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Dreadnought Paperback – Sep 28 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (Sept. 28 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780765325785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765325785
  • ASIN: 0765325780
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #178,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One

Down in the laundry room with the bloody- wet floors and the ceiling- high stacks of sheets, wraps, and blankets, Vinita Lynch was elbows- deep in a vat full of dirty pillowcases because she’d promised— she’d sworn on her mother’s life— that she’d find a certain windup pocket watch belonging to Private Hugh Morton before the device was plunged into a tub of simmering soapy water and surely destroyed for good.

Why the private had stashed it in a pillowcase wasn’t much of a mystery: even in an upstanding place like the Robertson Hospital, small and shiny valuables went missing from personal stashes with unsettling regularity. And him forgetting about it was no great leap either: the shot he took in the forehead had been a lucky one because he’d survived it, but it left him addled at times— and this morning at breakfast had been one of those times. At the first bell announcing morning food, against the strict orders of Captain Sally he’d sat up and bolted into the mess hall, which existed only in that bullet- buffeted brain of his. In the time it took for him to be captured and redirected to his cot, where the meal would come to him, thank you very kindly, if only he’d be patient enough to receive it, the junior nursing staff had come through and stripped the bedding of all and sundry.

None of them had noticed the watch, but it would’ve been easy to miss.

So Nurse Lynch was down in the blistering hot hospital basement, dutifully fishing through laundry soiled by injured and greasy heads, running noses, and rheumy eyes in hopes that Private Hugh Morton would either be re united with the absent treasure, or would be separated from it long enough to forget all about it.

Upstairs, someone cried out, “Mercy!”

And downstairs, in the hospital basement, Vinita Lynch took a very deep breath and let it out slowly, between her teeth.

“Mercy! Mercy, come up here, please!”

Because that’s what they’d taken to calling her, through some error of hearing or paperwork, or because it was easier for a room full of bed- bound men to remember a common word than call her by her given name.

“Mercy!”

It was louder this time, and insistent, and bellowed by Captain Sally herself somewhere up on the first floor. Captain Sally sounded like she meant business; but then again, Captain Sally always meant business, and that was why she was the captain.

The nurse angled her head to cast her voice up the stairs and shouted, “Coming!” though she continued to rifle through the laundry, because something sharp had tapped against the nail of her thumb. And if she could just snare one long finger around the smooth metal plate of the watch’s back— yes, that had to be it— then she’d be only a moment longer. “I’m coming!” she said even more loudly, to stall for those extra seconds, even though the summons hadn’t come again.

She had it. Her fist closed around it and wrested the palmsized device, ticking and intact, up through the folds of cotton bedding and out of the vat. The watch was cool in her hand, and heavier than it appeared— not an expensive piece, but one with thumb- spots worn into its finish from a lifetime of use and appreciation. “Found it,” she said to herself, and she shoved it into her apron’s pocket for temporary safekeeping.

“Mercy!” Again from upstairs, and impatient.

“I said I was coming!” she responded as she hiked the hem of her skirts and bolted up the stairs, less ladylike than swiftly, back into the hall behind the kitchen. Moving sideways, she squeezed past the orderlies, one of the doctors, and three of the elderly women who were hired to perform mending but mostly bickered amongst themselves. Her way was briefly blocked by one of the retained men who was carrying a basket full of bandages and wraps; they did a brief and awkward dance, back and forth, each trying to let the other pass, until she finally dashed by with an apology— but if he replied, she didn’t hear him, because the main ward was now immediately before her.

She entered it with a breathless flourish and stood panting, squeezing at the pocket watch in her apron and trying to spot Captain Sally in the sea of supine bodies lying on cots in varying states of health and repair.

The rows ran eight cots by fifteen in this ward, which served as admittance, triage, and recovery room alike. It should’ve held only two- thirds that number, and the present crowding served to narrow the aisles to the point that they were nearly impassible, but no one was turned away. Captain Sally said that if they had to stitch them standing up and lash them to the closet walls, they’d take every Confederate boy who’d been carried off the field.

