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Boneshaker Paperback – Sep 29 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (Sept. 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765318415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765318411
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By semicomatose on Feb. 4 2011
Format: Paperback
Having grown up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs & Sax Rohmer, I have no problem with this particular type of story-telling. But, when I see that a book's been nominated for the same Hugo award that a fantastic piece of work like 'Windup Girl' has, yeah, I'm anticipating something more than a vapid, cliched, 'surrealistically big, kind-hearted good guys vs diabolically evil bad guys' pulp adventure tale that feels as though it was written for 'young adults'. & that's pretty much all this book truly is...

There's nothing resembling depth, or substance, or insightful observation to be had here. & both the environment (whether it's dirigibles, poison gas, or zombies) & supporting cast exist only to serve as window-dressing in order to propel the 2 lead characters from one end of the book to the other...

So, congratulations! - you now live in a time when John Carter of Mars could be nominated for a Hugo :) ...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Berger on Feb. 13 2010
Format: Paperback
Boneshaker was a good read. I finished it in a couple of sittings. On the positive side it was a good mashup blending zombies, alternate history, and classic adventure. The characters were interesting, the premise unique, and the storytelling focused. On the negative side, I would like to have seen the characters more fully developed. While I was able to empathize with them, there seemed to be something missing. If you are looking for a light steampunk read, I would recommend Boneshaker.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kristin Matte on Sept. 20 2010
Format: Paperback
Boneshaker was a nice, light read. I'm just getting to know the steam-punk genre, so it seems like it's been a good introduction. It was solid. The only segments I'm limp on are, as mentioned in the other amazon review, the character development. I'm also a little uneasy about the denouement, which felt rushed. Overall, I enjoyed it though, and I loved discovering the world it takes place in.
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By Akasha on May 22 2011
Format: Paperback
I found it entertaining nonetheless. The characters are not very well described at first and you learn how they are by their actions and goals rather than by their background, which makes it a little hard to like them. The story itself is okay, its interesting without being very thrilling. The book is very well written. Overall I recommend it if you're interested in steampunk and zombies.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 288 reviews
276 of 322 people found the following review helpful
Not sure what book the 5-star reviewers are reading... Feb. 6 2010
By EB - Published on
Format: Paperback
Now I know by giving 3 stars, many readers will ask "did you hate it?" No, I didn't hate this book, but I must say I was unimpressed by it. Steampunk designs, airships, and can one go wrong? Well, the answer is to make the plot wandering and the characters not that interesting.

I won't offer a summary of the book, because nearly every other reviewer has done the same. I'll start by saying that the synopsis on the back cover is kind of misleading, especially about the part regarding "rewrite history." It's a shame that portion is nowhere to be found in the novel. By that token, I was expecting the characters to come to some certain uncovering of secret history, and also come to some inner realization about themselves. Sadly, they don't. Zeke's request to clear his father's name unfortunately falls into a simple tale of "overthrow the bad guy." And as the story ends, the world they inhabit isn't changed in the slightest between the beginning and the end of the story.

The characters of Briar and Zeke aren't that compelling, either. Their only purpose in the story seems to be transitioning the reader from Plot Point A to B to C--which is *part* of the reason characters exist, but it shouldn't be the main portion of who they are. Why do they do what they do? What drives them? We don't get much internal dialogue or conflict, everything they feel is spoken.

In the same vein, they don't affect change within the story at all; everything seems to happen without them doing anything or contributing to the goings-on, like they're part of the scenery as opposed to full-fledged characters. So if they don't really *do* anything except move around as per the author's directions, then are they even really empathetic at all? And as I mentioned above, if they don't have an impact on the world they inhabit, then what's the point of telling the story about them in the first place?

Then there's the Steampunk aesthetic. And I use the word "aesthetic" because that's what Steampunk is...visual. It's an interesting concept, the "retro-futuristic" vision, but I've yet to see it done effectively. I'll begin the comparison to another "punk" style, cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is more than the visual style that we see or imagine. To quote wikipedia on cyberpunk: "It features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order...Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth."

The story does have steampunk elements, but they are all visual, and unfortunately don't go beyond that in terms of what they're using the style to *try* to say. What is the author trying to use steampunk to reveal about society, and about ourselves? What morality play is in effect that ONLY steampunk can tell? (And also, what morals are we also to question by using the Steampunk genre?) It's not like "The Difference Engine," wherein the style reaches to the conclusion that the rapid development of technology is a bad thing. Steampunk shouldn't just be there for its own sake, it needs to DO something and serve a deeper purpose than just as what we see.

I would chalk this up to the notion that there is no "originator" steampunk title that "Neuromancer" serves as for cyberpunk, nothing that first sets the frame of reference and "rules" for how that world works. But that's not necessarily a fault with Boneshaker, but it doesn't help its case.

