Tag Archives: Steampunk

Boneshaker – Cherie Priest (Clockwork Century#1)

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Some books are fun and some are refined works of art.  This is fun.  It is dystopian historical revisionism of the civil war with steampunk airships, zombies, and a mom coming for her son.  I listened to the audio version of the book narrated by Will Wheaton and Kate Reading.  I’m not 100% sure it’s fine lit, but it was performed well and I enjoyed it.  I did not read any portion of it and can not compare the experience. This may have altered my perception of the book for the good – Wheaton and Reading can do a lot for any book.

Briar Wilkes is defined by being the daughter of Maynard – a dead symbol of law, and wife of Leviticus Blue – the man who devastated Seattle.  His invention, the Boneshaker, brought the blight that contaminated a city’s population.  To breathe it in transforms a person into living dead.  This story starts years after Seattle has been sealed off. She lives outside the tainted city, protected by the walls, raising her teenage son Ezekial.  With her reputation she was lucky to get a job at the Industrial Plant.  They barely get by.  She isn’t the mother she wishes she could be, working all the time, and her son runs with a criminal element that respects the Maynard blood in his veins.  Ezekial sneaks into the Seattle. He wants to prove his dad is the victim of slander, but at sixteen the rumors of what lies behind the walls is nothing compared to what he finds.  Briar figures out what he has done.  She regrets not telling him of her past and his origins, but she doesn’t have time for lamentations.  So, she picks up her gun, and enters the city with the help of those who respect Maynard’s law.

More than a coming of age story for Briar’s son, Ezekial, this is a story of Briar.  Who she was and is have been determined by her fathers and husbands decisions.  This is not strange for a woman of civil war times.  She rejected her position as the daughter of a lawman she viewed as a tyrant, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t take the skills he taught her with her.  In reaction she turned to a man of learning, an inventor, but his decisions confined her son, her, and the Northwest to disaster.  She accepted the burden and guilt placed upon her.  This story shows her taking control of her life outside how others see her.  In tracking her son she enters the city.  It is dangerous, close to lawless, and free of societal expectations.  She becomes her own person and her son gets to see his mother as strong and capable.

The world building could be better developed.  I appreciate detail and would have liked more description of the cities warren of tunnels. Being historical revisionism Priest could have delved much further into the war.  It was secondary to the story of Seattle, little more than a backdrop, but there are good bones here.  It is a series and I hope the second book fleshes out the blighted Seattle, and why Priest decided to place it in the U.S civil war.  I understand that adding zombies and steampunk machinery may seem a bit much.   It sounds like it is catering to every current trend, but I believe Priest was able to tie it together.  In a first book you need to establish the story and include enough action to hook an audience.  Priest does that.  There is so much potential.    To really be able to claim this as steampunk or revisionism there will have to be stronger science and historical elements in the second book.  I’m hoping she does it.

I recommend you listen to the audio version of this.  In seeing reviews by others I respect, who read it, I had a better experience.

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Curse Breaker: Guild Assassin – Berley Kerr

Curse Breaker: Guild Assassin (Curse Breaker, #1)

This is a steampunk fantasy.  Wendy Magdalena Braca was born into wealth in Jupiter city on one of the 500.  The 500 are habitable planets that for a fee you can jump to and are controlled by various countries of the mother realm earth. There are more than the 500 planets but The 500 are civilized while The Outlands, are wild, less habitable, and lawless.  At the age of twelve Wendy gets convicted for killing her mother.  She is innocent, but that fact was irrelevant.  She is deemed insane, convicted, and locked in Greenleaf Asylum for Troubled Girls to be forgotten.

Greenleaf fits a Gothic description of an insane asylum.  Patients are placed in cells, forced medication to keep them docile, food is limited and lacks nutrition, and treatment is questionable.  Thompson, the doctor, who for all intents and purposes is God and ruler of the asylum, regularly offends against patients with the help and participation of  male orderlies.  There is no one to protect the girls, they have no family,  Nurses and staff are fired if they say anything, and they can’t protect themselves.  Their word means little against the doctor’s; he’s a pillar of the community.

During a particularly gruesome interaction with Thompson, Wendy has a break .  All her senses are heightened and her strength is increased.  She kills the doctor and orderlies.  Since she is a fourteen year old girl, without the physical ability to mount the ferocity of attack and brutality found, she is not suspected .  An orderly knows she was there, but to vocalize his concerns would force him to admit knowledge of lascivious, despicable acts of abuse.  He has no intention of incriminating himself.  For the moment she is safe, but despite her fear, and Wendy’s best efforts, she can’t replicate what happened to her during her break.  Disease breaks out at Greenleaf causing it to be quarantined. The asylum, considered a hazard, is set to burn to dispose of the diseased bodies  As it goes up in flames, Wendy, remarkably untouched by the illness, is saved by a stranger.