But she could make such declarations. It was her hospital, and she legally outranked everyone else in the building. The “Captain” bit was not a nickname. It was a commission from the Confederate States of America, and it had been granted because a military hospital must have a military commander, but Sally Louisa Tompkins would accept no superior, and she was too wealthy and competent to be ignored.

The din of the ward was at its ordinary hideous level; the groaning patients, creaking cot springs, and hoarse requests combining to form the usual background hum. It was not a pretty noise, and it was sometimes punctuated with vomiting or cries of pain, but it was always there, along with the ever- present scents of dirty bodies, sweat, blood, shit, the medicinal reek of ether, the yellowy sharp stink of saltpeter and spent gunpowder, and the feeble efforts of lye soap to combat it all. Mere soap, no matter how finely scented, could never scour the odors of urine, scorched flesh, and burned hair. No perfume could cleanse away the porksweet smell of rotting limbs and gangrenous flesh.

Mercy told herself that the reek of the hospital wasn’t any worse than that of the farm in Waterford, Virginia. That was a lie. It was worse than the summer when she’d gone out to the back twenty and found their bull lying with its legs in the air, its belly distended

with the bloat of rot and a crawling carpet of flies. This was worse than that because it wasn’t the decomposition of beef lying in the sun, flesh dripping away gray and mushy. This was worse because after a while the bull had faded and gone, its smell washed away by the summer rains and its remains buried by her stepfather and brother. After a while, she’d altogether forgotten where the creature had fallen and died, and it was as if it’d never happened.

But that never happened here.

Not even at the cleanest hospital in all the Confederacy, where fewer men died and more men recovered to return to the front than in any other in the North or South or even Europe. Not even in the wake of Captain Sally’s strenuous— almost maddening— insistence on cleanliness. Enormous pots of water boiled constantly, and mops were pushed in two- hour shifts by legions of retained men who were healed enough to help but not enough to fight. Paul Forks was one of these men. Harvey Kline was another, and

Medford Simmons a third, and Anderson Ruby a fourth; and if she knew more of their names, Mercy Lynch could’ve listed another dozen maimed and helpful souls.

They kept the floors from staining red, and helped carry the endless trays of food and medicines, tagging along in the wake of the doctors and helping the nurses manage the unruly ones who awoke afraid.

And even with the help of these men, and two dozen nurses like herself, and five doctors working around the clock, and a whole contingent of laundry and kitchen women, the smell never, ever went away.

It worked itself into the wrinkles in Mercy’s clothes and lurked in her hair. It collected under her fingernails. She carried it with her, always.

“Captain Sally?” Mercy called out, and as soon as the words were spoken, she spied the woman standing near the front door, accompanied by another woman and a man.

Sally was small and pale, with dark hair parted severely down the middle of her head and a plain black dress buttoned tightly from waist to chin. She was leaning forward to better hear the other woman speak, while the gentleman behind them shuffled back and forth on his feet, moving his gaze left to right.

“Mercy.” Captain Sally wended through the maze of cots to meet the young nurse. She had stopped shouting. “Mercy, I need a word with you. I’m very sorry, but it’s important. Would you join us?” She indicated the anxious- looking man and the stoic woman

with a New Englander’s ramrod posture.

“Who are those people?” she asked without agreeing to anything. “They have a message for you.”

Mercy didn’t want to meet the man and woman. They did not look like people with good news to pass along. “Why don’t they come inside to deliver it, then?”

Sally said, “Dearest,” and she pressed her mouth close to Mercy’s ear. “That’s Clara Barton, the Red Cross woman, and no one’ll bother her. But the fellow beside her is a Yankee.”

Mercy made a little choking sound. “What’s he doing here, then?” she asked, though she already had a very good idea, and it was horrible.

“Mercy—”

“Ain’t they got their own hospitals, hardly a hundred miles away in Washington? He doesn’t look hurt none too bad, anyhow.” She was talking too quickly.

