Priest’s final Clockwork Century novel (after The Inexplicables) wraps things up nicely, once again turning a mash-up of too-worn genre tropes (steampunk, alternate Civil War, zombies) into a work of entertainment laced with social criticism. In 1879, as the Civil War continues to rage, scientist and ex-slave Gideon Bardsley’s invention, a massive computer called the Fiddlehead, has predicted that the zombie outbreak from the Northwest will overwhelm both sides if they don’t end the war. Working with ex-president Lincoln (long disabled from an assassination attempt), he enlists the Pinkertons, including their agent Belle Boyd, in an attempt to find allies in the South. Meanwhile, amoral businesswoman Katharine Haymes attempts to prolong the war for her own reasons. Priest again throws in a huge cast of characters, and the historical figures (Boyd, Lincoln, Grant) are as interesting as the fictional ones. New readers would benefit from starting at the beginning of the series, but returning fans will be satisfied by the elegant conclusion and will regret that a great series has ended. ~Publishers Weekly
While the sequels Dreadnought and Ganymede expanded the fictional territory across much of North America, Priest circles back to the Pacific Northwest in The Inexplicables, subtly pivoting her story in a new direction. … Just as Rector and his friends roam up to the edges of their territory, she’s probing the world that she’s created, teasing out new aspects of the familiar landmarks, then laying out early signs of the next direction–because it’s very clear that there’s at least one more installment of the Clockwork Century yet to come. Newcomers can pick up The Inexplicables without any substantial difficulty, but there’s an extra layer of enjoyment if you know the backstory–and its three predecessors are just such fun, anyhow. ~Shelf Awareness
The latest installment of Priest’s steampunk series, Clockwork Century, returns to the alternate Civil War–era American landscape she introduced in Boneshaker (2009). Her eccentric protagonist this time is Rector Sherman, who, at 18, has just left the only home he’s ever known, an orphanage just outside a toxic, gas-infested, late-1800s Seattle. Hoping to eke out another few years of existence by selling and using sap, the area’s gas-derived drug of choice, Rector scales Seattle’s imposing walls and seeks out the ruined city’s criminal underworld. Aside from making a living, Rector is also hunting the remains of his old friend, Zeke Wilkes, hoping Zeke’s troublesome ghost will finally let him be. Yet not only is Zeke very much alive but the reunited pair must contend with a cross section of Seattle’s worst elements, including the zombie-like “inexplicables” and a band of sinister gold prospectors. Priest’s narrative has all the compelling ingredients that keep the steampunk subgenre going, including riveting characters; a vividly realized, atmospheric setting; and a well-told story of adventure. ~Booklist
Rector’s story is an old-fashioned boys’ adventure, and Priest’s alternate 1880 is as intriguing and enjoyable as ever. ~Publishers Weekly
[Starred Review] The smashing third volume in Priest’s Clockwork Century steampunk alternate-history Civil War series (after 2010’s Dreadnought) stars Josephine Early, New Orleans brothel owner and Union spy, who must deliver Ganymede, a prototype submarine, to the North. There are only a few problems: no one has ever successfully piloted the craft, and the Texian and Confederate armies are actively searching for it. Josephine’s former lover, Andan Cly, agrees to help while completing his primary mission of retrieving supplies for blighted Seattle, where noxious gas forces residents to live underground and zombies remain a constant peril. Priest is at the top of her game, equally deft with pirate battles and mature romance: Cly is tentatively connecting with earlier protagonist Briar Wilkes, sheriff of Seattle, making him elegantly cautious around Josephine as they both try to focus on their mission. Clockwork Century fans will dub this installment the best yet. (Oct.) ~Publishers Weekly
There are a lot of lazy writers out there who think steampunk is a quick way to tell a tale, but Cherie Priest isn’t one them. This is alternative history storytelling at its finest and she is a blend of Verne, Doyle, and dare I say it — Louisa May Alcott. The action is here, the mysteries, but also the gender balance among strong characters (both leading and supporting) is very nearly unprecedented. ~BookSlut
