Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
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Aphelion Review

A Clockwork Century Novel
By Cherie Priest

Review by Dan L. Hollifield

Type of music/work:

Steampunk, Alternate History, Horror, Sci-fi / Fantasy novel.


Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest.Com
Published by Tor and Forge Books
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1841-1
Cover design by Jamie Stafford-Hill / Cover illustration by Joe Foster

General impressions of the album/book:

"Boneshaker" is her 7th book. It is living proof that several years ago Cherie Priest entered the ranks of pro writers with her 1st book "Four and Twenty Blackbirds" at the level of "Woah, this is good!' and has since advanced to the ranks of "Yahoo! She's got a new book out! Gotta buy this NOW!" Her books get better and better each time a new work comes out.


Cherie Priest is having great success with her Clockwork Century series of novels. This one, "Boneshaker," is the first novel in her Clockwork Century universe. From its first publication, it has been crowned with many, many accolades from every quarter. "Boneshaker" was nominated for a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award. It also won the PNBA Award, as well as the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. After reading it, it is easy to see why. Cherie has a gift for providing the reader with interesting characters as well as grand, intricate background worlds for them to play within. She is adept at weaving real-world history into her alternate world backdrop, as well as creating a host of fully realized characters to inhabit her stories. Male and female, adult and teen, hero and villain, main characters and supporting characters- Cherie brings them to vivid life as fully developed people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Even though I know from her blog posts just how hard she works and how much research she does for each and every story, upon reading the finished books she makes it all look so effortless. She makes it look easy, which is a very difficult magic trick for any writer to manage.

And yes, I said that the Clockwork Century stories are a series, but they aren't sequels to one another. Rather each is a complimentary parallel story using some of the same characters in further adventures linked to, but separate from, the preceding stories. She creates such interesting characters that many of them have demanded their own tails be told. Which she has done and is continuing to do. The Clockwork Century is a steampunk world, with all the wonderful alternative technology that "steampunk" implies. Electricity is rare, steam engines of various sorts are the workhorses of civilization, airships abound, and history as we readers know it happened a bit differently there. It is a fit setting for the adventures that she writes so well. Her world isn't idealized, it isn't perfect, and it isn't a romanticized version of a utopia. Rather it is gritty, rough, dirty, and somewhat grim at times. It is an utterly real-feeling world. In short, her alternate history is so plausible and real that the reader has no trouble becoming immersed within it. Other novels Cherie has set in the Clockwork Century so far are "Dreadnought" and "Clementine." Both are earning their own accolades as time passes. Both are worthy of further attention and of your time as a reader. Cherie has announced that there will also be at least two more books set in the Clockwork Century universe: The working titles of these are "Ganymede" which is proposed for a 2011 release, and "Inexplicable" with a proposed release in 2012.

It is so tempting to relate little details of Cherie's sets, settings, and backdrops. However, I won't spoil anything for you. Her work deserves nothing less than for the reader to encounter every aspect of it on their own. I really loved reading this book. By the middle of the first page, I was hooked. I didn't want to let the real world interrupt my journey into the story. Reading "Boneshaker" is a treat, a wild ride, a headlong rush into amazing adventures- Everything a reader could wish for, and more. I hated every time I was forced to put the book down by the need to return to the mundane details of the "real world." Each time I was able to resume reading the story it felt like I was getting a reward for putting up with my day-to-day life. In fact, I faced a small dilemma stemming from the desire to keep reading and the equal desire for the adventure never to end. It is rare for me to find a book like that. Very few writers inspire that sort of pleasure reading these days. Cherie Priest delivers the goods. On so many levels, "Boneshaker" is a very satisfying read. Fans of steampunk, alternate history, horror, science-fiction, historical fiction, and adventure stories alike should be able to agree that "Boneshaker" is an excellent novel. One that is well worth searching out. Thankfully, it won't be that difficult to find. Readers who are already fans of Cherie Priest from her work before "Boneshaker" will be glad to know that there are already other works set in her Clockwork Century available, and still more in the works. Readers new to Cherie's work should expect to rapidly become fans. Readers on a budget will be glad to learn that everything Cherie writes is well worth your hard-earned cash. I've never found anything she has written that I regretted buying. Matter of fact, Cherie's work keeps getting better and better!

Thank you for another great book, Cherie. I know I'm not alone in eagerly awaiting the next one!

Where to buy the books:

Barnes & Noble.com
Signed copies of many of Cherie's books can be ordered from the University Book Store at the University of Washington located near Cherie Priest's home in Seattle, WA. Expect a slight delay on these because she has to make time to drive over and autgraph these copies before they are shipped out to the buyers. You will have to follow the directions on this webpage to get this done correctly, however.

Background info:

Cherie Priest has a bio page on Wikipedia at this link as well as having a presence on Twitter, Live Journal, Facebook, and her official website, among others. Cherie also has a website devoted to her Clockwork Century universe.

All of these websites have far more personal info about Cherie than I could add without just doing a hack writer "copy/paste" job. From my personal experience of knowing Cherie online for several years now, all I can say without violating her privacy is that she's a friendly, approachable, hard-working writer who loves her work, her husband, and her pets. One day I hope to meet her and her husband Aric in person at a Dragon*Con, or any other convention we can manage to attend at the same time.

Cherie also writes some of the most entertaining movie reviews that have ever been my pleasure to read. These reviews can usually be found linked to her Live Journal account. But she has had far less time to add to these since her books have taken off.

Review Copyright 2010 by Dan L. Hollifield

Dan Hollifield is the senior editor and publisher of Aphelion Webzine

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