Sally interrupted. “Mercy, you need to talk to that man, and Miss Barton.”

“That Red Cross woman, what does she want with me? I’ve already got a job nursing, and it’s right here, and I don’t want to—” Sweat warmed the inside of her collar. She tugged at it, trying to give herself some air.

“Vinita.” The small woman with the big rank put her hands on Mercy’s shoulders, forcing the younger nurse to stand up straight and meet her eyes. “Take a deep breath now, like we talked about before.”

“I’m trying,” she whispered. “I don’t think I can.”

“Breathe deep now. Let it out, and take your time. Hold yourself up. And come, let’s have a talk with these people.” Her tone softened, dipping from commander to mother. “I’ll stay with you, if you like.”

“I don’t want . . . ,” she began, but she didn’t know what she wanted, so when Sally took her hand and squeezed it, she squeezed back.

“Someplace private,” the officer said. Sally nodded at Clara Barton and her ner vous companion, indicating that they should follow; and she led Mercy through the remaining rows of cots and out the back, and down a corridor swiftly— urging their followers to hasten— and then they were in the courtyard of what used to be Judge Robertson’s mansion. Tents peppered the yard and bustling officials came and went from flap to flap, but they ignored the nurse and her party.

Back between the trees, where the chilly, sun- dappled grass moved with shadows from the leaves overhead, Captain Sally led all three to a picnic area where the ground was cleared and a set of benches was placed for lovers, or lunches, or rest.

Mercy was still squeezing Sally’s hand, because the moment she let go, someone was going to speak.

When everyone was seated, Sally pried Mercy’s fingers off her own, then held the shaking hand and patted it gently as she said, “Miss Barton, Mr. Atwater. This is Vinita Lynch, though around here, most everyone calls her—”

“Mercy,” said Mr. Atwater. He’d been good- looking once, but was almost haggard now, with dark hair and brown eyes, and a thin body that seemed on the rebound from the very cusp of starvation.

“Mrs. Lynch,” he tried again. “My name is Dorence Atwater, and I was in the camp at Andersonville for six years.” He kept it low, soft. Quiet. Not wanting anyone to hear.

He wasn’t fighting anymore, and he wasn’t in uniform, but the cadence of his speech marked him as a northern boy— a real northern boy, not a border- state boy like Vinita’s husband. He didn’t have an accent that could go either way: Kentucky or Tennessee;

Virginia or Washington, D.C.; Texas or Kansas.

“Mr. Atwater,” she said, more curtly than she meant to. But all her words were clipped, and her grip on the matron’s hand was leaving crescent moons where her nails were digging deep. “That must’ve been . . . difficult.”

It was a stupid word, and she knew it. Of course the camp had been difficult; everything was difficult, wasn’t it? Marrying a border- state Yankee was difficult when her Virginia home stayed gray. Missing him for two years now was difficult, too, and folding his letters over and over again, reading them for the hundredth time, and the two hundredth time, that was difficult. Nursing the injured was difficult, and so was wondering with each new wound if it’d been inflicted by her very own spouse, or if her very own

spouse was somewhere else— maybe a hundred miles away in Washington— being nursed by a woman much like herself, dutifully tending her own cannon fodder lads on sagging cots.

But he wasn’t in Washington.

She knew that. She knew it because Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater were sitting on a low stone bench facing her, with serious eyes and sad news on their lips— because, bless them both, they never brought any other kind.

Before either of the visitors could say anything else, Mercy nattered on again. “I’ve heard of you, both of you. Miss Barton, it’s wonderful work you’re doing on the battlefield— making it safer for the lot of us, and making it easier for us to comfort the

wounded, and patch them up—” She nearly spit that last part out, for her nose was beginning to fill, and her eyes were blinking, slamming open and shut. “And Mr. Atwater, you made a . . .”

Two things rampaged through her brain: the name of the man not four feet in front of her, and why she’d heard it before he ever entered the Robertson Hospital. But she couldn’t bring herself to make these two things meet, and she struggled to hold them apart, so the connection couldn’t be made.

