Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest
Tor, 2009

My love for Ms. Priest’s work has been professed before so this review is hardly unbiased.  Indeed, Boneshaker is certainly one of the catalysts that sent me on brief dip into the steampunk pool.  It is also the only steampunk novel I read this month that was set in America.  If my appreciation of Ms. Priest’s work wasn’t enough to predispose me towards liking this novel she went ahead and set it in Seattle which, despite being a city I’ve only visited twice for all too brief a time and despite being born and bread in the shadow of the city that never sleeps, is a place that has a strange place in my heart;  I guess it’s a city I guess I’m half in love with (with a gorgeous library that was hit hard by recent budget changes but if you visit you should definitely check out!).

Of course the Seattle of Boneshaker is not the Seattle we know.  It is city that has become a wasteland thanks to the terrible Boneshaker built by Dr. Leviticus Blue which went on an uncontrolled rampage and somehow unleashed a hidden pocket of deadly Blight gas that not only kills all it touches, but brings those it kills back as flesh-craving rotters (a history told much better by the book’s introduction available over at The Clockwork Century).  The book opens up years later with Leviticus’ wife, Briar and son Ezekial (Zeke) living in the Outskirts; a town that arose around the now walled-up Seattle.  Briar and Zeke now go by the last name Wilkes, Briar’s maiden name, which has the advantage (for Zeke at least) in that Briar’s father is something of a folk hero amongst the poor, disrepute, and downtrodden of the Outskirts.  The pair scrapes by, at least until Zeke hares off to the Blight filled Seattle in order to clear the name of both his father and grandfather, who the not-so downtrodden believe was a criminal.  It isn’t long before Briar and copious amounts of adventure and excitement, follow.

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The Russians have a Level 7, kind of.

In an interesting article from Wired, Nicholas Thompson details some of the specifics on a Russian doomsday device that was built during the Cold War.  It is a fascinating piece that, while chock full of information, seems to imply that Russian device is entirely automatic; a fact not refuted until the final paragraphs of the article.  In fact, with the human “fail safe” the whole system reminded me eerily of Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7, particularly in the last section of article when Thomspon states, with perhaps a touch of hyperbole:

Yes, I agree, a human could decide in the end not to press the button. But that person is a soldier, isolated in an underground bunker, surrounded by evidence that the enemy has just destroyed his homeland and everyone he knows. Sensors have gone off; timers are ticking. There’s a checklist, and soldiers are trained to follow checklists.

Not too far from push button operator X-127, eh?  The full article is HERE and of course I still highly recommend you check out Roshwald’s book.

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail  Carriger
Soulless by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger
Orbit, 2009 (Forthcoming September 29, 2009)

Soulless is a supernatural steampunk romance from debut author Gail Carriger.  Soulless owes a lot to Jane Austen and, as far as I can tell (having only read the zombie infused remix), Pride and Prejudice in particular.  The novel follows a one Alexia Tarabotti who, as her name shows, despite being British was “cursed” with an Italian father.  Alexia is a self-professed spinster who also happens to have no soul in the most literal sense.  Known as a preternatural her soulless existence means that her touch cancels out the supernatural abilities of the various “immortals” that populate London.  Consisting mostly of Werewolves and Vampires Alexia’s London is one in which humans and immortals live side by side with full knowledge of one another’s existence.

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Grave Tidings

So as I wrap up my September of Steampunk reviews I’ve started looking towards next month. Since I enjoyed working on a theme for my reviews this month I figured it might be fun to continue that next month. Since October is incoming I figured that I’d throw myself headfirst into some new horror titles. An idea that, as it turns out, isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.

I fully admit that horror is a genre I am not terribly well versed in, but it is a genre that from time to time I enjoy exploring. Over the years I have found that it has grown increasingly difficult to find new and interesting horror titles that interest me. While I am entirely open to the possibility that the problem is me it isn’t an idea I am entirely sold on. Before I delve into my misgivings about the current state of horror let me highlight the titles I’m looking to read in October.

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Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Scott Westerfeld with art by Keith Thompson
Forthcoming Simon Pulse, 2009 (October 6)

In my continuing exploration of several Steampunk titles this month my signed ARC from BEA of Westerfeld’s Leviathan marks my first and only foray into a YA steampunk title.  Which is regrettable since Leviathan is an exciting novel full of imagination, adventure, and excitement in spades.  Leviathan starts in June of 1914  as the fictional son of Archduke Ferdinand, Aleksander, is whisked away on the eve of his parents murder.  Loaded into a Stormwalker, a mechanized military walker, he and his two mentors flee towards the Swiss border.  Meanwhile, young Deryn Sharp disguises herself as a boy in order to enter the British air service whose genetically engineered animals take the place of the mechanized constructs of the Austrian empire.  Deryn, thanks to a mishap involving the a jellyfish-based air creature, finds herself aboard the titular Leviathan and airship composed mostly out of a whale but in truth a living ecosystem unto itself.

If all that sounds wildly imaginative then you’d be absolutely correct.  It is also a joy to read.