And indeed, as you can see, there’s a good reason that a growing number of people are starting to call this perhaps the greatest steampunk series in the history of the genre; and that’s because with each volume, Priest squeezes in several novels’ worth of flabbergasting ideas, making each story expansive as hell while still keeping a tight control over the three-act structure. ~The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
I was intrigued from the first few pages of Ganymede and it held my interest throughout. For some reason I’ve avoided the whole Steampunk movement in literature so far, but after getting a taste of Priest’s world, I’m going to have to start reading her Clockwork Century series to see what I’ve been missing… Ganymede is on bookstore shelves now and I’d encourage you to give it a read. Whether you’ve been on the fence about the whole Steampunk movement or have known about it a while, Priest’s writing style makes it easy to slip into the clockwork world Early and Cly inhabit. ~ The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
[Ganymede] is a more refined read – with a storyline that was impressively intricate and brilliantly polished. I suppose the expression I’m looking for is, ironically, “like clockwork” – the narrative was flawlessly paced, with a fluidity and precision that seemed effortless. The characters – even the peripheral ones – were well developed and emotionally compelling. Although it wasn’t integral to the primary storyline, Priest made it a point to “flesh out” marginal characters like Ruthie Doniker, Houjin, and Kirby Troost. Some authors may have “revealed” Ganymede much earlier in the novel but Priest drew out the mystery until well into the latter chapters – it may seem like a small thing but because of this decision the urge to continue reading was undeniable. Priest is very much an artist at the top of her craft – and this novel is a subtle masterpiece. ~Barnes & Noble Book Club
Priest is amazing at detail, brilliant at transforming an imagined, impossible history in such a way that flying airships and a decades-long Yankee Invasion seems not only plausible but simply neglected in our history books. With the authentic language and lush settings Priest readers have come to expect, Ganymede does not disappoint and is effortlessly at home in the Clockwork Century series. ~ LitStack.com
An engrossing and exciting adventure from its first sentence to its last … Priest once again delivers a rousing adventure that demonstrates both her love of history and her definitive knack for playing with and bending it to fit the purpose of her captivating universe. ~BittenByBooks.com
This sparkling fantasy has language that turns on a dime to pull readers in and keep them hooked; it’s hard to stop, once the plot gets rolling and you need to know what happens next. Despite the rapid pacing, there’s plenty of time for interesting side adventures and characters, including some real historical figures who flow well within the context of the story. … If you’re a fan of lush world-building that promises a dazzling array of possibilities, terrific characters, and a whopping good time, you’ll probably like Ganymede and the rest of the Clockwork Century, which is a stellar set of interconnected works with the promise of many more on the horizon. If you’re not a fan of those things, I believe the phone company hands out entertaining reading for free on an annual basis. ~Global Comment
The San Francisco Chronicle
Via SF Gate
Friday, December 3, 2010
It’s easy to poke fun at the Victorian affectations of steampunk, but “Dreadnought” has the propulsive power of a straight-ahead adventure story, and Priest handles the alternate history without needless frippery. Courageous, competent Mercy makes a compelling heroine, and the novel has much to say about the futility of war in any era. “Dreadnought” is tough but entertaining, another solid entry in a well-constructed series.
Barnes & Noble.com
Paul Goat Allen
Surprising to no one who read Boneshaker and Clementine, Priest’s newest was, once again, pure genius. … I’m not exaggerating the potential of Priest’s Clockwork Century – this saga could very well be the steampunk equivalent of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The depth and scope of world building is simply spectacular – and while stellar realm building doesn’t necessarily make for a good story, the world of Priest’s Clockwork Century is a lush foundation upon which she can weave a virtually limitless number of stories. Hardcore steampunk fans are already well aware of Cherie Priest and her Clockwork Century novels. Hopefully this blog will motivate adventurous fantasy, science fiction and even mainstream fiction fans looking to immerse themselves in something different to check out these ground-breaking – and bone-shaking – novels.
