Print Story Boneshaker
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By aphrael (Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 01:42:44 PM EST) (all tags)
One of this year's Hugo nominated novels is Boneshaker, an alternate history novel set in a mid-nineteenth century Seattle which has been overrun by a zombie apocalypse. The novel was written by Cherie Priest, whose ouevre includes Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a novel which I just couldn't get into.

The premise is an interesting one, and the opening of the book is carried off quite brilliantly - the mood and atmosphere and tone-setting are all awesome, the characters are interesting, and the way the characters get drawn into the plot is exciting.

Unfortunately, the promise of the opening was not carried out in the rest of the book; it failed for me - because it didn't answer the questions I was interested in, and because the resolution to the book resolved a drama that I didn't find compelling or interesting while leaving alone the things that I did find interesting. What started out appearing to be an incredible novel turned out to be an ok, if somewhat disappointing, one.



What I cared about most was the cause: why did the testing of the Boneshaker result in the release of catastrophe, why did the poisonous gas generate zombies - although admittedly that might be unanswerable with nineteenth century scientific notions, and perhaps that's why they weren't answered. But, instead of answering those, the book built up a dramatic tension around a mad scientist who posed a threat, of sorts, to the protagonists of the book, and used the resolution of that threat as the climax of the story.

The problem was that (a) the threat was never particularly compelling, (b) the character was too ambiguous to really draw my attention as an evil enemy, and (c) his relation to the world around him was such that he seemed to do as much good for those in his domain as he did harm; rather than cheering his defeat I found myself wondering how the people who had defeated him would survive without him.

It's unfortunate; I really wanted to like this book, and wasn't at all expecting the way it turned out. I'll still probably pick up the sequel, as I thought the world building and atmosphere were fantastic; but i'm far more likely to rent it from a library than to buy it outright.

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Zombies by duxup (2.00 / 0) #1 Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 02:21:33 PM EST
In general once you get past shooting a few zombies in the face I suspect they're not as much fun as folks make them out to be.  I mean hell the Internet would probably go down, how could anyone blog about it?

I suspect the same applies to books about them and so forth.

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zombies are a blank slate, a faceless horde by lm (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 09:46:41 AM EST
The fun in the zombie genre comes not from the zombies but from the various ways that people react to the zombies.

Unfortunately, it seems that most (not all) of the current crop of movies and books about zombies forgot about this. George Romero's work is the epitome of this trend. Each of his living dead films was a little more about the zombies as characters and a little less about the people facing them. Each of his living dead films was also worse than the one before. That could be a coincidence. But I think that the former is the driver of the latter.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
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thanks and by johnny (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 08:30:47 AM EST
It's interesting how fads come & go, innit? X number of years ago cyberpunk was all there was in hip SF reading. Then an astronomical uptick in vampires & zombies. And back in the ancient days, space opera was where it was at. And now we seem to be coming out of a deep steampunk/"dark fantasy" trough.

I appreciate your review, which saves me the trouble of reading the book. I love mood & atmosphere books, but if they  don't have logical character development or answer (or at least acknowledge) the most interesting questions they raise, they generally disappoint.

Have you read Vandermeer's "Finch"? If so, have you an opinion of it?

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

i have not read that, no. by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 08:03:26 PM EST
i've seen steampunk done really well, and i love china mieville, so dark fantasy can do it for me.

but this was a bit of a let down.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

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