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Publisher's Summary

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice.

Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born. But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is 16 years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history. His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

©2009 Cherie Priest (P)2010 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Tracey
  • Danville, AR, United States
  • 02-14-13

Doesn't live up to potential

I thought I would LOVE this book -- I mean, zombies, steampunk (with Zeppelins), what's not to like? Well, I guess a strong narrative and plot would have helped. Also, I never really felt engaged to any of the characters and kept hoping they would stumble across some zombies to add a bit of zest.
The performance, for the most part, is well done, although when the 2 primary characters come together, it becomes a bit confusing (as we have become used to Wil reading Zeke's lines and Kate reading Briars's spots, so it takes some getting used to as they read chapters without regard to who is speaking.)

Overall, I recommend a pass on this book unless you just rally love Steampunk.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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YA all the way

After reading great books like the Hunger Games and The Knife of Never Letting Go, I wondered what makes a book, Ya. I thought It meant no sex, but after reading this book, I now know it means, it reads like it was written by a youth.

The concept of the story was pretty good, reminding me of Sanderson's "Elantris" and the movie," Escape From New York". Unfortunately, CP failed to capitalize on a great story Idea.

Briar Wilkes the main character has no character. She is a boring droll individual. I could easily understand why her husband was bored with her.

I have never heard so many cliches in one book in my life.

Even the Zombies are boring in this book. The mad scientist is pretty tame and lame.

I will admit that I did listen to all of it, because I did want to find out what was going to happen and there was a small twist at the end.

Cherie is not going to break out of the YA category with this type of effort.

I enjoyed Wil Wheaton's performance and Kate Reading was good in all, but her interpretation of Briar Wilkes. She did not help make her real, using the same voice she used for Aes Sedai. While it worked for Aes Sedai it does not work for a Mom with a son in danger.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Luke
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 03-11-11

Unappealing characters. Stiff reading.

As a big fan of the Steampunk genre, I was excited to start listening to this story. I even held out longer than I would have on other books BECAUSE it was a steampunk story.

Unfortunately, it wasn't worth it.

The biggest problem was that our two heroes were completely unappealing. They are full of flaws and rough edges, but there is very little in them to make us like them or empathize with their plight. At times the teenager hero (Zeke) can be just a plain old annoying self-entitled teen.

Another problem was the reading (at least on the part of Kate Reading). It was stiff and robotic sounding, and didn't do a good job of expressing the emotion our other main character (Ms. Wilkes) was going through after having her son run off to almost certain death.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I went for this because of the steampunk aspect. I mean, how can a story with an airship in it be bad? Well, it's not bad, really, but I was disappointed by the story. There was too much emphasis on arguments between the mother and teenage son and less emphasis on developing the plot. I thought the Boneshaker machine was going to be at the midst of this story, but it was off to the side. Too bad. And frankly, I can do without zombies.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Jesse
  • Corrales, NM, United States
  • 07-12-10

Doesn't live up to potential

For a steampunk zombie novel, it's surprisingly low on both steampunk AND zombies until almost the halfway mark. Some good ideas that are lost in the mess, but my biggest complaint as an audiobook is in the direction. Wil Wheaton, who is fantastic and Kate Reading, who falters when having to dispaly a range of voices, trade off the narration by chapters and inexcusably utilize radically different voices for the same characters, making this a far more confusing listen than you'd expect.
Compared to transcendent YA novels like The Hunger Games, this one's a slog and unless you're gonzo for goggles, airships, and zombies enough to be very very patient until they show up, this one's a skip.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean
  • West Palm Beach, FL, United States
  • 08-13-10

Zombies, Zeppelins, and Zeke, Oh My!

I really enjoyed the book and especially the narration by Kate Reading and Wil Wheaton. I’ve listened to other audio books where the female narrator just can’t do male voices convincingly (Emily Gray botched a Jasper Fforde novel so badly that I couldn’t get past the second chapter) but Kate Reading does a great job. And Wil is top-notch. Unlike some reviewers, I didn’t mind the narration switching back and forth between these two voices. In fact, it seemed to give the characters more dimension somehow.

As for the book itself – what a delicious concept. Zombies, zeppelins, sky pirates, a mad scientist, a Wild-West society underground in the ruins of “Old Seattle”, and a resourceful mother’s desperate search for her son. The book was a bit slow in places, and some dialogue dragged on much longer than it had to (hence my 4-star, not 5-star rating), but that’s okay. The slow beginning led to a dynamite ending, and a perfect set-up for future novels.

This novel isn’t what I would really call “steampunk.” I think it’s only called that because the publishing world has to put everything in a slot. It’s more like “Wild West Zombie punk,” if such a category can be imagined. But the female characters are strong and fully imagined, the desperation of the characters feels real, and the ideas are wonderful.