The Seattle Times
Dreadnought offers plenty of fun: fast-paced battle scenes, thundering locomotives and the gem of the book, its heroine. Nurse Mercy is a swearing, sweating, pistol-packing ex-farm girl who swabs away her patients’ blood with barely a flinch. She forms real attachments to the wounded in her care but is flatly practical about any given man’s chances for survival. Vivid, believable and endearingly stubborn, she’s an enjoyable companion for those taking the time to read a book which challenges the notion that steampunk must assume Victorian attitudes with its goggles and corsets.
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
“…Rousing Weird Western steampunk entertainment in a superior sequel.”
[Starred Review ] Dreadnought
Cherie Priest, Tor, $14.99 paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2578-5
An intimate, well-crafted portrait of a nurse on a mission adds depth to this exceptional Civil War steampunk thriller, the self-contained sequel to 2009’s Locus Award-winning Boneshaker. Mercy Lynch, recently widowed and taxed to exhaustion by caring for Confederate wounded in Richmond, must cross the war-torn nation to reach her estranged father, who lies dying in the Washington territories. After her dirigible is shot out of the air, Mercy joins Horatio Korman, a Texas Ranger with an agenda, on the Union’s famous steam engine, the Dreadnought. On their trail are desperate Confederate soldiers and a zombified Mexican legion. The battles and intrigue are entertaining, but the real draw is Priest’s latest no-nonsense heroine, who comes equipped with a full measure of sharp judgment and brutal competence as well as a nurse’s kind (but not saintly) heart. (Oct.)
Cherie Priest. Subterranean (www.subterraneanpress.com), $25 (208p) ISBN 978-1-59606-308-2
Piracy meets politics head-on in this steampunk thriller, loosely linked to Priest’s much-lauded Boneshaker (2009). Maria Isabella Boyd, a notorious former actress and Confederate spy, is on her first mission for the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. The airship Clementine must deliver its cargo unimpeded, but its former owner, escaped slave–turned–air pirate Croggon Hainey, is determined to recover the ship he stole fair and square. A simple pursuit quickly evolves, and soon Maria and Croggon are forced to fight on the same side. Explosive battle scenes, riveting action, and a sharp-eyed examination of the mistrust between Croggon’s all-black crew and very white, very Southern Maria play out in a desperate race against the clock. Though the unflinching portrayal of complex race relations is aimed at adult readers, Priest’s swashbuckling tale is also quite accessible for older teens. (June)
The latest in Priest’s steampunk series about an alternate Civil War that still rages in 1880, thanks in part to the wide availability of hydrogen airships, is an over-the-top romp driven by pirates, aerial battles, revenge, conspiracies, secret weapons, and a forced alliance between deadly enemies. (Just about the only thing it doesn’t have is true love.) … There are cliffhangers aplenty, and the world Priest has set up is a promising one, but the book’s real attraction is the well-realized portrayal of [Maria Isabelle] Boyd, who is as resourceful, charming, and dangerous as she was in real life.
The Mad Hatter Bookshelf and Book Review
Clementine is a much more subtle story than Boneshaker, but it is no less enthralling as every chapter moves at a brisk pace. Airship fights, spies, thieves, and giant guns all make Clementine a seriously steam-powered wild ride through the sky, which showcases a larger part of Priest’s Clockwork Century fractured North America. The war of the North versus the South is still on going in the late 19th century filled with steam-powered weaponry and mad scientist trying to turn the tide of the war one way or the other.
Publishers Weekly: Starred review – Boneshaker, Cherie Priest. Tor, $15.99 paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-1841-1
Maternal love faces formidable challenges in this stellar steampunk tale. In an alternate 1880s America, mad inventor Leviticus Blue is blamed for destroying Civil War–era Seattle. When Zeke Wilkes, Blue’s son, goes into the walled wreck of a city to clear his father’s name, Zeke’s mother, Briar Wilkes, follows him in an airship, determined to rescue her son from the toxic gas that turns people into zombies (called rotters and described in gut-churning detail). When Briar learns that Seattle still has a mad inventor, Dr. Minnericht, who eerily resembles her dead husband, a simple rescue quickly turns into a thrilling race to save Zeke from the man who may be his father. Intelligent, exceptionally well written and showcasing a phenomenal strong female protagonist who embodies the complexities inherent in motherhood, this yarn is a must-read for the discerning steampunk fan.
