Boneshaker has gathered a steady buzz since its publication, positive word of mouth that has helped it garner a Nebula nomination for best novel.  A lot of the excitement the book has generated stems from its fantastic premise, a surreal mixture of steampunk, airship pirates, alternate history, and, oh yeah, zombies.  It promises the best of many worlds, but does it deliver?  Well, if you’re looking for mystery, high-flying adventure, seat-of-your pants escapes, engaging protagonists,  and colorful supporting players set against the backdrop of a fascinating alter-world of marvels and horrors – then, yeah, it does.

In an alternate turn-of-the-20th-century Seattle, a young boy, Zeke Wilkes, sets out to learn the truth about his father, the infamous Leviticus Blue, who, according to legend, invented the earth-rattling, underground-burrowing Boneshaker, a contraption designed for mining Alaskan ice fields – that was instead used to stage a brazen bank robbery.  The heist was successful, but resulted in devastating consequences.  Scores were killed, parts of the city destroyed, and a subterranean gas released that transformed scores more into zombies.  Amid the havoc, Blue disappeared, leaving his wife, Briar Wilkes, to fend for herself.  Seattle, meanwhile, was left to pick up the pieces and deal with the repercussions of Blue’s actions – which it did by walling up the most dangerous section of the city, along with its unlucky inhabitants.

In a bid to clear his father’s name, Zeke journeys into this long-isolated area peopled by pirates, mercenaries, rotters (those afflicted by the blight), and a mysterious mad inventor who rules the underground and may, just may, be his long lost father.  Not far behind, in hot pursuit, is his mother, Briar, willing risk all to ensure his safe return.

Boneshaker boasts a refreshingly atypical protagonist in Briar, a strong and strong-willed woman motivated by sheer maternal instinct – and its this single-minded determination that drives the lean, clean, and nimble narrative. Priest keeps the reader on their toes, bouncing briskly between Zeke and Briar as each negotiates the seedy wonderland of old Seattle, unearthing elements of its dark inner world, some benevolent some bizarre but all very interesting in their own right, from the towering airship commander Captain Cly to the armored Swankhammer, Lucy the mechanical-armed molly to the ubiquitous Yaozou.

Briar’s odyssey is peppered with hair-raising calamities and near disasters as she encounters more than a few exotic inhabitants of the walled city ready to help her on her journey. On the one hand, this makes for some wondrously exciting scenarios as Briar struggles to learn the ground rules of her new environment; on the other hand, there are times when these timely interventions puts too much of the onus on the supporting characters, indirectly undermining the strength of our heroine.

I admired the uniqueness of Priest’s story-telling and while there were a few developments that gave me pause (the revelation tying Captain Cly to Briar’s father felt a little convenient and, ultimately, unnecessary while the threat of the rotters felt more incidental than an essential story element), overall I found Boneshaker to be an enormously enjoyable ride.  It moves along at break-neck speed, culminating in a spectacular showdown pitting Briar and her allies against the forces of the enigmatic Minnericht.  I loved the mystery surrounding his true identity, loved the pay-off, and loved the big reveal at book’s end.  It was unexpected and, when a writer can surprise me, I have to take my hat off to them.

Finally, I should also make mention of something I rarely touch upon over the course of these discussions – the look of the book.  It sports a terrific cover design by Jamie Stafford-Hill and artwork by Jon Foster that, along with its sepia tone and light brown print, evokes a sense of a otherworldly nostalgia that adds a whole other layer to the reading experience.

So, those were my initial thoughts.  What did everyone else think?  Weigh in and start posting your questions for author Cherie Priest.

Well, back at the office today as we continue to gear up for that first day of principal photography.  Production Designer James Robbins swung by to show us the latest designs of those new Destiny sections including – wait for it…bathrooms and trash disposal units!  Plenty of exterior design work as well.  We discussed potential locations for Paul and Brad’s episodes and I got a sneak peek at some pretty fearsome-looking alien creatures – not to be confused with “those other aliens”.  Later this afternoon, we re-screened the Ginn auditions, narrowing down our choices, while receiving confirmation that we’ve cast the role of Simeon (Prison Break fans, rejoice!).  And, last but not least, watched the latest version of the soon-to-be-released trailer for the back half of season one.  It’s awesome and once we’ve incorporated the shot of the alien (not to be confused with the alien creatures or those other aliens or those other alien creatures) it’ll be good to go.  No word on a release date.

