Friday, August 26, 2011

This lame book could be an awesome movie.

This is what I have to say about Boneshaker by Cherie Priest:

Steampunk is nerdy, but I don't care. I'm drawn in by the images of flying machines, whimsical gadgets, and undersea adventures. It's a subculture firmly rooted in Jules Verne's work, and almost anything with a literary basis attracts my attention. So I wanted to like this book. The premise is excellent: Briar is a thirty-something widowed mother living in an alternate-reality 1880s Seattle. Her late husband's invention led to the release of a toxic gas that turned much of the city's population into zombies, so Briar and her son live in disgrace. A wall around the city keeps the undead horde out. When Briar's son crosses the wall, looking for something that will clear his father's name, Briar follows him in an airship, and... the adventure begins.

I was drawn to Briar. Fantasy genres abound with plucky teenage heroines, but it can be difficult to find interesting adult female protagonists. Most of all, I was impressed by the glowing praise from Scott Westerfeld ("This book is made of irresistible") and Warren Ellis. But. But, but, BUT.

A steampunk adventure story requires frequent and detailed descriptions of the settings, i.e., There were pipes and levers and copper thingies everywhere, and don't forget to put on your goggles! Unfortunately, Priest chose to add descriptive passages at the wrong moments, bringing the action to a screeching halt. There is a TIME and a PLACE to notice the neat stuff stuck to the walls. And when zombies are chasing you, THAT IS NOT THE TIME. The undead are more interesting than walls, yo.

The second problem is that the writing is so distractingly trite that it pulls me out of the story and into snark-land. Lines like "He was dead for no reason at all except that he'd once been alive," and "Briar stopped too--or she would have, if she hadn't already," and "she didn't disturb the disturbing silence," give me flashbacks to Creative Writing 101. I really, really wish I was making up those lines. I'm not. I had more fun laughing at the clunky prose than I did reading the story.

I feel bad for this novel. I want so badly for it to be GOOD, because the premise is so cool. An old-timey Seattle overrun by zombies? FUN! This story is begging to be a movie. A more visual medium would immediately convey the setting, so the pacing and tension wouldn't suffer. When is Boneshaker coming to theaters?


  1. I'm reading this right now, almost done. Totally curios about the end and this book's very addictive. :). I love ur blog. After I read a book, I usually make a review about it too but in my native language (Indonesian). Yours is great :).

  2. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the feedback. Keep reading... It's not my favorite book, but it's definitely worth finishing. Do you have any recommendations for other steampunk novels?


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