It was futile.

She knew.

She said, and every letter of every word shook in her mouth, “You made a list.”

“Yes ma’am.”

And Clara Barton said, “My dear, we’re so very sorry.” It wasn’t quite a practiced condolence. It wasn’t smooth and polished, and for all the weariness of it, it sounded like she meant it. “But your husband, Phillip Barnaby Lynch . . . his name is on that list. He

died at the Andersonville camp for prisoners of war, nine months ago. I’m terribly, terribly sorry for your loss.”

“Then it’s true,” she burbled, not quite crying. The pressure behind her eyes was building. “It’d been so long since he sent word. Jesus, Captain Sally,” she blasphemed weakly. “It’s true.” She was still squeezing Sally Tompkins, who now ceased patting

her hand to squeeze back. “I’m so sorry, dear.” With her free hand, she brushed Mercy’s cheek.

“It’s true,” she repeated. “I thought . . . I thought it must be. It’d been so long. Almost as long as we were married, since I’d got word of him. I knew it went like that, sometimes. I knew it was hard for the boys— for you boys— to write from the front, and I knew the mail wasn’t all kinds of reliable. I guess I knew all that. But I was still dumb enough to hope.”

“You were newlyweds?” Clara Barton asked gently, sadly. Familiar with the sorrow, if not quite immune.

“Been married eight months,” she said. “Eight months and he went out to fight, and he was gone for two and a half years. And I stayed here, and waited. We had a home here, west of town. He was born in Kentucky, and we were going to go back there when

all this was done, and start a family.”

Suddenly she released Sally’s hand and leaped forward, making a grab for Dorence Atwater’s.

She clutched his wrists and pulled him closer. She demanded, “Did you know him? Did you talk to him? Did he give you any message for me? Anything? Anything at all?”

“Ma’am, I only saw him in passing. He was hurt real bad when they brought him in, and he didn’t last. I hope that can be some comfort to you, maybe. The camp was a terrible place, but he wasn’t there for long.”

“Not like some of them. Not like you,” she said. Every word was rounded with the congestion that clogged her throat but wouldn’t spill out into hiccups or tears, not yet.

“No, ma’am. And I’m very sorry about it, but I thought you deserved to know he won’t be coming home. They buried him in a grave outside of Plains, unmarked with a dozen others. But he didn’t suffer long.”

He slouched so that his shoulders held up his chest like a shirt on a hanger. It was as if the weight of his message were too much, and his body still too frail to carry it all. But if he didn’t carry it, nobody would.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I wish the news were kinder.”

She released him then, and sagged back onto her own bench, into the arms of Sally Tompkins, who was ready with an embrace. Mercy let the captain hold her and she said, “No. No, but you came all this way, and you brought it to me anyway.”

Mercy Lynch closed her eyes and put her head on Sally’s shoulder.

Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater took this as their cue to leave. They left silently, walking around the side yard rather than cutting back through the hospital, toward the street and what ever transportation awaited them there.

Without opening her eyes, Mercy said, “I wish they’d never come. I wish I didn’t know.”

Sally stroked her head and told her, “Someday you’ll be glad they did. I know it’s hard to imagine, but really, it’s better knowing than wondering. False hope’s the worst kind there is.”

“It was good of them,” she agreed with a sniffle, the first that had escaped thus far. “They came here, to a Rebel hospital and everything. They didn’t have to do that. They could’ve sent a letter.”

“She was here under the cross,” Sally said. “But you’re right. It’s hard work, what they do. And you know, I don’t think anyone, even here, would’ve raised a hand against them.” She sighed, and stopped petting Mercy’s wheat- colored hair. That hair, always unruly and just too dark to call blond, was fraying out from the edges of her cap. It tangled in Sally’s fingers. “All of the boys, blue and gray alike. They all hope someone would do the same for them— that someone would tell their mothers and sweethearts, should they fall on the field.”

“I guess.”

