The prologue is the most exciting part of Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest. In 1863, the Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine went on a rampage. In Seattle, there was a boom when the failed 49ers passed through to strike out for the Yukon. Angling for a commission from the Russians to drill for gold, a mad scientist, Levitus Blue, built a giant drilling machine that undermined the city, just happened to tear out the basements of four banks, and just happened to open a vein of poisonous gas that turns you into a zombie. So they walled up the city.
Sounds like fun.
The main book opens 16 years later. Briar Wilkes is the widow of Levitus Blue and the daughter of Maynard Wilkes, a sheriff still so respected that his family gets a pass from the good-ish guys. Briar’s son, Ezekiel takes it into his head that he might find proof of his father’s innocence in the walled-up Seattle. So he goes in. She goes in after him.
But before that happens, you have to endure 50 pages of the characters yapping at each other. They talk about the background just presented in the prologue. They talk about their relationship with each other. Even when the story gets underway, every time someone meets a new character they have to explain everything all over again and talk about what they need. They yap so much, you just want them to shut up and shoot some zombies.
Along the way, they meet various Colorful Characters. Most of the people Briar meets are helpful, even prompting her to ask questions that she should be asking for herself. Her son Zeke, by contrast, displays a rare gift for trusting the somewhat bad guys and mistrusting the mostly good guys. Neither of them are particularly effective at pursing their stated quests. Their adventures converge, whether anyone wants to or not, on the lair of the most important man in the walled city, Dr. Minnericht. Action scenes ensue. And in the end, a stunning revelation, revealed by lots of yapping.
All along, I was thinking this would make a great video game. Zombies. Airships. Brass-riveted technology. Yellow gas hanging about the ruined city. Various factions fighting over the remains. Stuff happening only because otherwise there wouldn’t be a plot. And I have seen a claim that the author was partly inspired by the video game Bioshock. Makes sense. Now I want Boneshaker to become a game, and close the circle.
The perfect read to pass the time on a cross-country zeppelin journey.