Sunday, March 4, 2012

Steampunk, Vampires, and Cherie Priest

So far I’ve read two books by Cherie Priest, and I’ve liked them both. Her distinctive literary voice resonates well with my tastes. She tends towards the strong female main characters in the supernatural/steampunk realm of fiction. She does it with out bashing men and the male readers. Her male characters are almost equally strong in their own way. In addition to here great characters, she keeps the text active, and doesn’t rely on a lot of narrative to tell the story.

Priest published her first book, Four and Twenty Blackbirds in 2005. It covers ghosts and magic. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it is on my list. I will let you know how it turns out.

She hit the big time with her steampunk novel, Boneshaker in 2009, part of the Clockwork Century group. This was my first read of hers, and I lost a night of sleep. I picked it up and read it straight through. This was also my first encounter with steampunk. I liked the book and the concept. Technology drives steampunk literature, and provides lots of alternative equipment. Boneshaker provides the reader with good characters, a decent story containing lots of action and tension. In addition to steampunk, it is an alternative history of Seattle during the Civil War. The three other books in the Clockwork Century group include Ganymede, Dreadnought and Clementine.

Priest’s latest creations Bloodshot and Hellbent give the reader a female vampire recovery specialist, Raylene Pendle. She helps people find lost or stolen items. Okay, so she steals things. She is also in the process of collecting a band of misfits to help her with her special collections.

I recently finished Hellbent. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it. Priest does a major switch from Boneshaker. Where Boneshaker treats the reader to a suspenseful quest and fairly serious story, Hellbent leans towards slapstick. I had to get my mind around the change, but once I did Hellbent really worked for me.

In Hellbent Priest created a cross between Robert Aspen’s Myth Inc fantasy series and John D. MacDonald’s, Travis McGee, salvage expert/recovery specialist. She incorporates Aspen’s humor and supernatural characters and McGee’s toughness and personality. McGee’s exploits often bordered on the unbelievable side. He carried so much extra metal from bullets and broken bones, he’d never be able to get through a TSA checkpoint. Raylene on the other hand is a vampire. She heals quickly no doctors needed. However, unlike Travis, you won’t find her basking in the sun on the deck of a boat in the Florida Keys.

Hellbent and Boneshaker held my attention and interest. They have great characters and a good story. Priest keeps the stories believable and stays true to the genre in which she is working. She has several non-related series going with three to four books each. I think, I’ll try Four and Twenty Blackbirds Next.