Apr 19, 12
Read from April 04 to 11, 2012
My original expectation was that the book would be an epic, sprawling adventure with a huge cast of characters and a complex setting and history. I thought it would take some 'getting into' and so I saved it for a vacation break where I could spend some time focusing. As it turned out, I was wrong on several fronts, but happily so.
Boneshaker is actually a pretty small story. Boy disobeys mother and gets into trouble. Mother has to bail him out. Adventures are had along the way. I was amazed at how simple the plot really was. I think I had mentally compared it to "The Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson, which is sprawling and epic.
The 'smallness' of the plot made the story eminently readable and addictive. Because there were only two main characters--Briar and her son, Zeke--we got to know them really well. They were both very realistically portrayed and likable despite their flaws. I found myself actually worrying about what was going to happen to both of them towards the end, which is always a good sign for a novel's characters.
The setting is not merely just backdrop for the story. Like any good speculative fiction, it is intricate to the plot. You couldn't just plop the characters into some other novel and have the story work, despite it's relatively simple structure. Ms Priest portrays the steampunk version of Seattle vividly, but does not overdo the descriptions. We are given a swath here and a swath there and expected to full in the rest ourselves, which is quite easy since she has chosen just the right bits to show us.
My only minor issue is that the villain, Dr Minnericht, has so little a role to play in the story. I would have preferred him to be more prominent. When he finally shows up, he's a great villain, but he doesn't last long. And it is not clear whether he really thinks he's Levi Blue or whether he's just assuming his identity. It would have been more satisfying if he really thought he was Blue and kept us guessing, but that piece is sort of left flat. Lastly, his death is too easy and anticlimactic.
Boneshaker is a great story, and I was very happy that it wasn't part 1 of whatever trilogy planned to suck my money away. I wish more fantasy writers would eschew these overlong series and write fun one shot novels like this. Highly recommended for a fun, quick read.