Steampunk Review: ‘The Inexplicables’ by Cherie Priest

The Inexplicables is the forth full length entry in the Clockwork Century series, an alternate American history.  In this alternate world the Civil War has been going for twenty years, with Texas on their own and the south freeing their own slaves to continue the war.  In the first book of the series, Boneshaker, we learn that a gassy blight was released in Seattle, leading to the requisite steampunk zombies.  A wall was set up to keep the blight in, but a lucrative side business has sprung from those who have learned to refine the gas into a highly addictive drug known as ‘sap’.

Priest has taken a unique approach to this series, making the world itself the most consistent aspect between books, rather than follow one character or overall story arc.  Each book has had a separate main character and taken place in different parts of the country.  Each book could probably be read as a stand alone, though several story arcs are slowly coming together in the forth outing.  Characters from each of the previous books are present in The Inexplicables, with the lead this time being a minor character from Boneshaker.  This book also goes back to where the series began, Seattle.

At the beginning of the book Rector is about to be kicked out of the orphanage he has been raised in.  With zero work prospects and a nasty sap habit, Rector decides to go through the wall that keeps the blight in old Seattle, knowing a former acquaintance made it through in the past, but thinking him dead.  From there he runs into rotters, takes a job from the crime lord who rules, and helps search for something unknown to the residences, something inexplicable.

I  did enjoy the book.  It was an incredibly quick read, quickly paced and fun.  Rector is a nice character, someone who is turning his life around more from the help of others than any sort of will power.  Yes, it is whiny and annoying at times, but in a city where everyone looks out for each other he is given time to work through his issues.  Rector’s friend Zeke has some great tender moments, and the return of the Princess gave the book its most compelling character.  The discovery of what the new monsters living in the city are will intrigue some, and make others groan, but I liked it. 

Though I enjoyed the book, it was unfortunately the worst in the series so far.  While the smaller scale plot lines(no fight for the survival of the world in this series) worked well in the first three books, in The Inexplicables almost nothing of note happened.  Rector’s mission was too easy and too short.  Rector seemed to give up his drug habit easier than I could drop caffeine.  The reasoning for Rector thinking he sees a certain character as a ghost is never explained, nor why he stopped seeing said ghost.  The big ‘battle’ was laughable easy for the protagonist, and there was never really a feeling of danger for any character through the whole book.  If I was to sum up the overall plot of this book it would be as such; Rector goes around Seattle meeting characters from the first three books.  Name drops seemed to be the entire purpose of a full third of the book.

So for fans of the series, there is enough here to keep you interested and hoping the next in the series gets back to the same quality as the second and third books.  But I don’t foresee this book being listed as many peoples favorite in the series.

Pros: The world these characters live in still has me enthralled and wanting more.  So very good relationships develop between a few characters.  Some of the separate plot lines from previous books are starting to converge. 

Cons:  Very little suspense or movement of the story.  Not a lot of focus. 

3 Stars, but let it be known that I still recommend this series as among the best in Steampunk I have read.