One of the great things about coming back to the office after a lengthy hiatus is opening up mail.  The swag…

Compliments of the gang at PYR. I'm not familiar with Adrian Tchaikovsky's work but have read the first book of Kay Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose series and thought it pretty damn terrific.
No idea who these were from, but they're much appreciated.
Comics compliments of our wraith-lovin', Wolverine-adoring regular - Das.

Compliments of Tomomi in Tokyo - tiramisu and sea urchin mix. No, you're not supposed to eat them at the same time.

On the other hand, I also came back to this…

Ashleigh works off her Olympic hangover.

33 thoughts on “March 1, 2010: Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

  1. looking forward to see the shot of the alien. The one that should not to be confused with the alien creatures or those other aliens or those other alien creatures 😀
    hopefully Ashleigh ‘s olympic hangover won’t leave her with any serious side effects 😀
    Now here is a question that has been burning my lips for a while. If season 2 is supposed to air in fall and you all are still working on scripts and casting, when will the filming start ? From what I recall, last season you started shooting in February 😳 😀

  2. Quick Question:

    Would it not make more sense to call the last Season 10 Episode of SG-1: Ragnarök or Götterdämmerung instead of Unending?


  3. Well, I finally managed to read a BotM selection in time to weigh in, for what it’s worth.

    First of all, I have to disagree about the sepia print. I recognized that it was supposed to help set the tone of the book, but that light print was hard for these aging eyes to read by the so-called light of CFL light bulbs (our stingeypunk world, if you will).

    The story and the world it created were fascinating, and well-paced, and filled with the most interesting characters. I loved the names: Briar Wilkes, Captain Cly, Leviticus Blue, Lucy O’Gunning. Cherie Priest has an artist’s eye when describing light and darkness throughout the story (I wonder what she thinks of CFLs).

    She left enough loose threads that there could be a sequel to this book:

    1. Did Jeremiah survive?

    2. Why did the Chinese (or anybody) continue to live in what was a literal hell on earth? It wasn’t entirely clear to me that scavenging and drug production were incentive enough to live in underground tunnels under a poison gas cloud with flesh-eating zombies an ever-present danger, especially as none of them seem concerned about enjoying their loot in future.

    3. What happened to Briar and Zeke? Did they stay in the city, or did they fly out with Captain Cly and go east?

    4. Why has no one attempted to seal the Blight hole in the earth’s crust (and again, lemon sap doesn’t seem to be reason enough)?

    I don’t expect answers to all these questions, since steampunk generally isn’t logical, and especially if Ms. Priest actually is planning a sequel or another story in that universe, but they needed to be asked.

  4. Narelle: OMG what have you done to me? I can’t put the e-reader down! I’ve had it two weeks and have finished four books. 😀

    RebeccaH: one thing I love about this e-reader is that is magnifies the text! My vision sucks!

  5. Glad the books came! Hope the itching powder I sprinkled on them doesn’t cause too much trouble for ya! 😉 If you’ve read the stories, just pass ’em on – but if you haven’t, I’d like to hear your feedback. The Wraith story is a familiar one, but I never tire of it. Sorry I couldn’t bag and board them all, but I ran out of supplies. 😛

    Good to see Ashleigh’s still around! *waves*

    Have a good evening, sir!