(Where Boneshaker is dubbed one of the 20 “core titles of steampunk.”)
Zombies, steam-powered technology, airships, pirates, and mad scientists—What more could you want? How about great storytelling, compelling characters, and an interesting plot? Priest combines all of these things and somehow even more.
[Boneshaker gives] richly defined characters a real world to inhabit, no matter how fantastic the story. Add excellent characterization and a concept second to none, and Boneshaker proves to be one of 2009’s best novels and is not to be missed.
Priest (Fathom, 2008, etc.) bravely, and successfully, ventures into steampunk and zombie-horror territory.
The action takes place in an alternate-history version of 1880s Seattle. In Priest’s variant, the Klondike gold rush came decades early. In 1863, Seattle scientist Leviticus Blue invented a massive steam-powered machine (Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine) to drill for gold through thick ice. When tested, it went out of control and wreaked havoc throughout Seattle, destroying several buildings and killing dozens. Soon after, a mysterious gas, the Blight, turned many who breathed it into predatory zombies called “rotters.” Sixteen years later, Blue’s widow Briar and son Zeke have little beyond a ruined family reputation. When Zeke impulsively decides to revisit walled-off Seattle to find proof that his father wasn’t a villain, Briar follows him into the rotter-infested city. Priest, a Seattle resident, delivers a fast-moving story filled with cool steampunk technology and scary zombies. Fans of science fiction will find much to enjoy here. An impressive and auspicious genre-hopping adventure.
i09.com, review by Lauren Davis
October 12, 2009
Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is a veritable grab bag of subgenre tropes. But, fortunately, it’s far less about clockwork and brass than it is about human adaptability and the shifting nature of the American Dream. …
…Boneshaker’s greatest strength is that Priest doesn’t overly fetishize the subgenres she plays with, never overwhelming the fairly straightforward stories of mother and son, and giving her clockwork machinations and zombie encounters more impact when they do appear. Though zombies and Blight certainly color the lives of Seattle residents, they aren’t obsessed with either; they simply accept that their routines occur in a deadly world. And Zeke and Briar may live in a world filled to the brim with elements of science fiction and pulp, but those are just the things and people they must navigate to reunite and survive. The only real downside is that, throughout the book, we visit too briefly with so many intriguing characters and concepts in favor of the novel’s core adventure. Fortunately, Priest is already setting a second novel in her strange and blemished world, so we will hopefully see a fuller, richer picture of what goes on inside.
Bookslut, review by Colleen Mondor
… A mash-up of action, history and science that is everything good about steampunk while maintaining a decidedly original Pacific Northwest twist. If you like the genre, you’ll love this and if you’ve been worried that it’s getting stale or trendy then you will be thrilled with Priest’s way of taking the formula and turning it inside out. The setting is solid but the characters are what makes Boneshaker sing. Briar, Zeke and the people (good and bad) they meet are all memorable. Bored with vampires? (Of course you are.) Give Cherie Priest fifteen minutes of your time, trust me — you won’t look back.
SF Signal — “Riveting adventure story; great characters; perfectly captures the flavors of the steampunk and zombie subgenres. … [It's got] a great hook; a steampunk/zombie mash-up is instantly appealing. The question is whether it can last the length of a novel. In short: absolutely. Boneshaker simply pulls you in and doesn’t let go.”
Fantasy Book Critic — “Think The Wild Wild West meets Fallout (a videogame series) meets George Romero… the story was a lot of fun, the setting was creative, and I cared about the characters, especially Briar. In short, I immensely enjoyed “Boneshaker” and can’t wait to read more books in the Clockwork Century series.”