Mercy loosed herself from Sally’s loving hold, and she stood, wiping at her eyes. They were red, and so was her nose. Her cheeks were flushed violently pink. “Could I have the afternoon, Captain Sally? Just take a little time in my bunk?”

The captain remained seated, and folded her hands across her lap. “Take as long as you need. I’ll have Paul Forks bring up your supper. And I’ll tell Anne to let you be.”

“Thank you, Captain Sally.” Mercy didn’t mind her roommate much, but she could scarcely stand the thought of explaining anything to her, not right then, while the world was still strangely hued and her throat was blocked with curdled screams.

She walked slowly back into the house- turned- hospital, keeping her gaze on the ground and watching her feet as she felt her way inside. Someone said, “Good morning, Nurse Mercy,” but she didn’t respond. She barely heard it.

Keeping one hand on the wall to guide herself, she found the first- floor ward and to the stairwell that emptied there. Now, two different words bounced about in her mind: widow and up. She struggled to ignore the first one and grasp the second. She only had to make it up, to her bunk in the attic.

“Nurse,” a man called. It sounded like, Nuss. “Nurse Mercy?” One hand still on the wall, one foot lifted to scale the first step, she paused.

“Nurse Mercy, did you find my watch?”

For an instant she was perplexed; she regarded the speaker, and saw Private Hugh Morton, his battered but optimistic face upturned. “You said you’d find my watch. It didn’t get all washed up, did it?”

“No,” she breathed. “It didn’t.”

He smiled so hard, his face swelled into a circle. He sat up on the cot and shook his head, then rubbed at one eye with the inside of his arm. “You found it?”

“I did, yes. Here,” she said, fumbling with the pocket on her apron. She pulled it out and held it for a moment, watching the sunlight from the windows give the brass a dull gleam. “I found it. It’s fine.”

His skinny hand stretched out and she dropped the watch into the waiting palm. He turned it over and over, and asked, “Nobody washed it or nothing?”

“Nobody washed it or nothing. It’s still ticking just fine.”

“Thank you, Nurse Mercy!”

“You’re welcome,” she mumbled, though she’d already turned back to the stairs, scaling them one slow brick at a time as if her feet were made of lead.

Excerpted from Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Copyright © 2010 by Cherie Priest

All rights reserved.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ianalexandermartin on Dec 4 2010
Format: Paperback
Having come to know Cherie Priest first (through a convention) and the books she writes as a result of thinking "this is a wonderful person", it's quite possible that I was pre-destined to like this book as much as I enjoyed the previous book of hers read, "Boneshaker". That said, "Dreadnought" is not the same book, but is just the same level of fascinating read. While last year's book was set in a small geographic area and stressed character and rules of the world over action (while still including the latter very much), "Dreadnought" covers nearly half of the USA geographically (as the heroine rushes to the side of her dying father) as a plenitude of dangers attempt to block her travels.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marc Platt on Feb. 6 2011
Format: Paperback
Dreadnought is an interesting idea, well executed, in so far as the story and the crafting of the plot is concerned.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 2 2011
Format: Paperback
The Clockwork Century series is some of the finest alt-history/steampunk writing you can find -- tough heroines, gritty adventures, and lots of airships and giant drills. "Dreadnought" has all of those in plenty, and Cherie Priest does a brilliant job imagining an alternate Civil War armed with steampunk weapons and vehicles.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 74 reviews
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
pace and character issues, strong prose, satisfying Oct. 27 2010
By B. Capossere - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Dreadnought is Cherie Priest's follow-up of sorts to Boneshaker. It's "of sorts" because while it takes place in the same alternate America at roughly the same time period, and we see a few familiar characters (at the very end), it isn't at all a direct sequel. Instead, it introduces Mercy Swakhammer (yes, his daughter for Boneshaker readers), a nurse at a Confederate hospital during the decades-long Civil War. Early on she receives two important bits of news. The first is that her Union husband has been killed. The second is that her father is near death out in Seattle and is desperate to see her, though he abandoned her and her mother when she was but a child. The first leaves her free to do what she wishes with her life and the second propels her on a risky cross-country trip from one coast to the other. The trip is rife with adventure, involving battles, airship crashes, raids on the train she is on, zombie attacks, mysterious cargo cars, missing Mexicans, a mysterious Texas ranger, a possibly mad scientist, and the underlying question as to whether Mercy will ever make it to the other side of the country.