This is by no means a bad book. If you're a sci-fi and/or steampunk afficionado, this is probably for you. It's not laden with a lot of exposition or heavy sci-fi gibberish. While it didn't pull me in and hit me over the head with an Awesome Stick, your experience may vary. It's kind of a popcorn book, or a Saturday afternoon movie. If you're looking for lighter faire, you could do worse than Boneshaker.
115 of 137 people found the following review helpful
apparently I'm the voice of dissent Jan. 30 2010
By NickelDiamer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Compelling setup and central mysteries. Thought the story between the lead protagonists was reasonably well done.

Cons: Author did not care to develop her world.

Example - Head villain has a scary right hand man, as is typical of adventure stories. He strikes fear into the hearts of the locals. Yet in the final battle, he appears briefly and avoids the final confrontation. Why introduce him? The secondary characters are compelling, until they're abandoned. The lead fighter amongst the good guys appears to be dying, yet we're led to believe he might be saved by 19th century medicine?

Additonally, the central threat within the town (the zombies dubbed rotters) are never well developed. Minnericht can send them at his enemies, but loses control of them in the end. Why? They run the streets of the city, forcing the human residents into a subterranean existence, yet they can be repelled by bonfires? Moving a block or two in the city calls up hordes of rotters, yet the leads can linger in a house for nearly an hour? And what of the citadel like fort within the walls? Everyone agrees it's safe from the rotters, yet it's abandoned.

But the biggest problem with the story: it hints early on that living within the city walls is near suicidal (and even life in the outskirts is pretty illogical), yet no compelling reason is ever provided for why the residents stay. It's apparently not too difficult for humans to leave the city. Yet many reasonably upright citizens have spent a decade or more running for their lives from the rotters while being manipulated by a mad professor. Say what? I know the setting is an alternate history where the civil war rages on, but America is a big and open country in the late 19th century. People set out for the plains and southwest on a regular basis. Yet cleaning contaminated water all day or relying on filter masks to step outside is the best existence these people can imagine?

The beauty of sci-fi/fantasy as a genre is the ability of authors to create worlds that operate on their terms. But there need to be terms. The whole project feels adrift.
62 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Boneshaker bites off more than it can chew. March 16 2010
By Leah - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zombie book bites off more than it can chew: when I realized I'd been reading Cherie Priest's Boneshaker for over a month, I knew it had problems. Boneshaker isn't terrible, but it fails to deliver even as a popcorn penny-dreadful adventure--it's burdened with unnecessary exposition and monotonous movement from point to point. It's a 400-page story about walking from one place to another and back again.

The premise: it's Civil War-era Seattle, in an alternate steampunk-influenced reality where the war didn't end, airships cruise the skies, and an eccentric scientist named Leviticus Blue built a gold-mining machine that raged out of control and uncovered a terrible secret beneath the city: a seeping gas called the Blight that transforms people into rotters--zombies. The poisoned part of the city is walled off, and life marches on...until Blue's estranged son, Zeke, decides to go on a quest inside the walls to learn the truth about his publically-despised father. The story revolves around Zeke and his mother, Briar, who follows her son inside the walls to rescue him.

I was sold on the premise right off the bat: steampunk, zombies, poison gas, airship pirates--expecting an adventure full of wild characters, monsters, and machines, I descended on the book like a ravening revenant.

The problem is one of both plot and prose. Plot-wise, there is nothing more to the narrative than a mother chasing her son through the quarantined city. Along the way, encounters with the gruesome rotters are few, and easily avoided. The airship pirates figure peripherally, serving as devices to get characters from Point A to Point B. Denizens of the inner city are mere guides, shepherding mother and son on their way, and explaining how life within the walls works. In a sense, it evokes a criticism of The Lord of the Rings: the action consists of Walking, With Occasional Running.

In many ways, the rotters, pirates, and fanciful machines just feel like narrative fashion accessories--the rotters are such a non-presence that their inclusion merely functions as a disappointment. A brief, up-close encounter towards the end is snuffed short with a rifle blast. It becomes clear early on that this isn't a "zombie book," but neither is it really an adventure. The prose is flat, workmanlike, and marred with awkward descriptions and turns of phrase. In particular, the use of the word "proactive" was jarring to me. This word wasn't even coined until 1933, and wasn't in popular use till decades later.

Of course, this isn't reality, but alternate reality--as Priest explains rather defensively, and almost condescendingly, in an Author's Note after the Epilogue. I happened to read that note first (I like to skim through bonus content in a book to see if it offers any insight into the text), and it put a sour, Blight-like taste in my mouth. This note was unnecessary--the book is categorized under fiction--and made the author come across as controlling of her audience, and insecure of her work.

Interestingly, I noticed that same lecturing, defensive tone in the prose itself. There is much more Tell than Show--characters speak nearly every thought that pops into their heads, talking about rather than experiencing their feelings, and the world of zombified Seattle is largely described through dialogue that reads like an oral history. The end result is a strangely disconnected sense of being told about a story, rather than experiencing it through the characters.