And the outrageous names – Leviticus Blue, Doctor Minnericht, Jeremiah Swakhammer – LOL!

I highly recommend this book.

17 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 05-10-12

Excommunicate and Banish This Book

I rarely (because I'm cheap and OCD) abandon a book. It may take me awhile, but eventually the constant chirp in the back of my brain makes me run and pick the damn thing up (come paid real money for it) and just finish it. However, there are few RARE exceptions to this rule.

When a book is SO poorly written, so filled with cliches, 'bad' adjectives, and weak verbs; when the dialogue is so awkward and stilted that it is a painful experience to read; when the book produces no virtuous feelings in me; when there is NO forward momentum (except for the earthy desire to finish and be done with it) -- it begins to dawn on me (pg 194) that I should just abandon the book.

Thus I excommunicate it. I close the book, blow out the candle, and ring the damn bell. May god have mercy on Cherie Priest's soul.

35 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • kr
  • los angeles, CA, United States
  • 02-08-11

Clunky and Slow

This book read clunky and slow, much like the gadgetry within it. I wanted to like it, due to a strong female lead character, but this book was simply a cut-and-paste of trendy subjects-- ooh steampunk! zombies! Seattle! These themes don't work in isolation and unfortunately, this book doesn't work at all. There was too much dialogue, not a strong plotline and very little imagination. Good cure for insomnia, though.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Adam
  • Westlake Village, CA, United States
  • 01-06-11

Interesting, lacking.

Boneshaker is an interesting study in a good idea that just falls flat. Simply put the world is amazing, the idea is enchanting, and the supporting cast of characters are each a ray of imagination. But, and its a very large but, the main characters, mother and son protagonists, are flat, one dimensional, lacking any interesting dynamic qualities, and down right annoying. I cant even relate in any meaningful way to them, and time and again I just struggle to care. The son is a cliche of the annoying brat. And annoying he is. Maybe its the narration, maybe its the writing, but I cant remember a character that has got on my nerves so much.
The mother is slightly more dynamic, and only mostly a cliche of the abandon and abused single mother. She almost makes up for the other half of the book.
2 out of 5 stars for almost. If there was one word I could use for Boneshaker, its almost.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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A Boneshakingly Good Listen

Cherie Priest's BONESHAKER is a romp through an alternate Civil War era Seattle, torn apart by Leviticus Blue's Boneshaking Drill -- a Russian-funded experimental drilling engine designed to tunnel under the Alaskan ice, looking for gold. But something goes wrong when Blue tests the machine, and gas which would become known as "the Blight" begins to seep out of the ground, killing those who breathe it. And worse.

So a large section of the city is walled off, Blue has disappeared, and his widow, Briar Wilkes, is left to raise the son she didn't know she carried when the calamity struck. She and her son, Ezekiel, are treated with disdain and open contempt by the remaining townsfolk, believing she must have known what Blue was up to, and so blaming her in part for the new way of life on the "Outskirts" around Seattle.

Ezekiel, longing to clear the family name, heads into the city for answers, and Briar soon follows. Only then do they start to truly understand what has become of those who have been claimed by the Blight -- the "rotters" -- zombies whose appearance in the book is truly suspenseful and riveting. Add goggles and gasmasks (to protect against the Blight) and gadgets dreamed up to sustain human settlements within the ruins of the city, Civil War era airships, and a great cast of supporting characters, and it's no wonder that BONESHAKER has had the praise heaped upon it that it has. It's great fun and well-imagined.

Here, Kate Reading gives a great deadpan Briar Wilkes, capturing the frustration and urgency of a tired, bitter mother looking for her son, and putting a great voice behind Jeremiah Swakhammer, the big, armor-plated -- well, I don't want to give too much away. And Wil Wheaton helps bring Zeke and the characters he meets to life, particularly taking the day with his performances as Zeke, a certain Princess (this one is great!), and the mysterious "Dr. Minnericht."

How this one escaped nominations for the Audies I don't know.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian David Burrell
  • 07-15-11

Steampunk Adventure

Well I really listened to it rather than read it. An exciting roller-coaster ride full of gunfights, dirigibles, infernal machines and zombies. But not only that, rounded characters you really care about. A perfect steampunk adventure.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Sara
  • 04-29-11

Entertaining but flawed

I enjoyed listening to this book but I thought the plot was a little daft and facets of the story were flawed, so that I found it difficult to believe and get involved in it.

For example, inside the walled-off city there are hundreds of typically slow, loping and utterly unscary undead. Some 'living' people chose to remain in the poisoned city when the wall was erected and now eek out a living and existence there. The main protagonists enter the city 16 years after the wall went up and are chased by the undead only to be saved by one of the (living) locals who has a mechanical 'clapper' device. This sonic weapon stuns and incapacitates great swathes of the marauding zombies for maybe five minutes. My point is, why hasn't anyone done the kind thing and despatched all the undead while they are lying prone and unable to defend themselves? This weapon introduces the possibility that the living could have cleared the whole city of the undead in maybe the first week (after its invention), but instead are themselves being picked off by the zombies, some of whom must be eligible for bus-passes by now.