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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Dreadnought reads like the adventure of a lifetime Dec 13 2010
By Mrs. Baumann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Plot Summary: In an alternate history where the Civil War is still raging after 20 years, a Confederate nurse named Mercy Lynch learns that her husband has died prison. On the heels of that sad news, she also learns that the father who deserted her years ago is on his deathbed, and he wants to see her. Mercy is in Virginia, and her father is in Seattle, but despite the near impossibility of a cross-country journey in the middle of a war, Mercy agrees to go since she has nothing to keep her back East. On dirigibles, paddle-boats, and trains, Mercy makes the long, often tumultuous trip back to the Washington Territory, to see a man who she'd mentally written off long ago.

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.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I wanted to like this, however... Nov. 1 2010
By M. J. Musante - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free as part of a promotional giveaway I saw on John Scalzi's "Whatever" blog.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Strong Female Narrator in a Bizarre Alternate World: A Worthwhile Read Jan. 14 2011
By automatoncharlie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I started Dreadnought right after Boneshaker, hoping it was some kind of sequel. For most of the book, I did not think so. Mercy Lynch is a spunky, independent woman who leaves her place as a nurse in a renowned confederate hospital in Virginia after finding out her Yankee husband died in war to go West and seek out her father, who is apparently dying in Tacoma Washington. From crashing airships on the front of battle to crazy train rides and zombies, this book keeps you going. At moments, it can get a little slow, but every hundred pages Priest picks up the pace with a big action-filled event, bullets whizzing everywhere, that will leave you in wonder. The blood and guts detail about the wounded and dead is graphic and great! You learn a bit more about how certain wounds are made and what kind of patching up you can do on the fly. In the last 20 pages, Priest brings back the characters from Boneshaker and connects it all together. You see Briar, Zeke, Swakhammer, Cly and a whole range of characters as Mercy is brought to Seattle to see her father who is no longer dying. I deeply enjoyed the strong female lead and the bizarre events that enfolded in an ever-going civil war. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the Texians, Mexicans, the North/South rivalry, and those who fit in between. It made me feel like I was in the time period but with better technologies. If you read Boneshaker and enjoyed it, you will definitely like Dreadnought. I'm looking forward to the next book in the Steampunk series, which I believe is coming out this year, winter 2011. Yay!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
More Steampunk Fun, But Something's Missing Nov. 28 2010
By Christina (A Reader of Fictions) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Cherie Priest's books are really interesting and her diction and syntax excellently crafted. I have now read three of her books and I still feel like there is something missing. Maybe it's that there is never a single bit of romance; there are not even any married couples still happily together. I do not think every book needs romance, but it does seem odd that in a series of three books there would not be a single instance of attraction or a relationship. The closest to a relationship is Mercy and her husband, who never makes an appearance except in death. The main characters do not even have to be the ones; how about a couple of side characters leaving together or hooking up or something? It just struck me as weird.

Or maybe what's missing, in this book for certain, is the overarching plot. Technically, there is one: Mercy journeying to her father's bedside. Except that the book does not feel like it is actually in any way about that. At all. When Mercy arrives at said bedside, the book ends promptly. And by promptly, I mean in a page and a half. All of the drama was supposed to be to bring these two characters back together, but obviously it wasn't. It makes it quite apparent that the frame was tacked on at the end as an excuse to make the character take this trip across country. Is that bad? I think so, because it lends the whole book a sense of unreality. What was the point?

Characters from Boneshaker make an appearance in this book, although I would say it's more of a cameo than even a supporting role. As with the previous books, the women are strong, the men are too, the zombies are hungry and the scientists are crazy. While I like these books, I cannot pretend that I don't wish they were just a little bit better.


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