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Review: Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters

Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters
Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters

Whitechapel Gods
S. M. Peters
Roc, 2008

Whitechapel Gods marks my first foray into the steampunk genre during my steampunk extravaganza this month.  It is perhaps a bit of an odd book for a first choice since it is entirely lacking in airships and heavier on horror then adventure but it is rife with clockwork automatons and steam powered weaponry.  In truth Whitechapel Gods is something like steampunk as envisioned by H. P. Lovecraft or Stephen King.

In a post-industrial London, Whitecapel has been walled off by the strange deific figure known as Grandfather Clock, inscrutible and unwilling consort to the even more unfathomable Mama Engine.  Smoke and toxic gases turn the already dingy atmosphere of Whitechapel into a hostile place while a horrid clockwork disease transforms citizens into horrid amalgams of man and machine; robbing them of any hope of death.  Men given over to Grandfather Clock collect citizens to be added to a monstrous construction of man and machine while silent automatons known as the Boiler Men enforce Grandfather Clocks will and stamps out rebellion.  Amidst this oppressive atmosphere a rag-tag bunch of criminals and patriots seek to kill both gods and free the downtrodden citizens of Whitechapel.  Whitechapel Gods is a novel rife with familiar sights twisted into horrific visages and though the novel suffers from some issues with pacing manages to ensnare its reader with that imagery.

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Nyphron Rising Sample

I went to see if there was a solid release date for Michael Sullivan’s third book in the Riyria Revelation, Nyphron Rising and, while the date is still listed as a rather nebulous Octoboer 2009. I found out that there was a sample from chapter 1 posted there as well.  If you’ve yet to give this series a try I highly recommend you head on over and check out samples from the first two books The Crown Conspriacy and Avempartha. If you have had the pleasure of reading the series so far then by all means please check out the Chapter 1 sample from Nyphron Rising!

Review: Whiteout by Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber

Whiteout by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber
Whiteout by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber

Whiteout Vol. 1 (The Definitive Edition)
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Steve Lieber
Oni Press, 2007

I kept hearing that Whiteout is being made into a movie and since I’ve enjoyed Rucka’s work on Superman (a comic I’d normally steer clear of) as of late figured I’d give this one a shot.  It helped that I managed to pick it up at BEA though only rediscovered tucked away on a bookshelf just this month.  I have a fondness for the stories featuring the barren arctic (Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night on the opposite hemisphere and Lovecraft’s epicly awesome At the Mountains of Madness being two favorites; not to mention the ever classic Carpenter version of The Thing)there is something wondrous about the setting.  Maybe it is the beauty combined with the constant struggle for survival that somehow manages to evoke a certain bleakness of tone that I always find particularly compelling.

In this case the story is a murder mystery/thriller that takes some hard-boiled/noirish tropes and transposes them to the harshness of the Antarctic continent.  U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko is a sort of exile, banished to serve down in the Antarctic as punishment for an earlier botched mission.  Stetko is haunted by her past, battling with alcoholism as well as the loneliness and desperation of the ice.  Being on an entirely different continent doesn’t stop Stetko from being harassed by her boss and I suppose no detective story would really be complete without our hero being harassed by an authority figure.  When an American turns up dead on the ice it is up to Stetko to uncover the the truth behind his murder.

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Scary by numbers

Yes, the holiday weekend left me behind in my reading.  Yes, I am writing “filler” posts on video games.  I do find it a nice change of pace though so non-gamers bear with me.

After having an unopened envelope from GameFly sitting on desk for about a month I figured it was about time I popped the thing open and actually tried to get my money’s worth.  My game this time around is Monolith’s F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.  I found the demo passably enjoyable and, though I never managed to play the first game, decided to give it a try.  What I’ve found so far, being just under halfway through (I’m on Mission 6 of I think 14) is a fairly straightforward corridor shooter peppered with frequently inexplicable moments of horror both visceral and psychological.  Oddly enough I am seriously enjoying my time with the game.  I am admittedly a fan of the whole FPS genre and while my skills in the multiplayer arena are far from “teh 1337 ” (erratic at best with moments of zen-like asskickery and, more frequently, rage inducing suckitude) I do find that the I tend to enjoy the single-player FPS experience quite a bit. Continue reading “Scary by numbers”

Feeling kind of…red

Red Faction Guerrilla
Red Faction Guerrilla

I cruise by the turn off for the Martian Council eyeing the EDF patrols that wander by while simultaneously keeping my eye on the cliffs surrounding the base.  Then I spot it up ahead; the perfect outcropping just high enough to allow me to get up and over the range of hills that surround the base; with the help of my handy jetpack anyway.  Smiling, I step on the gas and move down the road quickly stashing my pickup behind some boulders.  Never know; I might have to make a hasty exit.  With a deep breath I sprint towards the hills, leaping activating my jetpack’s thrusters at the apex of my jump.  With a series of assisted leaps, and one close call with some over-zealous EDF grunt, I manage to make it to the top of a large cliff.  I stare for a moment at the Martian Council building my lip curling in disgust at the clean lines and utilitarian design of the EDF built structure.  Unlimbering my home-brewed rocket launcher I take careful aim and let loose a missile.  Concrete, glass and rebar fly in all directions followed almost immediately by the first pot-shots from the EDF troops below.  I smile, staring into the smoke filled hole in the council building; definitely an improvement.

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