SteampunkCategory Archives

Book Review: The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Tor Books
  • Release Date:  011.13.2012

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Rector “Wreck ’em” Sherman was orphaned as a toddler in the Blight of 1863, but that was years ago. Wreck has grown up, and on his eighteenth birthday, he’ll be cast out out of the orphanage.

And Wreck’s problems aren’t merely about finding a home. He’s been quietly breaking the cardinal rule of any good drug dealer and dipping into his own supply of the sap he sells. He’s also pretty sure he’s being haunted by the ghost of a kid he used to know—Zeke Wilkes, who almost certainly died six months ago. Zeke would have every reason to pester Wreck, since Wreck got him inside the walled city of Seattle in the first place, and that was probably what killed him. Maybe it’s only a guilty conscience, but Wreck can’t take it anymore, so he sneaks over the wall.

The walled-off wasteland of Seattle is every bit as bad as he’d heard, chock-full of the hungry undead and utterly choked by the poisonous, inescapable yellow gas. And then there’s the monster. Rector’s pretty certain that whatever attacked him was not at all human—and not a rotter, either. Arms far too long. Posture all strange. Eyes all wild and faintly glowing gold and known to the locals as simply “The Inexplicables.”

In the process of tracking down these creatures, Rector comes across another incursion through the wall — just as bizarre but entirely attributable to human greed. It seems some outsiders have decided there’s gold to be found in the city and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of the pie unless Rector and his posse have anything to do with it.

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My Review:

If there is a series that I am an evangelist for, it’s Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century books.  The moment any friend expresses an interest, passing or intent, the first word out of my mouth is Boneshaker.  I have been reading Priest’s books since Boneshaker was released and while some are stronger than others, each of them is enough to fan my addiction to her writing to an even higher level.  The Inexplicables is no different.

Imagine my delight when I began reading and was immediately transported back to the world of Zeke and Boneshaker.  I knew I recognized the name of Rector “Wreck-em” Sherman and soon it became apparent why.  I may or may not have giggled a bit as I dove back into the dangerous world of Seattle and read about names that I not only know, but know intimately from their stories in the previous novels.  It felt like I was greeting old friends.

I have a habit of putting books by favorite authors aside until they meet one of two criteria.  1. That they have another book out that I can put in the bank for the perfect day, or 2. that I just can’t hold off and desperately need a fix.  Reading The Inexplicables met both of those criteria – but mostly when I saw that Fiddlehead was being released (and it’s the final installment, y’all – I’m heartbroken) I knew it was time to dive in.

Reading the books of The Clockwork Century is an experience.  The pages are soft, the typeface is sepia, there is artwork at each chapterhead and the books are pleasant to hold in the hand.  And then there’s the story.  Rector’s story in The Inexplicables is one of intrigue, addiction, reaching the bottom and climbing up, forming friendships and maintaining them, independence, and finally heroism.  There’s so much action, a touch of romance that had me laughing out loud with delight, and – of course – loads upon loads of steampunk goodness.

I am fairly certain that Priest has infused her books with her own fictional sap because that’s how addicted I’ve become to this world.  I dread saying goodbye to it with Fiddlehead, but in the meantime I’ll continue to crusade for it and bask in the non-fatal, totally normal (right?) afterglow of having read a book by one of my favorite authors.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Val’s Random Comments | Fear My Blog | Wired

 

Book Review: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Tor Books
  • Release Date:  9.10.2013

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Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.

But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day…but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?

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My Review:


Seriously, this book was one of the most fun romps through reading that I’ve had this year.  You name it, it had it.  Steampunk, dirigibles, piracy, searching for treasure, pyramids (!!), adventure, danger – just think Indiana Jones means Jules Verne and yeah.. that’s what Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl came out to be.

So first, let me talk a bit about Gideon Smith.  He was a fun main character – a bit dopey, a little slow at first; hesitant to seek out adventure and lost and surrounded by a whole lot of strange things.  I immediately not only liked the character but was in his corner, rooting for him through all the strange happenings going on around him.   A few times I was even surprised at his erring on the side of caution, as that is not something you often see the “hero” of an adventure book doing.  Then again, when you are surrounded by characters like mechanical women, vampires, famous authors, pirates, pilots, and noted, famed adventurers – well, I guess the “it” thing to be is the one that’s cautious and a little uncertain of things.

