The Letterpress: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

One of my favorite PC titles of all time was Arcanum, from Sierra/Troika.  It was a world of zeppelins, religious cults, brass bolts engineering, and forbidden magic.  The people were doing their best to scrape out normal lives, but there was an underlying desperation that all of them felt because, at any moment, their world was prone to unraveling.  It was moving, really.  (Note: I can say pretty much the exact same things about Bioshock.)  So, what the hell does any of this have to do with Boneshaker?

Priest’s novel, just like Arcanum, manages to set up a world full of potential good that is plagued by serious disaster—plus, there are zombies.  ZOMBIES.

Briar Wilkes is our protagonist, a woman whose entire life has been marred by the enormous shadow cast by her former husband’s final moments of madness.  She has a son, Ezekiel, and struggles to raise him while earning a meager living at a factory.  Her old home is gone, as an unnatural disaster opened up the earth and sent a poisonous fog coursing through the city, killing many and bringing some of those dead back to life.  The zone is quarantined and, luckily, the gas is dense enough that it can be trapped behind an enormous wall.

Ezekiel gets it into his head that while his mother has been hiding answers about his father, he might be able to scrape together some clues by going under the wall and into the rotter (zombie) infested ruins of the old city.  When Zeke disappears, Briar sets out on a quest to find her son in a city full of memories she was glad to leave behind.

The entire theme of human resiliency is what made me love this novel.  Briar’s desperate search for her son drives her to the edge of sane decisions and forces her to risk her life in a dead, doomed city.  Zeke’s desire for instant understanding and an easy explanation of his father’s life decisions is an embodiment of what all young adults hope for in life (and many full-grown adults who, sadly, never realize that everyone is just as lost).

Heart-hammering chase sequences, brilliant inventions, and piecemeal politics made Boneshaker the best read of my entire summer.

—Written by Grant Goodman

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