Our second Virtual Speculative Fiction Book Club selection was much better than the first. Our second club meeting was also an improvement, since Kathy and Brian were visiting Portland that weekend and we discussed zombies and airships while enjoying coffee downtown. It wasn’t quite Seattle, but close enough.
Though we all enjoyed Boneshaker, we did remark on the lack of any significant character development. It’s a fun ride, but definitely a plot-driven story. I felt at times like I was in a video game, which is not always a bad thing: I wanted to explore the world and spend more time with the characters, especially the colorful supporting cast. (And then I went and played Bioshock for a while. Punchline!)
Alternate histories can be tricky, but though this book diverges from fact, it succeeds because it diverges in the direction of desirable fantasy. People love airships and zombies and crazy electro-mechanical gadgets that were ahead of their time in the 19th century. It wasn’t so, but you want it to have been so. Seattle wasn’t yet a big city in the 1800s, but it is now; having some well-known landmarks pop up earlier in the timeline doesn’t really tax readers’ imaginations.
The sequel, Dreadnought–which we picked up at Cherie’s author event in Portland last week–deals with a different part of the same world, but despite being set in the thick of the Civil War, also looks like it’ll be fun. And, as Cherie said of steampunk in general: “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
Up next for VSFBC: China Miéville’s Kraken. Ping me if you’d like to join our discussion on November 18th!