BookPage, Oct. 9
Steampunk in Seattle
There are plenty of alternate Civil War novels, but none quite like Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (Tor, $15.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780765318411). In the 1860s, Leviticus Blue builds a gold-mining machine in response to a Russian contest. But something goes terribly wrong—either intentionally or by accident, we don’t quite know—and the Boneshaker destroys the banking district of Seattle and unleashes a gas that turns the living into the living dead. A wall is built around Seattle to contain the gas and the zombies. Sixteen years later, Leviticus’ widow attempts to rescue their son, Ezekiel, who has braved the wall to vindicate his universally hated father. Behind the wall, a man who may or may not be Leviticus— and who may or may not have robbed the banks—has built a kingdom of the living, and he has other plans for Ezekiel and his mother. What follows is a fantastic whirlwind tour of an alternate history and a steampunk version of The Lord of the Flies. While slightly marred by a few too many similar chase scenes, Boneshaker offers fans of both steampunk and the New Weird much to enjoy.
Locus Magazine, October 2009
If anyone can force steampunk into the mainstream reader’s consciousness, it is Cherie Priest. Boneshaker, the first book in the Clockwork Century series, which Priest calls “her Discworld,” is just the title to get the job done … This world’s texture is luscious and deep — and it will be interesting to see what happens in it next.
Boneshaker arrives in September of 2009 from Tor Books, but people are already talking about it — and for that I do dearly thank them (and list them alphabetically here).
“So convincing, so evocative, so terrifying that I read this book with the doors locked and a gun on my lap. Boneshaker is a steampunk menagerie of thrills and horror.” –Mario Acevedo, bestselling author of the Felix Gomez mysteries.
“This exquisitely imaginative steampunk adventure is a joy to read! My favorite of Cherie’s books.” –Cassandra Clare, bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments series
“Everything you’d want in such a volume and much more … It’s full of buckle and has swash to spare, and the characters are likable and the prose is fun. This is a hoot from start to finish, pure mad adventure.” –Cory Doctorow, bestselling author of Little Brother
“Boneshaker is without a doubt Cherie Priest’s breakthrough work: this hollering, stamping, crackling thing is the best fun you’ll have with a book all year.” —Warren Ellis, bestselling author of Crooked Little Vein and award-winning writer of fine comics.
“A gorgeously grim world of deadly gasses, mysterious machines, zeppelin pirates, and a relentless plague of zombies. With Boneshaker, Priest is geared up to begin her reign as the Queen of Steampunk.” —Mark Henry, author of Road Trip of the Living Dead
“A rip-snorting adventure in the best tradition of a penny dreadful. Priest has crafted a novel of exquisite prose and thrilling twists, populated by folk heroes and dastardly villains, zombies and air pirates, incredible machines and a heroine who’ll have you cheering. BONESHAKER is the definitive steampunk story, absolutely unique and one hell of a fun read.” – Caitlin Kittredge, author of the Nocturne City novels and the upcoming Witch’s Alphabet
“A marvelous book, crammed with readerly pleasures–zombies, pirates, cracking adventures, historical conceits and characters that make you wish you could linger inside it long after turning the final page. Cherie Priest is one of my favorite fantasists.” —Kelly Link, acclaimed author of Magic for Beginners
“If Jules Verne and George Romero got together to rewrite American history it might go something like this. I loved it. I want more.” —Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy
“If the Wild Wild West had been written by Mark Twain with the assistance of Jules Verne and Bram Stoker, it still couldn’t be as fabulous and fantastical as Boneshaker. Cherie Priest has penned a rousing adventure tale that breathes a roaring soul and thundering heart into the glittering skin of Steampunk. Stylish, taut, and wonderful, it’s a literary ride you must not miss!” —Kat Richardson, bestselling author of the Greywalker series
“A steampunk-zombie-airship adventure of rollicking pace and sweeping proportions, full of wonderfully gnarly details. This book is made of irresistible.” —Scott Westerfeld, bestselling author of the Uglies series and Leviathan
“It’s awesome. I loved everything about it, and I can’t wait for it to come out so the rest of the world can read it and understand why I loved it as much as I did.” Wil Wheaton, author of Just a Geek, The Happiest Days of our Lives