When her son takes off into the ruins of Civil War Seattle, Briar Wilkes packs up her father’s rifle, her gasmask, and her polarized goggles to go in search of the boy. But Seattle is walled off for a reason. A disaster brought the city low, infesting it with poison gas and the walking dead, a disaster caused by the husband Briar left for dead sixteen years ago. To get her son back, she’ll face all that and the specter of her past: a specter in the form of a man claiming to be her dead husband.
There’s an elegance in two points of view that tangle, overlap, and eventually converge. When it’s done correctly, you jump from train to train with a building sense that the two will soon collide. You wait with baited breath at every near miss. When the two finally come together, it feels organic, natural, and often explosive.
Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, isn’t just a great steampunk read: it’s a well-oiled machine. Priest locks down every bolt as Briar and her son, Zeke, slide towards the conclusion. Secrets get dosed out in just the right amount, and Priest brings her alternate history alive without burying you in exposition or description. The first chapter, a little light on action and a bit heavy no backstory, get the necessities out of the way. From there Boneshaker hums along. We follow Briar’s desperate search for Zeke even as we’re treated to his perspective as he foolishly enters the ruined city. Priest slows things just right at the end, and the conclusion holds a few more surprises while feeling altogether natural.