The Clockwork Century Series by Cherie Priest is one of my absolute favorite steampunk series, so it was no surprise that I rushed out to the bookstore to pick up the fifth book, The Inexplicables. Cherie Priest does not disappoint and returns to her incredible alternate world, starting with a brand new male character. I have read all but one of her books in this series, only Clementine still evades my grasp, but I can still foresee that any reader new to the series would find it easy to jump right into this detailed civil-war era world.
Rector “Wreck ‘em” Sherman was orphaned as a toddler in the Blight of 1863, but that was years ago. Wreck has grown up, and on his eighteenth birthday, he’ll be cast out out of the orphanage.
And Wreck’s problems aren’t merely about finding a home. He’s been quietly breaking the cardinal rule of any good drug dealer and dipping into his own supply of the sap he sells. He’s also pretty sure he’s being haunted by the ghost of a kid he used to know—Zeke Wilkes, who almost certainly died six months ago. Zeke would have every reason to pester Wreck, since Wreck got him inside the walled city of Seattle in the first place, and that was probably what killed him. Maybe it’s only a guilty conscience, but Wreck can’t take it anymore, so he sneaks over the wall.
The walled-off wasteland of Seattle is every bit as bad as he’d heard, chock-full of the hungry undead and utterly choked by the poisonous, inescapable yellow gas. And then there’s the monster. Rector’s pretty certain that whatever attacked him was not at all human—and not a rotter, either. Arms far too long. Posture all strange. Eyes all wild and faintly glowing gold and known to the locals as simply “The Inexplicables.”
In the process of tracking down these creatures, Rector comes across another incursion through the wall—just as bizarre but entirely attributable to human greed. It seems some outsiders have decided there’s gold to be found in the city and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of the pie unless Rector and his posse have anything to do with it.
The protagonist, Rector, is somewhat unique to the series. As an individual, he is the first new male character to have his own story told in the Clockwork Century series. Cherie Priest does not miss a beat and fluidly takes the voice of both male and female characters in a way that is unparalleled. Rector’s maleness and age are not the only genuine aspects. He brings the unique voice of an addict. Throughout the book, Priest creates a character that is truly defined by his addiction but doesn’t want to be. Though the consequences of his actions surround Rector, The Inexplicables is not a book that preaches nor judges. It merely presents Rector with realistic interactions with other people, but most importantly, The Inexplicables highlights the interactions Rector has with himself.
Note to fans of the series : Yes I realize Captain Cly has his own story in Ganymede and Rector makes an appearance in Boneshaker. Rector was in my opinion, merely an appearance, whereas Captain Cly has been a consistent supporting character. Hence my feelings that Rector is the first ‘new’ male character.
The Inexplicables is like many steampunk books in that is has an adventure at its core. Though the adventure is engaging, and you could certainly read it simply for that, Cherie Priest once again brings to light an unspoken topic. The Inexplicables highlights for me the evolution of a person through circumstance. This concept may seem somewhat over thought but it’s not. I assure you. This evolution takes place in Rector throughout the course of the book but Priest beautifully carries this theme over to the titled ‘Inexplicable’. The circumstances that change each character are varied; at times simple while at others complex. This overwhelming theme has carried itself throughout the Clockwork Century but I was thrilled to see it take center stage in The Inexplicables. I doubt Priest could have chosen a more interesting character to show this evolution with. Afterall, who doesn’t love a fast talking, smarter than he looks, new to gas mask wearing, ginger?
The world of The Inexplicables is expanded once again in this installment. Priest makes me truly understand the walled up version of Seattle. Though in past books I was able to feel the mystery and vastness of post-Blight Seattle, The Inexplicables brought to Seattle a pair of new eyes. With it, it allowed me as a fan of the series to see it in a different light.
The Inexplicables is full of adventure and a must read for any fan of the steampunk genre. As if in a good game, Cherie Priest creates a world and city that makes me feel wearily at home, looking for rotters over ever corner. Her characters are artfully flawed and evolve as people through circumstances that are oftentimes not of their own doing. With historical grounding, Priest ingeniously exploits the tension of civil war era antics creating pockets of chaos and order with an undercurrent of impending doom. Any reader will quickly become a fan of the series and Priest’s magnetic prose. Gas masks, zombies-sorry rotters, and an underground city await your truly deserved attention. Who knows, you may just find yourself evolving via the circumstance of reading The Inexplicables.