Dreadnought Paperback – Sep 28 2010
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“Maternal love faces formidable challenges in this stellar steampunk tale…. Intelligent, exceptionally well written and showcasing a phenomenal strong female protagonist who embodies the complexities inherent in motherhood, this yarn is a must read for the discerning steampunk fan.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review on Boneshaker
“A mash-up of action, history, and science that is everything good about steampunk. If you like the genre, you'll love this, and if you've been worried that it's getting stale or trendy then you will be thrilled with Priest's way of taking the formula and turning it inside out. The setting is solid but the characters are what makes Boneshaker sing. Give Cherie Priest fifteen minutes of your time-- trust me--you won't look back.” ―Bookslut on Boneshaker
“Cherie Priest is high priestess of steampunk. ” ―Seattle Times on Boneshaker
About the Author
Cherie Priest is the author of Boneshaker, which was nominated for a Nebula and Hugo Award, won the Locus Award for best science-fiction novel, and was named Steampunk Book of the Year by steampunk.com. She is also the author of the near-contemporary fantasy Fathom, and she debuted to great acclaim with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, and Not Flesh Nor Feathers, a trilogy of Southern Gothic ghost stories featuring heroine Eden Moore. Born in Tampa, Florida, Priest earned her master's in rhetoric at the University of Tennessee. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, Aric, and a fat black cat named Spain.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This might sound a bit patronizing, but isn't intended to: Priest writes the best action scenes I've ever seen from a female author, bar none. In order to qualify that statement, I'll further say that this is among some of the very best action-based narrative I've ever read, including Desmond Bagley and Ian Flemming. It's often thought that woman either can't or don't write action scenes, but this is bumf; it's just more 'manly' to have people zipping around and shooting at each other, that's all.
Strong female characters with Father Issues seem to be recurring themes of Ms Priest's, and this novel is the same, with the protagonist being both a young war-widow and her father becoming estranged from the family when she was quite young; her previous novel having similar aspects to it.Read more ›
Vinita "Mercy" Lynch is working hard in a Southern hospital (during a Civil War that has been going on for A VERY LONG TIME), helping care for horribly wounded soldiers. Then she receives two shocking pieces of news -- her husband has died in the war, and her biological father (whom everyone has presumed dead) has actually been living in Washington for all these years. Feeling that she has nothing to anchor her there, Mercy decides to go see "daddy dearest."
It's hard enough for a single woman to travel alone, but Mercy soon discovers that traveling during wartime is even worse. The airship she is traveling on is shot down, leaving the passengers stranded in the middle of nowhere -- and her only chance of getting to Washington may involve a Union train of devastating power, the Dreadnought. And unfortunately, that isn't the last obstacle between her and Washington.
For the record, "Dreadnought" isn't really a sequel to either of the previous two Clockwork World books. There ARE some brief references to "Boneshaker" -- they are in the same world, after all -- but it's very much its own, independent story. And this one is all about the war-torn, danger-filled America of Priest's world.
A lot of "Dreadnought's" appeal comes from Mercy. This is a tough, tough lady -- she's strong, independent and outspoken, but she's also very compassionate.Read more ›
Some of the historical details are a little under-researched, but this being alternative reality steampunk, you may always use the old canard of ah-ah, but in this world, it happened slightly differently.
But this is a minor nitpick. If you're not a historian, just settle down and get reading and let yourself be swept along with the adventure of it all.
This was my first Priest novel. It will not be my last now.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I thoroughly enjoyed Boneshaker, but to be honest found Dreadnought to be a bit of a slog at times to get through. I kept picking it up and putting it down, which is always a sign I'm not particularly enjoying a book, as I typically finish books in a sitting or two. If it takes me more than three days to get through a sub-400 page book, I'm just not that excited about it.
One of my issues was the pacing. The book started off a bit slow, had some rollicking moments (an airship crash, mechanical walkers), then really slowed down as we got a lot of travel plans and info, ticket buying, etc. I don't need books to be non-stop action, and I'm a huge fan of "quiet" character-driven novels, but this one just seemed unbalanced, never quite finding a smooth rhythm or pace of action.
The characters too weren't all that compelling. The biggest problem was with the secondary characters, none of whom really came alive for me, whether it be the Union commander, the fellow women passengers, the porters, the mad scientist. They all felt a bit perfunctory, there to play their plot role devices but not much beyond that. I can't say I would have felt much had any of them not made it. The main character, simply by being on stage all the time, is obviously more fleshed out, but even with Mercy I can't say I felt she was all that distinctive a personality. At times, yes, but not consistently so throughout the novel. Part of the reason for this I think was that although she's portrayed as a not-particularly passive personality, the intersection of her character and plot quite often makes into a passive character: being ordered to do something rather than choosing it, reacting rather than choosing to act, etc.
