Guilty pleasures -- we all have them. Once in a blue moon I crave Kraft macaroni and cheese out of a box, or a huge heaping pile of homemade mashed potatoes with chicken gravy made from fried chicken. Or a Marie Callender's pot pie, even though they're like 600 calories and almost as many grams of fat. Well, I have them in books, too, and my favorite guilty pleasures are steampunk and pulp. I just finished Boneshaker and it is the equivalent of hot comfort food between two covers.
The author has managed to create a world that the reader can actually believe in, the mark of a good steampunk, sci-fi, or alternate history writer. For example, to be really honest, I don't normally like books (or movies) featuring flesh-eating zombies, but here in this world it works, because they are an after effect of the blight. They are a constant danger, and the book wouldn't be the same without them. Gas masks are essential for life in this world, and she never eases up on this point. Priest set her novel during the time of the Civil War, complete with airships and hot-air balloons, and she has included some real people and real places so the reader feels a bit more grounded while reading the novel. The atmosphere is dark and gloomy, and people spend a lot of time underground, and I never lost track that this was Seattle (one of my favorite cities), albeit some time ago. And then there's the lemon sap, the drug of choice which a lot of people are making money on. Even the book's print is unique, giving you a feel that you're reading something from that era. And at its core, this book is really about a mom searching for her son, a storyline that is wholly believable.
The characters are also awesome; the villain of this book is one Dr. Minnericht, who tinkers with technology and holds the residents of downtown Seattle in his clutches. One of my favorite characters is Lucy, who has a robotic arm and runs an underground saloon called Maynard's. Then there's Swakhammer, who wears full body armor as protection against the Rotters (zombies). Even the characters you don't meet in person are great: Maynard Wilkes, for example, is a lawman who is revered both inside and outside of the gates, and there's Leviticus Blue, husband of Briar and father to Zeke (Briar and Zeke both tell the story from their alternating points of view) , who started the whole mess in the first place.
Cherie Priest has written an outstanding book here, and I can't wait for the new additions to the series to start rolling off the presses. Highly recommended for people who enjoy alternate history, or science fiction or steampunk. Or, if you're like me, and you just like quirky things very much away from the norm, you'll love this one.