Boneshaker: Cherie Priest's swashbuckling steampunk Seattle story

Cherie Priest's zombie steampunk mad-science dungeon crawl family adventure novel Boneshaker is everything you'd want in such a volume and much more.

Boneshaker is the story of the Wilkes/Blue family, a storied Seattle clan whose three generations unmade and remade the city through a series of scientific and martial adventures that are recounted with great relish and verve. First, there's Leviticus Blue, an arrogant mad scientist who developed a great tunnelling machine (part of a Russian-sponsored competition to improve Alaskan gold-mining) and undermined the city of Seattle, releasing the Blight, a poisonous gas that causes the dead to rise, and to hunger for the flesh of the living. Then, Maynard Wilkes, a prison guard in Seattle, committed an act of great mercy and bravery by releasing the prisoners in his care before they could be blighted, losing his life in the process, and becoming a hero to those left behind the walled-off city of Seattle, and a pariah to the settlers in the Outskirts beyond the wall. Then there's Briar Wilkes, the widow of Leviticus and the daughter of Maynard, who is scraping by in the Outskirts, trying to outrun her reputation but unable to, and unable to escape Seattle because of the great Civil War that is eating America with martial trains and dirigibles and great armies. Finally, there's Ezekiel Wilkes, the son of Briar and Leviticus, who has snuck back into the walled city, wearing an antiquated Blight-mask, to discover the truth about his father.

And that's where the action kicks off, with son and mother chasing one another through the Blighted city of Seattle, avoiding the zombies, befriending the Chinese laborers who run the great machines that suck clean air from beyond the wall into the sealed tunnels beneath the city, trying to escape the clutches of the evil Dr Minnericht, the self-appointed king of Seattle (who may or may not be Leviticus Blue), befriending rogue zeppelin pilots, armored giants, and steam-powered cyborg barmaids.

It's full of buckle and has swash to spare, and the characters are likable and the prose is fun. This is a hoot from start to finish, pure mad adventure.



  1. Most Amazon books that aren’t available for Kindle have a “Click here to tell the publisher you’d like to read this book on your Kindle”, but I guess that’s an opt-out/in kinda thing, because the Amazon page doesn’t have it for this book. Hmm.

  2. Yeah, somewhat disappointed by the lack of a Kindle edition as I’d heard good things about this book and want to read it.

    Given where we are, I’d assume it’s because of a refusal to collaborate with DRM, but I note that Priest’s earlier Eden Moore trilogy is available on the Kindle.

  3. “rogue zeppelin pilots, armored giants, and steam-powered cyborg barmaids” ?!?

    The man knows how to pitch a sale. I’m intrigued.

  4. I didn’t realize owning an ebook reader meant you could no longer buy physical books. I was thinking I may end up getting one someday, but now.. not so sure.

  5. >> I didn’t realize owning an ebook reader meant you could no longer buy physical books. I was thinking I may end up getting one someday, but now.. not so sure.

    No, but it defeats the purpose of an e-reader, wouldn’t you say?

  6. I’ve had this on pre-order for months and I am STOKED to hear that it’s finally on its way. I. Can’t. Wait.

  7. Oh, I’m sure I’ll buy the physical book (after all I have thousands of them), but I’m sitting here at work and an ebook version is a couple of clicks away rather than a drive to the bookstore. Great for impulse purchases.

    And to forestall that argument, I love bookstores as well and spend too much time there.

    I read eBooks on my phone using the Kindle software or Stanza, so, without an extra device to carry around, I still have three or four unread books with me wherever I go.

  8. Well of course I can buy the hard copy. But I’ve noted with some interest that having a Kindle seems to have raised the bar for what I’ll buy in paper format by a considerable margin.

  9. Tor has done some Kindle only ebooks – so if that happens here, sales to rest of world of course become pretty close to zero.


    If it is from Tor, you can pretty much assume you won’t get an ebook, currently, in general.

  10. I picked up a (hard) copy of “Boneshaker” and read the first 50 pages before bed-time. It is a fast-paced story with easily-admired characters and a quirky environment that is too close to reality to be ignored.
    The “steam-punk” technology is close enough to reality to be believed.
    C.M. Priest describes North-Wet weather better than most authors. You find yourself reaching for a towel at the end of every chapter. (Hint: I lived on the outskirts of Seattle for a year and the out-skirts of Vancouver for more than a decade.)

    Rob Warner
    author RCAF ’46

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