Quick Steampunk Book Review: Boneshaker

Cherie Priest has done something in Boneshaker I once thought foolhardy and absurd. She has given Steampunkers the world over a good reason to wear googles.

In Priest's alternate history world the Blight has caused the citizens in early Seattle to don elaborate headgear and rock the hell out while running from roving hoards of the rotting undead. The Blight also gives Priest a good reason to have airship pirates, mad scientists and mysterious Chinamen running the streets in a wasted urban landscape. In a strange parallel, she also has a tough lady as a retro-mechanical version of Gibson's Ratz from Neuromancer as bartender in the ex-patriot bar Maynard's.

Overall I liked this book, but I absolutely loved how Priest didn't go over the top with the Steam-ification of things. Not a single person went around with brass watch gears sewn to the lapels of their great coat! Top hats with random gears? NONE! This book is about the nitty gritty of life in an alternate history and these people don't have the time for silly and useless glommifications that seem to be substituting for style in the modern Steampunk fashion trends. Priest has done something I thought was almost impossible and thankfully skipped right over the silly parts of the genre. Until I read Boneshaker I thought Steampunk goggles were among the worst parts of it, right down there with the airship pirate theme. She has lifted them from the depths of absurdity and made them a necessary and believable part of the landscape for the book. Inside the novel is also her own version of a BFG, and the effects of the Blight give it a good reason to exist. None of the characters use silly little raygun pistols and I'm pretty sure I never read the word aether in the book.

Thanks, Ms. Priest! You've redeemed Steampunk from the downward spiral of mindless fashion trends and useless gizmos.