December 16th, 2010

Cherie Priest put out the Hugo-nominated Boneshaker not long after the Steampunk sub-genre really exploded in a fascinating intermingling of the (deeply interconnected) SF and Goth scenes. This book had an uphill climb making itself appealing to me. I mean, yeah, I like Steampunk, but I’m more a fan of the Girl Genius, pretty-flash-whiz-bang stuff. This is grim and gritty and maybe a bit Old West (which is not a positive to my tastes). It’s also a Zombie book, and I mostly don’t like Zombie stuff. They’re almost as boring as vampires.

That said, I thought Boneshaker was a pretty good book. It’s got a very strong female lead in it (and passes the Bechdel test) who will stop at nothing to rescue her naive teenage son and learns a lot about herself and her family in ways that cause her to grow noticeably and positively. It’s got a vivid (if ugly) setting that feels thoroughly believable for all of its fantasy, and it’s got well written action that never gets so frantic that it loses the reader.

But pretty good isn’t great. As I mentioned, this is an ugly world, full of a lot of mostly unpleasant people, and I┬ádon’t really want to go back there. Also, a fun story with some character development doesn’t really push new ground in the way that I want a Hugo-winner to do. Is it the pinnacle of Steampunk fiction to date? Maybe.

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