Briar Wilkes has left her past behind the huge walls that were constructed to protect the old city of Seattle. When people ask her about her husband and how he caused the blight she keeps her mouth shut. She hasn’t even told her fifteen-year-old son the truth of everything that happened all those years ago when her husband’s huge drill opened a vein of poisonous gas deep under the earth. There is nothing left behind those huge walls that were built in order to keep the gas, and the creatures it created contained.
There is one problem with this plan. Her son wants to prove his father’s innocence, and so he sneaks under the walls and into the city. Only then does Briar discover that some of the old settlers are still living inside the city walls, underground, hiding from the rotters— gas eaten corpses that hardly resemble humans any more. So Briar makes a decision to go in after her son, and get him out before they both end up dead or worse.
So, I picked up this book because I read about it on Scott Westerfeld’s blog, and because I’m becoming more and more interested in the steampunk genre. It really is so much fun, and my husband is right when half of the fun is the alternate history aspect of the genre. This story takes place way out west when Washington is still a territory and the Civil War is going on. This story feels like a cozy old western with wicked villain and super cool guns, only it’s infested with zombies. So, I really enjoyed this story, although it was a little violent and the author seemed to like to describe people dying in detail. I skipped paragraphs that described how people died so I can’t tell you how bad it was.
The setting is also unique as the people who live inside the walls have to pump clean air into sealed off buildings, and underground so they can live. The author plays with historical timeline a bit so that Seattle has its old landmarks, and feels like an extra creepy ghost town. I also thought it was interesting that the author put a whole group of Asians in the underground city, and showed how they kept the city supplied with air, and some of the story dealt with the prejudice against them during that historical period. It was really refreshing to read a book that had so many different types of people and characters. It really made the world feel more authentic, and almost every single character was unique and memorable in some way.
There is a moderate amount of swearing; it wasn’t overwhelming, but there are curse words scattered throughout the novel. I really didn’t like one of the main characters as much after the ending, and so that sort of ruined some of the novel’s appeal for me. Still it was an enjoyable read.