  6. I enjoyed Boneshaker pretty much. It was different from what I usually read. This “alternate” history with basic technology from the invention era grabbed my interest. I would have loved to actually learn more about the Boneshaker itself, but Minnericht’s tools also did the trick for me.
    At some points along the way I thought the storyline was a little bit too convenient. If you needed someone to go in a specific direction, just throw a few rotters into their path and voila. And that Zeke crashed near the fort and ran immediately into Minnericht’s right hand looked also too convenient for me. But this aside, I liked the story idea and that Briar went after Zeke just to get him back without wanting to play a leading role in the city.
    The scene in Briar’s old home surprised me a little bit. I had the impression during her stay within the city that she didn’t know what became of Leviticus.
    What also left me wondering was, why Captain Cly didn’t tell her about Minnericht before giving her the lift to the city. He knew about the rumors of Minnericht’s identity and that he ran the criminal underground. If he really thought he owes Briar a favor because of her dad, why didn’t he mention a warning? Everyone else told Briar of Minnericht.

    I have a few questions for author Cherie Priest.
    1) When you came up with the idea of the rotters, did you think the scientific possibility through, that some gas could have such an effect on living beings?
    2) Or are the rotters just facts which don’t need to be explained?
    3) Are there only human rotters or also animal rotters?
    4) What gave you the idea for the Boneshaker?
    Thank you for your time.

    To make sure, I don’t leave the wrong impression due to my comments above – I really liked Boneshaker.

    Spinning the story a little bit further, I could imagine Briar and Zeke living together within the walls. Swakhammer becoming some kind of father figure for Zeke. And that they will try to either close the gas leak, or that someone might find a solution to neutralize the gas before it starts to go over the wall and poison the rest of the world.
    Lots of possibilities for a sequel.

  7. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

    NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS would I have picked up a book about zombies, airships, and steampunk. Not my taste. But thanks to Joe’s BOMC selection, I decided to give it a try. And I loved it!

    The cover was intriguing. The story was very well written, in an easy to read style, and it flowed very smoothly. Because of Cherie’s detailed descriptions, I loved all the characters. It kept me guessing on who was the good guys and who was the bad guys. Cherie’s description on the city ruins, underground tunnels, airships, etc were very good. I was there.

    I liked the way everyone seemed to want to help Zeke find his way and Briar find Zeke. I tend to get a little frustrated when people are looking for each other and they are so close (one goes out the front door just as the other comes in thru the back door), but Cherie did not drag this on too long. Briar and Zeke eventually find each other amid a furious fight.

    Joe said, “the threat of the rotters felt more incidental than an essential story element.” I say, thank god! I think the zombie rotters were just the right amount. Nothing worse than having a dead, decaying person grabing at you all the time and trying to eat you. There were too many other stories going on in the book, like, who lived in that walled up city and down below it, how did they live like that, and why would they live like that, and what did they do.

    The surprise twist at the end was delicious! Well done, you got me! Didn’t see that coming. Other little attention getters like, “He removed his mask” made me sit up straight once I read the words. The book was fun! You never knew what was around the corner.

    Luckily, I picked a fantastic book to become familar with steampunk and zombies. Thank you Cherie Priest and Joe!
    Questions for Cherie to follow…

  8. Hi Joe

    Hope all is well. I would like to ask you if it is at all possible to dedicate the March 2 entry in honor of my b-day.


  9. Hey Joe, didn’t you just love that big gun “the Daisy” in Boneshaker? I kept thinking Ronon would have loved this gun in SGA. He could have used it on Wraith ships!

    Questions for Cherie Priest:

    – What gave you the idea behind Boneshaker?

    – Why did you use italics when Swakhammer was talking?

    – What exactly is “steampunk”?

    – What did you do to celebrate your Nebula Best Novel nomination for Boneshaker? (Congratulations, I hope you win!)

    – I read you started writing novels at age 12. What were you writing about?

    – Who is your author hero and why?

    – Why did you begin writing horror and science fiction – and zombies and steampunk?

    – I think Boneshaker would make a great movie. Ever been approached for any of your novels for movies?

    Cherie, I really enjoyed Boneshaker. Thank you for writing it. Good luck on your Nebula nomination and thanks for taking our questions.

    Thanks Joe!

  10. This pretty much captures what I loved about the book, though I didn’t think Briar’s strength was as undermined as you did. A book with a pitch like this raises mighty high expectations and it’s hard to show that it’s more than just bluster. Priest succeeds in spades where other hopeful premises — I’m looking at you, Death Troopers! — don’t.

