t die of the Blight.
Fast forward fifteen years to the start of the book. The daughter of the controversial last Sheriff is working a dead-end industrial job in a water purification plant in the grubby little town that has sprung up outside of Seattle’s wall. Her teenage son gets the notion that evidence which will clear his grandfather’s name must still exist inside the wall, so he gets appropriate protective gear and goes in to look. Unfortunately, his path back out is unexpectedly sealed by a minor earthquake. And when his mom discovers that he’s missing, she decides to go in after him…
The skeleton of the story is fairly simple – boy in trouble, mom trying to save him – but it’s the creepy atmosphere and the fun characters that make the book fascinating. There’s a whole little community of survivors still living in the zombie-infested ruins of Seattle, complete with politics, power struggles and a mysterious masked man who may or may not be the scientist who created the Boneshaker.
It’s a highly recommended read, and I’m looking forward to Clementine – Cherie Priest’s next book set in this universe.
Total Pages: 11,576