This next prompt was for a genre I had never even heard of. I happened to be at the library dropping off my last book and decided to ask the librarian what it was and for a good recommendation. As it turned it, this genre was the young lady’s favorite and she gave me a good suggestion for my first foray into it.
A steampunk novel: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Ezekiel Wilkes is a 15 year old boy with questions. Questions his mother, Briar Wilkes, refuses to answer. They live in the Outskirts, a muddy and poverty stricken shamble of houses bordering a two mile high, seamless wall that was built to contain a toxic yellow gas that rots everything it touches including human flesh. Zeke believes that inside that wall are his answers and one morning he slips through a sewer drain and enters what was once the bustling and wealthy city of Seattle, Washington in search of his mother’s old house.
When his mother finds him missing, she needs to find a way into the city to get him back and will stop at nothing to do so.
What follows next is an adventure involving zombies, desperate souls trying to hold onto their crumbling past, power hungry men taking advantage where they can, and the struggles of a mother trying to save her son from a past she is trying to hide.
Going into this prompt, I was a bit worried. The description I was told of the genre, victorian era sci fi, wasn’t all that appealing, however, once the book got going I found myself deeply interested and not wanting to put it back down.
The time period is the mid 1800s and I found it really interesting that the author explains herself in the back of the book because she veered from accurate history to make her plot make sense. In this version, Seattle is bustling due to the influx of Klondike gold and many future buildings and streets are already in place. I found this odd since the entire book relies on the suspension of reality: the premise is based on a toxic gas leaking from the earth that turns people into zombies. Not being familiar with the genre, I am uncertain as to if it in general follows as closely to the real world as a rule.
While the book at first glance is about fighting zombies and opportunistic, power hungry men, at closer inspection the themes that run through it are much deeper.
When the wall went up some people decided to stay behind and turned the rotting city back into their home. They built tunnels to avoid the zombies, found a way to make beer out of the toxic gas and learned how to both filter the air and make sealed off clean rooms. The life they lead is far from perfect, but as they put it it is a life of freedom. It brings to light the ideas of home and what makes a good life.
The other major theme is that of protection. Briar has strived to protect her son from their mutual past, but in doing so she sent him off in search of answers in the one place she didn’t want to him go. In begs the reader to ask how far one should go to shield others from a past you couldn’t control.
The characters themselves are likable and realistic and the more you learn the more you want to know about each one. The ending is left open which is my least favorite, but I suppose it leaves room for interpretation.
It was a really good book and makes me want to add this genre to my list of favorites.