  11. Hi Joe:

    Nice that you are back to work and life returns (more or less) to normal in the World of Mallozzi.

    @Ashleigh – You go, girl!! Canadian pride! Make sure you share it with Joe at every opportunity. He seems to need a bit of help with it.

    Are your ears still itching? On your behalf, I did some research. It is apparently an affliction from Egypt. The ancient Pharaohs suffered from it. Have you been near any ancient Pharaohs lately? The cure is complicated, but effective. Camel milk every morning, immediately followed by mashed dates and scarab juice. Good luck with that. Let me know how you make out.


  12. LMAO@ Arctic Goddess. Joe’s got sarcophagus itch *rofl* its a bloody good job the remedy calls for camel milk and scarab juice and not the other way round.

  13. Go Ashleigh!! The party’s not dead, it can’t be! Well, maybe here in Richmond. 🙁

    Hey, you ever check out the brass balls at W Hastings and Bute? What’s that all about?

  14. Hello =) ça va bien Joseph??

    Moi oui très bien 🙂

    Il fait beau, les oiseaux chantent, c’est une merveilleuse journée!!!

    Lol j’adore la dernière photo 😛 Gooo CANADA !! ♥

    Aller gros bisou!

  15. Wait, Robert Knepper for the role of Simeon? Was immediately thinking of him when I read the casting sides, but didn’t really think he’d be available… If it is indeed him, nice!

  16. Wow, I had no idea Martin Wood’s daughter was on the ship that went down. My husband tried to read me that story last week and I refused to listen because it’s pretty much my worst nightmare. What a brave young woman, and what a miracle that everyone aboard was saved.

  17. Wow Toilets on Stargate. Yayyyyyyy!!! So psyched for season 2 now. Lol

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  18. Boneshaker was great. It cost me a nights sleep, I foolishly started it one evening a week ago thinking I’d be able to put it down. The clock struck 2am and I was still at it. Work was really rough the next day.

    I really enjoyed the ride. The journey from social pariah to an empowered individual, who still didn’t care what people thought about her, was great. Briar Wilkes Blue was a great example of a flawed character. The best characters are the ones who make the tough decisions and take responsibility for them. Then to surround the character with equally flawed characters just made it richer.

    The best part was, the book made be want to book a trip to Seattle and see if I could find the places that inspired the author. Secretly hoping I’d have to run for my life from rotters and avoid the Blight gas.

  19. I really wish that there was theme music connected with SGU. I loved the two Stargate themes, especially the Atlantis theme with the chorus – gave me goosebumps.

    So far I’ve heard the drums in commercials and in various shows – lately in CSI Miami. Surely SGU deserves a little more than just stock music… drums…

  20. Hi Joe!

    How’re your ears? Still itchy?

    Bathrooms? In Stargate? Wow, it’s been years! Thanks, eh?

    As a Prison Break fan, thanks in advance…I think. Depends upon who you’ve cast, eh? Ah, forget it, I’m glad whomever you got! WooHoo!!

    Some sad news. Our lab, Simon, passed away yesterday. He developed pneumonia at the end of last week and spent the weekend at the vet. They tried tons of antibiotics and hand feeding him, but his back legs gave out (from the degenerative myelopathy) and his strength was tapped. They said one of his lungs might have collapsed too. All in all, he was too tired to go on. We were there when he got the shot and stayed with him for a while afterwards. He was an amazing dog.

    Thanks to everyone who sent their prayers and well-wishes last year. We thought he was a goner then, but our love and your positivity helped him last an entire year, which is the typical far end of survivorship with his conditions.

    We are, of course, very sad, but know we were blessed to have him for 11 yrs, and continue to have another dog and two cats as companions.

    Take care!


