Thursday, July 22, 2010

Steampunk Literary "Magnum Opus"?

def. magnum opus
  1. A great work, especially a literary or artistic masterpiece.
  2. The greatest single work of an artist, writer, or composer.

[Latin : magnum, neuter of magnus, great + opus, work.]

The author of Boneshaker, Cherie Priest, has described her book as the steampunk "magnum opus" - that is, the pinnacle of great steampunk. I am not sure I agree.

Did I like the book? Oh yes.

Was it engaging and intriguing? Oh yes.

Can I wait for the second one? Maybe.

See, because it does contain all those great steam punk motifs - airships, 19th century setting, rifles, war (this one, the American Civil War), mad scientists (yes, in the plural), kick ass female characters, oh and you know, steam power - but it lacks the added umph for me to be like "Hell yes - that was steampunk awesomeness!" - even if it does have the best cover ever, and a great starting premise.

Anyways, a synopsis:

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.

That one is from

Anyways, I have no problem with most of it - I just deny that it is the magnum opus of steampunk. Granted, I have - despite my long love affair with it - only read the basics, I feel this is just not explosive enough to essentially define the genre.

That having been said - I did like it. I liked the twist and turns the novel took, and I like the interactions between the characters. It is told alternatively from Briar and Zeke's POVs so you get an interesting perspective on the same characters we already encountered with one, by the other. The ending was excellent - sad but excellent.

And this new zombie crazed world - love the idea of "rotterS" - brilliant. It even scared me when the rotters were running after Briar, climbing a ladder (or trying to) to get to her! Brilliantly read!

Other things she did right was atmosphere - you feel like you're in the alternative history civil war era dystopia! You feel it! The lingo is the same, and the mettle of the people - they're int he gold starved - panhandler crazy west, after all. It is very well done.

I like the evocative imagery of the "walled city" - it's a popular theme, particularly in young adult books, but I like it for all the myriad of possible things it can be used to represent. In this case, I think it flutters around the edges of representing knowledge vs. ignorance and society vs. chaos. This book would play well to either of those themes - though with complications. After all - in this book, society is gained through the extortion of the chaos (in terms of manipulating and selling lemon juice).

Other things that were well done was the action sequences. (were the action sequences?) they were alive and jittery with fighting and running and breathlessness! I highly recommend the book just for that.

All in all - it is not a bad book. Great cover, excellent writing. Great mood and setting. Not a magnum opus.

Here are some links to some reviews and the author's website:
(As you can see - there is no shortage of interest on the internets for this book)

Until next time,

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