Also, a toxic smog covers the whole city, but the wealthy seem to have crops and chickens for food, with no mention of how this trick is achieved - maybe mini gas-masks for the chickens?

It was points like these that frustrated me a little, since the society that has been carved out in the city has not been thought out properly by the author, and if she's not clear on how the city has evolved over the years, what hope is there for me?

If you can suspend, or preferably throttle your disbelief for a few hours, this was an entertaining listen, which I thought was well read by both narrators, who made a good effort of bringing Ms Priest's characters and story to undeath.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Beccameriel
  • 03-20-14

Not your average steam punk heroine

This is great. The heroine, Briar, is a single mother in her 30s determinedly setting out to find her missing teenage son, Zeke, in a "rotter" zombie ravaged 19th century Seattle full of poisonous "blight" gas and under the sway of a sinister doctor who may or may not be someone she knows.

Zeke is trying to find out the truth about his father and Briar is pretty close mouthed about what she knows throughout. Refreshingly, there is no romantic storyline tacked on for Briar or Zeke just people who help them or who don't. Both main characters are believable in their motivations and reactions to events.

I like the sharing of narration between 2 readers for Briar's and Zeke's chapters and they both do a find job at it: Wil Wheaton capturing the slightly whiny adolescent tone of Zeke and Kate Reading, Briar's weary but determined voice.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-21-17

Not what I expected.

The world it creates seem a little poor. Earth with X. The entire premise of historical with a twist has never really appealed to me in such a small change. This while a good book and an interesting starter for a series seems a little less fantasy to me.

I'm not a fan of duel readers however. (unless its it more of a dramatized work) It felt nice to have the two points of view though.

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  • valerie
  • 02-05-15

enjoyed it

first time listening to a steam punk type. enjoyed it but could have had more depth to the story. love will weaton and kate is excellent as always

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  • Steph
  • 11-30-14

Listen again and again!

What made the experience of listening to Boneshaker the most enjoyable?

The narrators are brilliant. They bring this story alive

What did you like best about this story?

I love the steampunk clockwork theme with bonus background zombies! i'm looking forward to the movie.

What about Wil Wheaton and Kate Reading ’s performance did you like?

My favorite voice Wil Wheaton does is for the Princess, i get such a mental image of this warrior woman i just want to see what she'll do next. All the characters are well defined and as stated in the title i have and will continue to listen to this great book.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Background Zombies!

Any additional comments?

I just love it=)

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  • GhostMuppet
  • 10-06-13

Okay, not my cup of tea

The performance is good. Kate Reading is superior to Wil Wheaton -which is a shame as I am a Wil Wheaton fan.
This is my first Steampunk novel - and I now know that it is not my cup of tea. The story itself was fairly basic, with a few excellent ideas. I am sure if someone is into Steampunk, then this will be right up there.
I think I will stick to plain old fantasy series.

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  • Ross
  • 07-06-13

An interesting premise, annoying main characters

The story and universe set up is great, I just found the main characters annoying. The whiney teenager was irritating, and I felt the story lost its way a little towards the end. I am optimistic about the sequels though, if they are not confined to the same city, and branch out into the often referenced civil war.

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  • Karlis
  • 06-21-13

Very Enjoyable Steampunk

Boneshaker is Cherie Priests first foray into Steampunk.
This is a genre that I find particularly appealing but this was my first book of that genre. Based on this I will be revisiting a lot more.
It is good to know that the narration is by both a woman and a man, so that when the perspective is from one of the two main characters you get a different voice which actually works quite well.
Kate reading is a little robotic on occasion and therefore some of the exciting parts are read without much excitement in her voice, but this still doesnt take away from a solid performance by both readers.
The story paints a wonderful picture of the setting and world in which this takes place and you can almost imagine it around you.
The characters are varied and interesting and the plot moves quickly and draws you in. I found I looked forward to listening to it and enjoyed several of the supporting characters just as much as the leads.
It does have all the tropes I am lead to believe tend to appear in the sub genre, but it feels like it is done well in a way that works for the story rather than shoehorning them in just to be present.
In short I really enjoyed this listen and found it an exciting story as a whole.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-23-12

too long

As a huge steampunk fan I was dissapointed by this book, the idea was good but it is slow paced and far too long.

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  • Lachlan Peterson
  • 06-22-16

A fun steampunk adventure.

Was a good story. could have done with some more emphasis on the reveal but overall good :) Worth a listen :)

0 of 1 people found this review helpful