Carl's Reviews > Boneshaker

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
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's review
Oct 04, 2010

bookshelves: to-read, fantasysci-fi

Honestly, I bought this on a whim (had a $50 gift card, and then put another $40 into my purchase... hey, I hadn't bought any books for a while!), and am a bit uncertain whether it was worth it-- have only a read a bit, but am trying to figure out whether this is genuine cutting edge, interstitial Steampunk, or just a cheap gimmick to get readers. Well, maybe I'm just being uncharitable b/c it is a "Sci-Fi Essential Book" (or are they the SyFy network now? Or have they maybe gone back again???) and I don't trust that network to give me good reading advice (not that I've even watched that channel for over 5 years, but hey, screened sci-fi, small or big, has a not amazing history, according to my records).

Still, I'm interesting in digging into the whole "steam punk" genre. The various "punks" seem to at least aspire to some degree of literary quality, or to put it another way, seem to exhibit some degree of the self-consciousness or reflexivity which is the most standard way of making an otherwise escapist pulp more than mere escapism... gosh, I'm sounding like a read snob now. Oh well. Let's just say that, even though I've always tended to be a "traditionalist" in terms of sci-fi and fantasy (though by far the most interested in the more intelligent and subversive expressions of those traditional interests), I'm increasingly interested in exploring these new subdivisions, whether "punks" or not-- I realize that the "-punk" names all feel a bit derivative, but you know, I think I see the sense in them. Well, let's say it starts with Cyberpunk, whatever "-punk" might mean to those who coined the phrase (not something I've looked into)-- then look at how the word is applied ever since, and the sense seems to be "take a particular twist or angle on traditional SF/Fantasy and wring every little interesting idea out of it"-- so Steampunk takes the inherently dated nature of sci-fi (techno-speculation as determined by the time imagining it, rather than the time in which a technology actually becomes real or reaches fruition) and applies it to outdated speculations-- which are really fantastic speculations one what might have been speculated, or something like that-- and works through all the possible worlds (we might say practically infinite-- or even theoretically infinite, actually...) that could come out of that one angle-- Mythpunk (which I have not read any of, except a bit of Mythago Wood, which is supposedly a forerunner), I believe, takes the vectors of the Supernatural (Myth, legend, etc) and of "Reality" (yes, also a construct, seeing as we live in a socio-cultural-linguistic world) and explores the infinity of worlds that meet in that single point of intersection. Hm, and my Goodreads friend Keely once coined the term "Mannerpunk" for the Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake (at least I think Keely was the first to use it...)-- I suppose we might say that it is the intersection of Manners and the Grotesque exploited beyond all measure (or rather, Manners taken to Grotesgue extremes and projected onto the surrounding world?)-- but as there are (to my knowledge) no other books within the genre, it is difficult to apply my generic definition of the -punks to it.

OK, that was a long ramble on genre and -punkology due to the fact that I don't actually have much to say about this book. Am interested though, for the reasons given above-- the punks can be taken as gimmicks, but I'm hoping to take them as interesting and cutting-edge doorways to new worlds. I'm worried that this particular novel may be getting towards the later degradation of the genre into flat and sensationalist (ha, bet you didn't think I'd combine those!) corn for the sci-fi money mill, but I think the genre may still be young enough to be intriguing in most of it's output-- hm, but then again, hasn't it been like a decade since Will Smith turned Steampunk into a Hollywood sell-out with Wild Wild West? Or did that movie actually invent the genre, I actually don't know!

Oh, and the girl on the cover of this book seems kinda cute, even if her eyes are covered with goggles (which reflect a bit of this steampunk world)-- hm, I feel like there are some interesting theoretical points to make here, but I was planning on relaxing tonight...

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