Book Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Author: Cherie Priest
  • Publisher: or/Forge
  • Format: Paperback, 366pp
  • Series:


Something wicked this way comes.

By Chuck Francisco     November 12, 2012

Steampunk is a fascinating genre. A bold amalgamation of elements past, present, and fantastical; it becomes the skeletal framework around which any manner of stories can be crafted. Many authors have dipped their toes into the welcoming waters of the genre, though few are brave and skilled enough to jump in headlong. Cherie Priest is inarguably the best in the business. The world she began crafting in 2009 with Boneshaker (which horror fans should note, has been optioned for a big screen adaption by the revived Hammer Studios), has blossomed in both size and scope with it's followups, Dreadnought, Ganymede, and the novella Clementine

The Clockwork Century series, for those unfamiliar, takes place in an alternate history version of the 1800's, where the Civil War continues long past it's original timeframe, technological advances have skewed screaming off down a fascinating separate path, and the walled off city of Seattle is a no man's land of toxic blight gas. This deadly substance transforms those who breath it into rotters (zombies), but can be distiller into an incredibly potent narcotic (The Sap). With that duality in play, mankind's greedy proclivity for wealth is in constant combat against the horrors of undeath. With each entry in the series we're welcomed into a larger world beyond the confines of Seattle, grasping clues regarding the state of the world as it differs from our own. 

The INEXPLICABLES is set firmly within the city, giving us our first extended visit since Boneshaker. Fans of the first novel can rejoice; it's almost as though we'd never left. Rector "Wreck'em" Sherman is perhaps the youngest survivor of the original blight gas outbreak, which claimed his parents in 1863. Rector is about to turn 18 and, as such, is being turned out of an orphanage on the outskirts of Seattle, from which he's been dealing (and abusing) the sap. With no prospects or possessions to his name, Rector heads inside the wall, hoping to score a job and his next hit. Priest has proven a knack for taking characters from the fringes of society and making them amicable. Here she faces her greatest challenge in a wheeling and dealing junkie, who isn't necessarily going to throw in with the familiar cast of characters from previous books. Rector himself doesn't even know where his loyalties lie, which is partly due to his extreme cravings for a fix. It's an interesting angle of potential redemption, constantly mired in the setbacks of the human condition, which should hook readers for the duration. He's selfish, self destructive, and immature; making it nothing short of impressive writing skill that can bring readers around to pulling for his success. Though that doesn't necessarily mean that he's redeemable. Readers may find themselves rooting for Rector despite themselves.

Cherie Priest has proven herself as the name in Steampunk fiction, but that sells the truth of her work short. By writing compelling adventure fiction to start with, then letting it revel in the conventions of several sub-genres, she crafts a rollicking good time that you will not want to put down. The INEXPLICABLES worthily takes it's place among the other works of The Clockwork Century. Those familiar with the series will really dig the hinted additions to the overarching saga of the series, while those who are new to it will find this a perfect jumping on point. 

The INEXPLICABLES releases November 13 from Tor/Forge. You can find more information here. Now if you'll excuse me, today sounds like the perfect day to start a Clockwork Century series reread.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights andColonial Cult Cinema. You can hear him on awesome podcast You've Got Geek or follow him out onTwitter.


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