Did that all sound like a bit too much for one book?  Trust me, it’s not.  At first I thought the introduction of a famous author’s name would be too “over-the-top” and after I got over that I wondered if the right author was chosen.  But the right one was and the roller coaster ride that David Barnett takes his readers on very much proves that he knew what he was doing.

Something else I loved? The wide diversity of characters and love mixes. From an old love between two friends to a new love between a man and a machine, there was love and romance without having to resort to cheese or smutty writing.  And the men don’t save the women – oh no, it’s very much equal opportunity here.  And I seriously want to go on and on talking about details but I don’t want to spoil the fun so trust me when I say – if you love an adventurous, steampunk-y tale, then Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl should be picked up as soon as possible.  It’ll provide hours of entertainment.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Megan Likes Books |My Shelf Confessions | The Qwillery

 

Railsea by China Miéville

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Reason for Reading:
  • Moby Dick and an awesome cover. I couldn’t resist.

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Summary from GoodReads:

On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can’t shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea–even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it’s a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—leads to considerably more than he’d bargained for. Soon he’s hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham’s life that’s about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.

My Review:

I’ve read a lot of books, but none of them have been nearly so enveloping as Railsea by China Miéville.  What do I mean by “enveloping?”

Well, let’s take the ampersand for starters.  Throughout the book (& this review, because I love it so much) China inserts the ampersand for each “and,” & it’s there for a reason – which is explained once the story is about 3/4ths of the way through.  It’s alternatively very, very cool & very distracting, but it works for what it was intended to do & is a constant reminder of how different things are.

Also, there is the narrator.  I’m not sure who exactly is narrating the book, but suffice it to say the narrator keeps things interesting.  You know those books that jump around between three different sets of characters & always jump right when things are really heating up for the one that has you completely sucked into?  The narrator acknowledges that is happening in a way – but still you have to wait & you may have to read a few short pages of the narrator musing on the state of the world in the process.  It’s very cool – that’s all I have to say about that.

This story is part Moby Dick, part Treasure Island, part Robinson Crusoe.   There are characters with strange names, a strange world filled with dangerous creatures (I always thought moles were freaky).  There’s a strange caste structure & instead of sticking to a specific genre, China moves between Steampunk, Post-Apocalyptic, & Dystopia – mixing all three into a wonderful stew of adventure goodness.

Before you dive into this unique, incredible story though let me warn you – it’s taxing to the brain.  I had to take several breaks before diving back in because my mind was having to work so hard to adjust to everything.  This is classified as a Young Adult book, but frankly I haven’t worked so hard reading a “Young Adult” book since I picked up Ender’s Game.

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Puss Reboots | Reader Dad| Bookshelf Bombshells



Clementine by Cherie Priest

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Reason for Reading:
  • Cherie Priest is the Steampunk Queen. The end.

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Summary from GoodReads:

Maria Isabella Boyd’s success as a Confederate spy has made her too famous for further espionage work, and now her employment options are slim. Exiled, widowed, and on the brink of poverty…she reluctantly goes to work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago.

Adding insult to injury, her first big assignment is commissioned by the Union Army. In short, a federally sponsored transport dirigible is being violently pursued across the Rockies and Uncle Sam isn’t pleased. The Clementine is carrying a top secret load of military essentials—essentials which must be delivered to Louisville, Kentucky, without delay.

My Review:

I’m so in love with Cherie Priests writing.  Clementine was, I think, one of the best of the bunch when it comes to the Clockwork Century novels.  I loved, loved, loved this book.  The adventure, the characters, the dirigibles, the tension and suspense – it had it all in spades and it was such a short little story!  Too short!

Maria is, hands down, one of my favorite women out of all the books I’ve read this year.  Spunky, independent, brash, smart and witty, she made me laugh and cheer her on as she set off to capture the irrepressible Captain Heaney.  Between both characters, Priest managed to spotlight both women and African-Americans in a way that did both proud.

Because, y’all, Captain Heaney is a smart, well-thought-out, very developed character that had me rooting for him from the first moment he stepped onto the page.  I couldn’t make up my mind which side I wanted to be on, because I thought it was going to come down to that!  And perhaps it did… so I guess you ought to read the book and find out.

