Steampunk Spotlight: Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought
Dreadnought (Amazon, B&N)
Tor (400 pp., $14.99, 2010)
Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Cherie Priest returns to her “Clockwork Century” in full force in this third novel. In some ways, I would recommend that readers begin with Dreadought, even though it’s the third book in the series. Basically, the plot twist at the end of Dreadnought is the entire premise of Boneshaker, as I’ll explain later in the review. (Spoiler-ish alert!)
The book focuses on Mercy Lynch, a Confederate nurse whose husband has just died fighting for the Union. (Gotta love those border state romances!) She receives word from her father – who left her as a child – that he is dying, and he would like her to visit him in the Washington territory. That father is Jeremiah Swankhammer, who readers of Boneshaker will recognize as one of the key characters in that story.
With nothing really to keep her in Virginia, she sets off on a cross-country journey by airship and train to reach Tacoma and, ultimately, Seattle. Unfortunately, the only train that can get her from St. Louis to Tacoma is the Union steam engine Dreadnought, and the train is carrying some bizarre cargo … cargo which makes the train trip into a harrowing ride that brings Mercy and the other passengers into conflict with bushwackers, a mad scientist, and even zombies!