What saves Dreadnought probably more than the several strong scenes (and there are several such) is Priest's sharp prose. For instance:
Sunset took forever; with no mountains or hills for it to fall behind . . . The warm light belied the chill outside, and the passenger cars were bathed in a rose colored glow even as the riders rubbed their hands together and breathed into their fingers, or gathered over the steam vents. Porters came through on the heels of the sun's retreating rays, lighting the gas lamps that were placed on either side of each door, protected by reinforced glass so the light wouldn't blow out with the opening and closing of these same portals.
That sort of precision and vividness and wonderful rhythm of prose runs throughout the book; there were several such passages I marked and could have chosen as examples. I actually would have preferred more, to balance out the satisfactory but less magical dialogue/interior monologue.
I finished Dreadnought more slightly satisfied than happy, perhaps even more satisfied at the finishing than the reading. It's a mostly well-written book that just didn't capture my attention fully due to issues with pace and character and while I'd call it a disappointment, it wasn't enough so that I won't read the next book in the series.
Dreadnought reads like the adventure of a lifetime. It's an epic, cross-country travelogue that alternates between mundane moments and nail-biting action. I think it's a terrific story, but I do think it has the capacity to disappoint some readers because it's devoid of relationships of any kind. Any connections that the heroine makes on the course of her travels are brief and transitory, and while this feels completely authentic, it subtracts from the emotional punch of the story. The lack of romance I can handle, but the lack of friendships? I think that's a minor flaw, but that's the only flaw I'm going to cite. Otherwise this story has everything I could ask for.
Mercy is a plain-speaking woman who is uneducated, and yet she's overflowing with street smarts. She's the type to keep her head in a crisis, and she can sew up a shrapnel-torn scalp in the middle of a battle. She's an admirable woman, and I'm not just saying that because she has a tendency to curse under duress, which tickles my fancy. Cherie Priest has written another strong female lead (the other one I'm thinking of is in Boneshaker), and it's important to like Mercy and to root for her because she's the only glue holding this story together.
Ms. Priest absolutely excels at setting the scene within her steampunk world, and I thought her revisionist take on the Civil War was a brilliant move. I never have any problems sinking into her vision, and her descriptions are crisp, clear, and illuminating. I particularly liked how the zombies in Boneshaker tie into the plot in Dreadnought, but never fear if you haven't read Boneshaker, because each book stands on its own two feet. I'll be hard-pressed to find another author who combines the American West and steampunk so effortlessly, and makes it come alive in my mind without feeling artificial or hokey. It reminds me of the saying, "When the legend becomes fact print the legend," because this legend felt as real to me as any fact I know. I can't think of a higher compliment.
Second disclaimer: I'm a bit late on the "read in two weeks and review" requirement, for which I apologize wholeheartedly and unreservedly.
Dreadnought is another of Cherie Priest's books in the "Clockwork Century" series. It follows on from Clementine, and from Boneshaker, which I read about half of before giving up on. Her writing style in Boneshaker did not mesh well with my reading style, so I was curious to find out whether she got any better. Bottom line: Dreadnought is much less grating on my parsing neurons than the first one.
Let's focus on the bad, first. I still find the banal conversations to be annoying, I still am puzzled by the extreme focus on throwaway actions, and I'm still thrown out of the story when impressively lucky coincidences help our heroine along. For these reasons, I cannot recommend the book. I don't know if a conversation with a ticket agent, for example, is meant to help put me into the world, or just to make me wonder why we're focussing on such a seemingly minor character. Either way, it wasn't working for me. I see, based on other amazon reviews, that I am in the minority here. Most other people enjoyed it, with the only complaint thus far being an issue with time and distance travelled.
The good: the story was very interesting -- being my first steampunk novel mean that I was not bored with the dirigibles and the zombies -- and held me through to the end. So, if you like a good story and either don't mind Cherie Priest's writing style or actually enjoy it, then this book will work for you. I think I'll pass on the rest of Priest's oeuvre, however.
This book picks up on the east coast in a Confederate Hospital. The war has been going on for 20 years. Vinita, "Mercy", Lynch, an experienced nurse, has just learned that her Yankee husband has died, and then hears that her estranged father has been gravely hurt in Washington state. Feeling adrift and also perhaps hoping to get a break from the constant fighting, she starts the long journey west. Of course, this means that her trip will be anything but boring.
We have travel by airship, boat and train, and sporadic fighting as the Union or Rebel forces advance/retreat as the case may be. You get a glimpse at the steam and diesel-powered war machines (walkers, massive train engines, etc), but since Mercy is a passenger there isn't a lot of up-close steampunk gadgetry. There is zombie action, too, of course, and the final third of the book is action-packed.
There is a lot more history in this one, and since you follow just one character (versus bouncing back and forth between 2 POVs), you get a lot more time to linger over events and people.
Priest does tough-as-nails characters really well, and there is no shortage of them here. I expect to see some of these characters in later books. A few characters from previous books make an appearance here as well.
It can be a risk, changing the main characters in each book, but I feel Priest does an excellent job of keeping the spirit of the series intact. I will be eagerly awaiting book 4.