Ultimately, Boneshaker aimed for high adventure and considerably missed the mark. However disappointed I am with the actual product, Priest still did some fantastic world-building, and I want to see her try again with a more compelling narrative set in this alternate reality. If Boneshaker had been told from the point-of-view of the hard-bitten denizens of the inner city, rather than the hapless pair who stumble around inside for a couple of days, it might have lived up to its wild premise. Fortunately, Priest has a quirky cast of disused oddballs to draw from for future tales in Blighted Seattle.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Profoundly underwhelming June 13 2010
By Jacob Glicklich - Published on
Format: Paperback
Highly underwhelming, and a timely reminder of why I find most steampunk to be a stimulus for self-indulgent laziness rather than an effective subgenre of science fiction. There are positive things in this book, but in no small part this was one of those works where such elements deepen my frustration. It's clear that Priest is not without some significant talent, but here it's applied in a book that on the whole is low quality. The strengths lie partly in the opening and the way it plunges in a sense of an exhilarating and distant world, and partly in characterization, which feels fully authentic and with a nice preponderance of detail. I'm particularly found of the little indications of imperfect perception that come across--a character in anxiety overlooks a letter lying in plain sight, and this element is portrayed not as a critical failure but a realistic moment of emotions. Similarly, the main relationship of the piece, a mother-son antagonism and ultimately love, feels fairly well actualized.

The bigger problem, though, is the utter arbitrariness of the plot, setting and pace. The ultimate plot, as it develops with all its gas-created zombies, mad scientists and weird environment is highly contrived, and feels manipulated by the author to produce a situation of episodic conflict with an eventual ostensibly unified story. I have no objection per say to a thoroughly absurd situation--reference the Manual of Detection above--but here it's unattached to real comedy or an effective satire, and the whole tone is far too serious to make the story work. The larger incoherence becomes problematic as the story emerges with no inherent spark or thematic connection beyond the story, the point of the book is to spin its wheels showing a contrived plot and shadowy backstory of a mad scientist, and we're supposed to take this layout at face value.

There's a sense across the novel, first emerging in prominent sparks around page forty and becoming overwhelming by the end, that it features well realized, three-dimensional characters inhabiting a cardboard world. What makes this contrast dispiriting is that it feels over-tailered to a subset of science fiction that wants to see weird nineteenth century mutations and crazy science, and isn't particularly demanding with anything meaningful with these elements. It's a book that sacrifices coherence, ambition and effectiveness as science fiction for the sake of a fun thrill ride. And, at least for my reading, it doesn't achieve that measure of fun in result.

I was partly hampered by my expectations of this book--after hearing exultant reviews it probably gave more disappointment than I would have otherwise felt. Beyond that, since reading it, Boneshaker has been shortlisted for both a Hugo and Nebulas, which I can't help feel represents fandom siding with style over substance to a large degree.
81 of 103 people found the following review helpful
Full of Steampunk awesomeness Sept. 29 2009
By The Mad Hatter - Published on
Format: Paperback
Cherie Priest is one of those authors I've been hearing good things about for years. However, I've never tried her books previously as I'm not into horror or ghost related tales much, but when I heard she was doing a Steampunk book I immediately added it to my watch list. It did not disappoint at all. Boneshaker is full of Steampunk awesomeness. The setting is unbelievable detailed with its decrepitness yet infused with a ragamuffin lifestyle of people getting by in the most unexpected ways. You've got mad scientists, steampowered tech, ravenous zombies, air ships, and air pirates all in an eerie apocalyptic landscape. Yet this is a story with heart.

Set in Seattle circa 19th century, but in an alternative history where the civil war is on going and the gold rush made it to Seattle a little earlier. Boneshaker refers to a machine that wrecked the downtown of Seattle about 15 years prior, which released a gas that turned people to zombies. The ruined portion of the city has been walled-up since and most people live in what is called "The Outskirts." Zeke is looking to redeem the Father and Grand Father he never knew for their involvement surrounding the events of the boneshaker so he travels into the walled-off city looking for proof. His mother predictably goes in after him, but what ensues is a rollicking look into a vivid world. The point of view switches between mother and son as they stumble through the city and meet allies and enemies.

One thing that may bother some hardcore Steampunkers is this isn't much real Victorian-ness going on, but the other elements of Steampunk are here. Boneshaker has more of a greasy soot covered Wild West feel to it, but it does make it refreshing to leave England. The characters start off a bit standoffish, but grow quickly endearing. Briar is especially a tough nut to crack as she has built-up so many layers between her and her son Zeke, yet she is my favorite. Briar is a woman who made some very hard choices in life and hasn't had it easy because of those paths chosen. There are a lot of other intriguing characters as well in this blight soaked city.

Superbly plotted and paced, if you are going to read one Steampunk book this year make it Boneshaker. I give Boneshaker 9 out of 10 Hats. Cherie has a second novel in the series titled Dreadnought coming in 2010 with Tor and a novella, Clementine, expected with Subterranean Press as well.

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