Monday, May 24, 2010

The Clockwork Century, Cherie Priest

For those of you who don't know (was I the last one left?) about Cherie Priest, she is a talented, new(ish) writer whose name is just beginning to garner the recognition it deserves. Her most recent book, Boneshaker (available via Tor in the US and the UK) has been nominated for the triumvirate of SF/F awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the Locus. It deservedly won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association award for 2009 and is currently in it's seventh printing already. Boneshaker is the steam-punkish first novel in what Priest is calling her Clockwork Century. Set in an alternate 19th century where the civil war has raged and sputtered for 18 years, the book follows the story that results after the mad scientist Leviticus Blue, using the eponymous digging machine, drills under and consequently collapses most of downtown Seattle. Unfortunately the collapsing tunnels have also released a dense, poisonous gas from below that has the unfortunate effect transmuting people into rotters (zombies) and hence the city must be sealed off, effectively severing Seattle from the rest of the country. The story picks up here and follows Leviticus' teenage son Zeke, as he disappears into Seattle, desperately trying to clear his dad's name. Intertwined is the story of Zeke's mom Briar, Leviticus' widow, who knows the truth and and hopes to find Zeke before it is too late.

While this story sounds like a collage of nearly every genre trope known, Priest wields her tools in such a way as to bring a non-stop, action packed, dirigible-filled ride to anyone willing to give it a shot. Her world-building alone is insistently detailed and the Clockwork Century promises to yield many more tales in the future. Following this up next fall is Dreadnought (ARC photo below courtesy of Priest), but in the meantime the  lovely folks at Subterranean Press have brought us Clementine, the novella length story that shall tide us over until September. Subterranean has recently released the revised art for the June novella (left) and it is absolutely stunning. The new cover really captures the feel of the environment Boneshaker envisioned. Issued in the already sold out signed, limited edition of 200 copies and the still available hardcover trade (available directly from Subterranean - free shipping on pre-orders - or via the US and UK Amazon pages) Clementine promises to deliver a wholly original adventure. Priest has stated that while neither book is a true sequel to Boneshaker (although there is some character cross-over), both stories take place in the wake of the Seattle events and they can be read independently if you chose; though I still recommend reading the first, if for nothing else but the excellent yarn.

So stick around, friends and neighbors, the Clockwork Century has only just begun and I for one will be lining up to read the results. Due to the reception so far, I suspect I will have plenty of company. If you have not yet tried Boneshaker and are interested in supporting in independent  bookstore, Priest has kindly offered up signed (and personalized, if that suits you) copies (following these directions) at her local University Book Store. If audio books are your cup of tea, I can highly recommended the talented voice acting of Wil Wheaton and Kate Reading as they perform Boneshaker, available now from Dreadnought should be in stores (again, via Tor in the US and the UK) September 28 and a sample chapter for those of you who can't wait can be read for free on Macmillian's page for the book. Enjoy the ride, it will certainly be fun.

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