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I love books that plunge you directly into a new world with just enough hints to keep you from floundering as you discover the details of a the author’s imagination.

Boneshaker does that extremely well. With a “historical” preface that sets the scene as an alternate Seattle where the US is still in a Civil War and an evil genius’ mechanical mining device opened up tunnels directly beneath the city, causing massive destruction and a release of an underground gas that turns people into zombies, we are launched into a gritty, blighted world where Briar Wilkes must somehow rescue her son from the abandoned inner city.

Briar is the daughter of a famous lawman who died setting free prisoners during the initial outbreak of the gas, and the wife of the man who caused the destruction.

Ekeing out a living in the Outskirts, the settlement around the walled up city of Seattle, she has never discussed the two men who formed her life with her son, Zeke.

When he is driven to return to the house where his infamous father first launched his destruction, Briar must follow him into the blighted city where one can only breathe with masks, outrun zombies, and navigate the tunnels and underground world built up since the destruction, while avoiding the unwanted attention of the mysterious Dr. Minnericht, who claims to be her dead husband.

I wanted to give this book five stars. The details of both Seattle’s actual history and the twisted bits brought by the author’s reexamination are awesome and fascinating, from mechanical lifts to vaulted bank basements to crumbling city towers. This Seattle is seamless in its recreation, from explanations for the zombies to why the population is so big, to the presence of Chinamen and the reasons behind why the Civil War is still going on elsewhere.

Not to mention the dirigibles and crewmen.

Briar’s descent into Seattle, fights with the zombies and Minnericht men, as well as Zeke’s escapades make for a breathless action-packed read. And I think that’s where the book has it’s greatest weakness for me, too. Caught up in the double action story, one never gets enough time to appreciate the characters and connect with them in the way I wanted. I wanted to bathe in the richness of Briar’s bitter life, and experience one-armed barkeep Lucy’s history to understand her toughness, or dwell a little in the relationship between Mr. Swakhammer and Briar, but a zombie is always around the corner, or a tunnel smashing, or blight to be avoided, and so while we get action that reveals the characters enough for me to like them, I couldn’t fall in love with them the way I wanted to.

Still, the book is definitely one that makes you want to read the next in the series to find out what happens.

This Book’s Food Designation Rating: A series of lusciously constructed tapas plates, smoke with paprika and spices, where you eat morsel after morsel with pleasure, but then end up wanting more of what you had.