I’d been wanting to get my hands on a hard copy of Clementine, but finally had to give up seeing as a limited number had been printed, but thankfully it is available on the Kindle.  The only part about this book that I do not like though is not being able to proudly place it next to my other Clockwork Century novels.  The cover is amazing, the story even better and I cannot wait to get lost in the next book in the series, Ganymede.

 

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King of the Nerds

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

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Reason for Reading:
  • I loved the Mistborn trilogy and was THRILLED to see that Sanderson was revisiting the magic system again.

I also recommend:

  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  • Clementine by Cherie Priest

Summary from GoodReads:

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will.  After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

My Review:

I love Brandon Sanderson.  Seriously, the man is genius when it comes to works of fantasy.  He can spin a story like the best of them but what I love the most is his thorough magic system.

I was lucky enough to hear him speak on how he tests his magic systems and could see just how thorough he was.  No breaking rules on his part, Sanderson likes a thorough, thought out system and it really makes a good story sensational.

The Alloy of Law is a fantastic mix of steampunk and western (think Firefly).  It mixes magic with gun-slinging and adds a bit of romance in just to flavor the adventure.  I was immediately connected to the characters, especially Wax.  He was everything I wanted in a hero – especially since there was quite a bit of the inner turmoil going on that just makes a character spark and fly off the page.

I loved The Alloy of Law.  I loved being back in that world, seeing the old magics come to life again, experiencing something new in the way of Sanderson’s writing.  The western thing is fantastic and I cannot wait to read more.

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Bookie Monster

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Big fan of Cherie Priest – I totally blame Boneshaker.
  • How can you go wrong with a book printed with sepia ink?
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Summary from GoodReads:

Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.

My Review:

In my opinion, Cherie Priest is the reigning queen author of Steampunk novels, and Dreadnought is a solid example of why.  It’s hard to explain Steampunk to someone who doesn’t already know what it is – I mean, you can bring Verne into the picture and then try to bring the word “mash-up” into the mix (citing Glee for those who tend to not read much) and then finish off with a flourish of “something like that” and hope that they get it… or you can just hand over a copy of Boneshaker and tell them to read it.

Sure, the historical aspects have been twisted and pulled a bit – but these aren’t historical fiction novels (unless your world actually does contain zombies).  The thing about Cherie Priest’s books are – even though you know they aren’t historically accurate, the manner in which she writes them makes you doubt that more than once as you are reading the story.  In Dreadnought, there are many scenes in which Mercy is treating soldiers, in which relationships are being developed between the North and the South on the Dreadnought itself (which alone is.. man, so awesome to read about), and it seems plausible that these things did, in fact, happen.  Another thing that helps is the way that Priest implements things such as dirigibles and zombies without batting an eye at how unusual they really are.  Everything is incorporated into the story in such a matter-of-fact way that if you, the reader, seems to bat an eyelash at it, you would be the one out of the ordinary.

Mercy Lynch’s journey from Virginia to Seattle, Washington is a fun, romping good time.  There’s adventure, there’s flying vehicles, there’s massive trains and there’s zombies… and it all makes perfect sense.  Boneshaker and Dreadnought are two shining examples of just how great Steampunk books can be, and I cannot wait to see what Cherie Priest comes up with next.

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Candace’s Book Blog

Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Clockwork Heart Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

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My first Steampunk novel was Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. I fell in love with the genre right then and there. Then I read Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan and knew that it wasn’t a fluke. I was officially smitten.

I put Clockwork Heart on my to be read list because first, I loved the cover and second, steampunk, um.. yes! I wasn’t disappointed, and in fact was pleasantly surprised.

This was a pleasant mix of romance, mystery and steampunk. There were gadgets galore (even one to predict the perfect marriage!), there were crazy inventors, a strange caste system and.. my favorite thing about this book – a contraption to strap on your back that gives you wings. How. cool.

So why didn’t I go all out and give the book five stars? Oddly enough – although I’m not much of a romance person, I just felt as if the book started dragging in the second half when the whole romance triangle thing wasn’t there any longer. The mystery/intrigue part wasn’t strong enough to keep my attention on its own and I really felt the book would have been better if it’d been about 1/4th of it’s length shorter.

But – it’s a fun read, an easy one to get into if you are brand new to reading steampunk and..mm, wings. Who wouldn’t love that?!

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