  21. so I’ve realized after looking at segments of the game, that Canada won 3-2 in overtime and not 2-1 like I think I’ve wrote previously the other day. Got the wrong info from the radio person. It’s a shame. I should have double checked my info 😀 …. After all, 3-2 is much better then 2-1 😀
    I read on Yahoo news that apparently Pamela Anderson and Kate Gosselin should be part of the next Dancing with the Stars. I tought that was an interesting news 😯

  22. When the article mentionned a tv reality personality, I tought they were talking about octomom Nadia !
    ….bit disappointed that Kate Gosselin will be on the show. I’ve been hearing so much about her lately, that I have a Kate Gosselin overload. Maybe she’ll be a really bad dancer… Humm!! This is an awful tought for me to have 😀

  23. Did you watch the Canada vs. USA gold medal hockey game on Sunday? I was wondering because TSN is reporting that 80% of Canadians watched that hockey game and since you are boycotting the Olympics I thought that you might be in the 20% of Canadians who did not watch. It is now the most-watched television broadcast ever in Canadian history.

    I will send the link in another comment because I don’t want this comment to be filtered out.

  24. Did Ashleigh gone bonkers after finding out that there is someone named Ashleigh among Canadian gold medalists.

    Hehe maybe one day we will see Ashleigh do a ski-cross run. Wonder if she ski or snowboard?

  25. I really enjoyed Boneshaker and this is coming from someone who has never really liked the steampunk genre. I’m sorry. I just find it dark and dreary. But Cherie Priest gives it a nice spin here and the genre’s dark and dreary elements are balanced by the bright spirit of the various characters. Even characters like Lucy who have every right to be dark maintain a positive outlook that made this book an interesting and pleasurable read. My questions for Cherie –

    1. It’s suggested that Mennericht has some control over the rotters. What kind of control did he have? Was it specific control (ie. some sort of mind link?) or was it a more general influence (ie. herding the rotters towards a target location)?

    2. Boneshaker is very different from your previous works that I would classify as southern gothic. What made you decide to try your hand at steampunk and will you be returning to your southern gothic roots.

    3. Even though Boneshaker has a lot of scifi elements, it stills feels like it belongs in the horror camp. Would you agree? And do you find you have an affinity for a specific genre like horror?

    4. What authors would you say influenced you as a writer?


  26. Hi Cherie,

    Thanks for stopping by to do this. I really enjoyed Boneshaker and hope to see a sequel some time in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I’m going to tide myself over by picking up your Eden Moore trilogy.

    I have some questions:

    1) I think Briar is a great female character, and the fact that she’s a mother makes her all the greater. Are you a mother? If so, did that influence how you wrote the character. If not, did you draw from friends or family in creating Briar?

    2) How did the writing process on Boneshaker differ from your other books (if it did at all)? This book is a definite change of pace and I’m wondering if it was more a case of you coming up with the concept and the story unfurling quickly from there as more of a plot-driven story then previous character-driven books?

    3) Any early rumblings about a potential Boneshaker movie? It’s definitely big screen material. If you were casting your own movie, who would you see playing Briar? Swankhammer? Cly? Minnericht?

    4) Are you the type of writer who maps out their story before sitting down to write it, or do you allow the story to “write itself”. I’m curious to find out if you knew all along the true fate of Leviticus Blue or if you even surprised yourself near the end.

    5) I read that you give talks on something called “urban exploration” which I’m assuming is pretty self-explanatory. Or is it? And if this is a hobby of yours (the urban exploration, not the talks) can you tell us how you got into it.

  27. Is it too late to ask questions? I hope not. Okay, here goes.

    – I remember reading Four and Twenty Blackbirds as a free online book and was wondering your thoughts on the whole free ebook debate. Since your novel was free, it’s pretty obvious which side of the debate you’re on, but I was just wondering your reasoning. Do you feel that providing a free introductory copy of your work will help a writer get noticed? In my case, that’s exactly what happened.

    – Did the response to Boneshaker by both readers and the science fiction and fantasy community take you by surprise? How did you hear the news that you’d been nominated for a Nebula?

    – With all the focus on blogs and twitter and facebook, etc., do you think a new writer has to maintain an online presence to succeed? What steps have you taken in this regard? And how much is too much?

    Thank you for answering my questions.

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