I have to admit, I picked this book up off of Audible for two simple reasons:
- It was on my reccomended listens list.
- It was narrated by Wil Wheaton and Kate Redding
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Steam Punk a great deal, but I had never heard of Cherie Priest or her Clockwork Century books before. I was looking for something that would be a nice long listen with all of the holiday driving I had ahead of me, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I got my hands on.
My thoughts on this particular book are pretty all over the compass, so I think it would be best if I broke it down a little for you.
If you think this is too long and you want to TL;DR it, here’s my bottom line:
If you like Steam Punk, read this book. If you don’t, go find something else to read.
Cherie Priest is a talented writer with no small amount of skill. She has a tendency to be vague and repetitive in her descriptions, but she’s turned that weakness into a strength by putting them together in a way that lets your mind fill in the blanks. Some readers might not pick up on that right away, but I tend to read authors like Jordan and Tolkien who feel completely comfortable writing a description of a door or feather that lasts ten to fifteen pages. Priest doesn’t do that. She keeps things going in a pretty quick pace through out most of the book, which has the effect of making it very thrilling when things are going down, but at the cost of having the slower points in the story seem to really lag.
Honestly, though, I’ve read quite a bit of Steam Punk, and this is the best written bunch in the pile. In a genre that tends to be a safe haven to Mary Sues and Gary Stews wishing they were born in C’Thulu’s Wild West, Priest has put a real story together with some pretty decent characters, in my opinion.
A Better Kind of Steam Punk
She isn’t as generic into Steam Punk as you might think, either. Despite playing fairly loose with the laws of physics and geothermal sciences, she stays fairly far from the more fantastic elements that pop up in the genre. There are no Wild West Wizards here, only good old fashioned, gas born zombies, and a little bit of Tesla-Age Super Science, and even that is just a bit ahead of its time. Scientific wonders of underground-Seattle include working light-bulbs and sound cannons that are powered by static-electricity. The only piece of technology in the book that just stands up and slaps you as being completely unrealistic is a rather unimpressive mechanical arm.
Ok, I’ll admit, Robot arm is so far off into the “Science Fiction” side of it, that I didn’t see it coming. Very little else in this book fell into the “completely impossible” realm and stuck with the “extremely implausible.”
Depending on your belief in Zombies.
Here is the part where I have to say, I had some drawbacks about Priest’s ideas, I’ve played the RPG Deadlands, and I’m pretty damn familiar with its setting. That means when you have a Steam Punk Wild West, I start looking for similarities and differences. There are a lot of things that popped out at me as being pretty much exactly like Deadlands. The Civil War continuing past it’s historical ending point because the South had an advanced train line and Stone Wall Jackson never got himself drunk-shot is a good starting point. Then of course there is the mining operations that turn people into zombies, gas in Boneshaker, rocks themselves in Deadlands. I swear that there was even one mention of a Huckster in this book, and not in the traditional “peddler” sense. That being said, none of those things are exactly large leaps to make to create an alternate history Earth setting for a Steam Punk Book, especially if you wanted to throw in some Zombies.
Of course, like all works of genre fiction that get even a little media attention, you can watch Bonshaker in theaters sometime in the next couple of years. I imagine that the movie will be horrible, so read the book now, before you get tainted.