This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

28 January, 2013

REVIEW: THE INEXPLICABLES

Cover art by Cliff Nielsen
Cover design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

THE INEXPLICABLES
A CLOCKWORK CENTURY NOVEL/
CLOCKWORK CENTURY BOOK 4
BY
CHERIE PRIEST

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2947-9
Pages: 366
Publisher: Tor
Published: 13 November 2012

On the cover:

Rector "wreck'em" Sherman was one of many kids orphaned by the Blight of 1863, but one of very few who made it to his eighteenth birthday. As a reward, he's being cast out of the orphanage he grew up in. But Wreck's problems don't stop there. He's been braking the cardinal rule of any good drug dealer and dipping into his own sap supply. He also thinks he's being haunted by the ghost of a kid he used to know - Zeke Wilkes, who died six months ago, after Wreck helped him get into the walled city of Seattle.
   Maybe the haunting is only guilty conscience, but Wreck can't take it anymore, so he sneaks over the wall. Once there, he finds that Zeke isn't as dead as he thought...but the wasteland of Seattle is as bad as he'd heard: chock-full of hungry undead and smothered by the poisonous, inescapable yellow gas. And then there are the newcomers: not at all human, but not rotters, either. Arms too long, eyes all wild, murderously violent, and known to the locals simply as "The Inexplicables".
   Seattle's de facto leader, Yaozu, gives Rector his first real job: track down these creatures before they do any more harm. In the process, Rector finds another set of dangerous intruders, lured there by greed. Something valuable lurks within the city wall, and the newcomers will kill to take it...which means that Rector needs to find out where his loyalties lie. Fast.

   In this volume of her A Clockwork Century series, Priest takes us back to Seattle, the setting of the first book in the series, Boneshaker. It's a welcome return, both to the setting, and to the characters from the first book. As an added bonus for those who enjoy this series, there's also mention of the events of  Dreadnought and Ganymede. And we get to see how Dreadnought's main character Mercy Lynch has settled into the walled city of Seattle.
   There's always the danger when an author revisits previous settings through new POV eyes that they tell too much of the setting for those that are familiar with it, and too little for those that are jumping in to a series. Priest manages to follow the narrow path of satisfying readers both old and new here. For me as a return reader, I didn't feel bogged down with information I already knew, but welcomed the reminders of what has gone before. And I can't say I can see a problem for a new reader to the series in following what is going on if they start with this book.

   The story itself can be divided into three parts, Rector's journey, the mysterious creature, and the human intruders. But this is much more than three stories that are loosely connected, the three parts both feed off each other and add to each other, and creates a larger whole than the sum of the parts it consists of.
   That the three strands of the story are quite different in nature, will mean that not everyone will have the same reaction to each one. For me the journey of Rector stood a little bit above the others, but I still very much enjoyed the other two story strands, and without them Rector's journey would have been much less than it ended up as.

   As with the previous volumes, Priest is very adept at creating a tense atmosphere. The location, the walled city of Seattle, is described in such a way that it feels claustrophobic at times. Priest is very good at conveying the feeling that anything can happen, and it never feels like you have figured out exactly were you will be led by the novel. Even though I personally figured one element out very quickly, I was never sure I was right about it before much later, and it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story.

   There is some action in the novel, but this isn't Steampunk-Action as much as it is Steampunk-Alternate History. -I must add, Steampunk-Alternate History with some very good worldbuilding.
   Being a fan of Alternate History, I have enjoyed that element in the A Clockwork Century a lot, and this element doesn't disappoint here either. With each volume in the series Priest manages to subtly add to her alternate worlds texture, making it a little bit more solid, or real if you want, at the end of the novel than it was before you started it.

   All in all I found this very much to my liking. It's an excellent follow-up to what has gone before, and as I mentioned above, it is possible to read it without having read any of the previous A Clockwork Century books.
   Priest continues to be one of the great authors in the Steampunk subgenre of SFF. And as well as being a must for fans of Steampunk, this book deserves to be read by anyone who is a fan of well written SFF.

Reviews: Boneshaker  Dreadnought  Ganymede

Links: Cherie Priest  Tor/Forge  Tor/Forge Blog

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