Tag Archives: Will Wheaton

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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Book Review: Armada – Ernest Cline

Is this an amazingly fun book?  Yes.  The references make my inner sci-fi nerd happy. I enjoyed every single reference I caught.  I’m not ashamed to say I’m sure I missed some.  I kept waiting for Cline’s main character Zack Lightman to figure them out.  He didn’t disappoint, Lightman Jr.  is no dummy.  His mother didn’t suffer a fool.  She’s a gamer herself.  That said, is it original and going to go down in literary history?  Probably not.  Is the question of it being similar to ‘The Last Starfighter’ valid?  Yes.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  In fact any person who enjoys sci-fi or gaming will find reading this time well spent and smile.  I did say or.  I’m not a gamer.  I know the basics but this isn’t just for sci-fi or gamer fans.  It’s for both and even people who aren’t well versed in the 1980’s.   This is fun.  There will be haters out there who expect more, who will say they could have written it, there will even be people who say Cline is only rehashing what made him great.  I couldn’t care less.  I loved this book and Will Wheaton’s narration.  Thank you, Cline, thank you very much.

Zack Lightman is the son of a gamer, actually two gamers.  His dad died when he was young and he knows little about him from personal experience.  He did, however, get to dig though the ridiculous amount of memorabilia his mom kept.  This eighteen year-old kid works at a Game store, and plays ‘Armada’ every minute he can.  The kid lives in the past.  He knows everything about the eighties movies and games his dad liked.  It’s an obsession.  He wears his dads clothes.  You could say there is an unhealthy attachment to a dad he never knew.  He knows it’s a problem, but he didn’t realize how big of a problem until he starts seeing things that can’t possibly be true.  When he’s at school he sees aircraft flying through the sky from ‘Armada’.  He looks around his class to see if anyone else see’s what he’s seeing.  They don’t.  Is it real or is he going crazy?  He read his dad’s journal.  Is he going insane like his dad?  Is he destined to be a conspiracy nut?

No, I’m not going to tell you.  You are going to read the book and you’d hate me if I told you.  If you want the cheat codes read someone else’s review.

I listened to Will Wheaton’s narration.  If you listened to ‘Ready Player One’ you know he’s skilled.  He handles multiple characters with ease, but the best part of his narration is that he is in tune with Cline’s humor.  I didn’t read it.  I can’t say if I would have enjoyed it more or less if I didn’t have Wheaton’s interpretation.  I can say there are books where a narrator adds to the enjoyability of the book.  I believe this is one.

There are many things that make this book good; the father son theme, the possibility for a kid who looked like he was throwing his life away making good, the friendships, and the references.  Oh, the references… They are so good.  Reading the book you will feel the likeness to many books/movies/games; ‘The Last Starfighter,’ ‘Contact,’ and ‘Ender’s Game’ to name a few.  What makes it clear he’s not plagiarizing anyone is Cline not only recognizes them but honors them.  He knows what he’s doing.  He’s not trying to take credit for the original ideas.  He wants you to figure it out.  He loves these cultural icons as much as anyone.

My advice is to read it/listen to it.  Don’t take anything too seriously.  Start the book recognizing it is meant to be fun.  Turn off your inner critic and indulge.


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