Wendy’s rescuers are a guild of Validus Assassins and believe she is one of them.  Validus are people with powers beyond those of normal human beings.  Her new family believes Wendy exhibits signs of being the fabled Curse Breaker, a special kind Validus of extraordinary power, and the reason other Validus located and targeted her when her powers activated at the asylum.  They think the illness and asylum fire was created to dispose of her because any guild would rather kill her than let her fall into the wrong hands.  Every guild but her guild, that is, they do things differently.  Does this mean they always do the right thing?  It depends on your definition.  They are assassins, but they use their skills for the betterment of humanity.  She will have to learn if she agrees with their tactics as she becomes an adult and one of them.  It’s one thing to believe and do something as a child without power, options, or control.  It’s another to believe it when you are an independent, educated, adult.

Wendy is twelve when she is introduced to us, but this isn’t Young Adult.  It explores sex, drugs, and violence on a New Adult level. This is not a romance.  It also isn’t overly graphic.  Wendy’s experiences, guild characters sexual interactions, and drug use are used for the purpose of coming of age.  It marks different levels of growth and coping mechanisms.  I applaud the concept that sex is not solely a device for instant love, gratification, or moral purposes. My one frustration, however, is some situations and character reaction did not always ring true.   I felt the gravity of some experiences, if they were going to be introduced, needed more depth.  While Kerr was purposeful about with situations for character development, the character reaction seemed to be abrupt and lacking.

It is steampunk and I enjoyed it.  Kerr built a world where people are able to jump to planets both civilized and uncivilized.  It’s an interesting hybrid of science fiction  and alternate history with its own version of the internet, airships, and portals.  For Kerr’s purposes, being able to jump to other civilizations was developed in the 1800’s.  He provides us with enough historical and scientific explanation for plausibility without detracting from the pace of the plot.  Suffice it to say, I found Kerr balanced the needs of world building with most readers attention spans.  There is a class divide between the Validus and regular humans, although this is kept secret, but also a divide between the elite and the poor.  The elite only live on “The 500,” planets better suited to human civilization and are structured by a Victorian standard.  Men wear top hats and suits: the women are in dresses covering them from head to toe.  The dominant population in The Outlands are poor, dress code is in the style of the Wild West, in rough homespun garments worn repeatedly with patches.  Clothing is worn for comfort and use rather than cultural morality standards.  The poor also populate The 500. A noticeable difference between the elite and everyone else is a lot more skin is shown. Clothing, machinery, and airships are described  in detail to honor the genre.  That being said, a large amount of attention is devoted to describing merry widow corsets and the length of a skirt.

This is an enjoyable novel.  I have every intention of picking up the next installment in this series.  I need some of you to read it so Kerr can go about the business of getting the second book published.  I hope you took that as a hint as it was meant as one.  I need to know what happens next. While I mentioned a few things that felt off to me the writing is very good.   I recommend this for anyone who likes Steampunk, alternate history fantasy, and older teens and above.

I received this from NetGalley and Curiosity Quills Press in return for an honest review.


Kraken – China Mieville

Kraken

Alternate London + Pop Culture Sci-Fi  = Fantastic

This book is a wonderful jumble of pop culture science fiction and fantasy blended with an alternate modern-day London. China Mieville is known for descriptive world building that makes you feel present in the story. He lives up to his reputation in Kraken. It is a very detailed book, and this is book is only for multi tasking if you are doing mindless tasks like laundry. If you do not focus on it you will miss some intelligent pieces of humor. This book definitely caters to those that love the sci fi/fantasy genres but you can still enjoy this book if you are only a casual sci fi/fantasy reader. I loved the fact China Mieville was willing to poke gentle fun at himself and his audience.

Kraken involves an alternate London that has regular London living obliviously  amongst them with no idea that they have Gods, Londanmancers, cults, and familiars (currently on a union strike) living amongst them. Billy gets pulled into this world when he’s working at the Darwin Museum and a giant squid disappears. He’s pulled into this world by those that think he is the Kraken Prophet and is dodging multiple factions of cults, henchmen, assassins, a paranormal division of the police, and Chaos Nazis. My summary does not do it justice. You have to read it.

John Lee narrated it and I think for the most part he did a fabulous job, the only place I feel he may have fallen short was the character of Collingsworth, who is a paranormal, Amy Winehouse type, police woman. He doesn’t do terrible with it but I could see if I was reading it, my internal interpretation may have been a bit different. For the wealth of particular characters I don’t know anyone who could have done better.

I loved it and it will definitely go into the listen again pile because I am sure that on a second try I would pick up on even more of the pop culture references. I did notice some characterized this book as scary or horror and I tend to stay away from that genre because I can scare easy. I did not find it scary at all.


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