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By Cherie Priest
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
The Inexplicables is the fourth book I've now read in Cherie Priest's remarkable "Clockwork Century" steampunk series, and in fact a quote from one of my earlier reviews ended up making the front cover of this one; and that surprised and delighted me but also felt very natural, because this is one of my favorite genre series of all time by now, and I look forward to the point seemingly every year when Priest has a brand-new volume done and ready to come out. They all take place in a what-if Victorian America in the late 1800s with just layers upon layers of fantastical details piled on: there's a giant wall around the ruined remains of the former Seattle, for example, because a mad scientist once ruptured an underground cave during a bank heist and released a heavy gas that turns people into zombies; but like a first-person-shooter videogame, there are also miles of underground tunnels, businesses and residences under this gassed zombie wasteland, full of outlaws and Chinamen who take this gas and distill it into a heroin-like drug that is then shipped across America in giant armed dirigibles; and in the meanwhile, the Civil War is still going on decades after it did in real life, because here the South develops railroads, submarines and robots to help even out the fight; and in the latest development in this speculative universe, it turns out that none other than Bigfoot has managed to accidentally enter the walled wasteland of downtown Seattle, and that the poisonous gas is slowly turning him into an unstoppable force of violence. And that's what makes these books so delightful; for while her characterizations are not much more than minimally solid enough to pass muster, it's Priest's plotting skills that are her real forte, delivering exciting after exciting tale that in epic scope has now taken us all the way across the United States and back, this newest volume set back in the walled Seattle where the story began. Breathtaking in its pacing, and such a mega-pastiche that you'll be in awe simply over how well she melds it all together, this is the literal definition of an intellectual's guilty pleasure, and should be highly enjoyed by one and all if read with this attitude. Highly recommended, as are all her books.
Out of 10: 8.9, or 9.9 for steampunk fans