Review: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

 

   Title: Dead Reckoning

   Author: Mercedes Lackey  & Rosemary Edghill

   Publisher: Bloomsbury

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Review:

I haven’t read anything by Mercedes Lackey in a long, long time, and I don’t think I have ever read Rosemary Edghill, and that’s something I would like to rectify, because I enjoyed Dead Reckoning. Though there are some pacing issues at the end, and few too many convenient coincidences, I found my time  with Jett, White Fox, and Gibbons well spent. These characters were easy to like.  I do wish White Fox had been given more depth and more page time.  I loved Gibbons, and thought that she could probably talk her way in to and back out of Fort Knox with a bucket full of gold bars.  She was never content to take anything at face value; she had this all-consuming need to understand the how and the why of everything.  I loved how this drove Jett nuts.  She was more than willing to accept what she saw with her own eyes, and didn’t need to overthink anything.  Gibbons had an annoying habit of getting on her last, frayed nerve, and there was nothing Jett could do once her new acquaintance got on a roll.

I feel that I am still a recent convert to zombie-dom.  I wouldn’t even consider reading a zombie book until after a few reviews of The Enemy and The Forest of Hands and Teeth prompted me to read outside of my comfort zone.  I’m so glad that I did, but I am still a bit squeamish when it comes to rotting corpses.  I can’t be too scared, or I start to feel anxious and worried and I am torn in agony over putting the book aside or mincing cautiously through the pages.  Dead Reckoning was downright creepy in a few parts, but the horror elements weren’t the focus of the story.  If you are looking for a gross out, zombie rampage, you won’t find it here.  Instead, you’ll find a western that’s more medical thriller than zombie apocalypse, with steampunk elements thrown in for good measure.

What made this book for me was the character interaction.  White Fox was the peacemaker between Gibbons and Jett, whose constant head-butting kept me turning the pages.  In the years just after the Civil War, Jett is desperately searching for her twin brother.  She doesn’t believe that he’s dead, and he’s the only family she has left after the devastating war.  Masquerading as a  boy, she pretends to be a gambler and gunslinger, thinking that she’ll encounter less trouble if everyone thinks she is a male.  Having witnessed the looting and destruction of her home by Northerners, she doesn’t have much trust for them.  Fleeing from certain death at the putrefying hands of a zombie army, Jett encounters White Fox and Gibbons – both Yankees and both to be viewed with suspicion.  When Gibbons, who is too clever by far, immediately sees through her disguise, Jett is even more wary of them.  Her continued safety depends on her ruse, and she doesn’t trust either of them to keep her secret.

Though they are very different, both Gibbons and Jett are strong, outspoken women.  Gibbons has gotten grief because of her “outlandish” ideas and demeanor, but she refuses to be something that she’s not.  She prizes science and thinks that if she only looks hard enough, she’ll find a rational reason for everything.  Even an apparent zombie horde.  She has no patience for simpering females, or their ridiculous clothing.  Jett, on the other hand, enjoyed wearing frilly gowns and attending parties.  She blames the war for changing her life so drastically, and she believes that after she locates her brother, she can go back to her idea of normal.  They couldn’t be more different, but they both share the courage and resourcefulness to try to stop the zombie army.  Neither of them has a personal stake in this fight, but they won’t ignore their moral obligation to save the countless lives that would be lost if they didn’t put a stop to it.  They made a great team, I would love to see them take on another fight in the future.  I feel that White Fox was seriously underutilized here, and would like another chance for him to prove his mettle.

Dead Reckoning is a fun read with zombies, a Western setting, and steampunk elements.  The pacing was a bit off near the end as the villain rambled on without end, gloating about his superior intellect and forthcoming victory. Despite that, this is a fast, popcorn read with a cast of diverse personalities that are thrown together and forced to stop a zombie army – even though one of their number doesn’t believe in zombies.    

Grade: B/B-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick

 

Title: The Buntline Special

Author:  Mike Resnick

Publisher: Pyr

ISBN: 978-1616142490

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Steampunk is a new genre to me, and is it one that I am starting to enjoy.  A lot.  I thought The Greyfriar was a fun romp with vampires, air machines, and lots of action, so when I received The Buntline Special, I could hardly wait to dig into it.  The book is an attractive little number, with interior graphics that got my manga loving side all excited.  The big draw of the book for me, though, are the characters.  Most of the cool-cat gunfighters from the wild west are wandering the dusty streets of Tombstone, trying to keep one step ahead of each other.  To ensure that things don’t ever get boring, there is even a zombie wandering around town, to complicate matters for everyone.

In this reimagining of the Wild West, Thomas Edison is a new resident of Tombstone, but he has more than his share of enemies.  The cattle rustlers and horse thieves don’t like him because his inventions threaten to put them out of business, and the Apache and Cheyenne want him dead.  They are afraid that he will discover a way to counteract their magic, which has successfully kept the dreams of western expansion firmly east of the Mississippi.  The Earps, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson are recruited by the U.S. government to protect Tom and ensure that he lives long enough to discover the secret behind the magic of Geronimo and Hook Nose.  Once all of the gun-slingers hit town, the bad guys come crawling out of the woodwork. 

The central character is Doc Holliday, and I really liked his portrayal here.  He already has one foot in the grave and he knows that he is dying, slowly and painfully, of consumption, so he has no fears of death.  He would welcome end to his suffering.  Just walking down the street winds him, and his coughing fits leave him gasping for breath.  His diet is mainly comprised of whiskey, which doesn’t help, but I guess when you make a habit of pissing off ruffians and thieves, watching what you eat is the least of your concerns.  Holliday lives on the edge, and his main pursuits are drinking, gambling, and never backing down from a challenge.  The only person who can hold her own against him is Kate Elder, and their volatile relationship is always entertaining. 

I enjoyed this character-driven, alternate version of Tombstone, and was only disappointed with the final showdown between Johnny Ringo and Holliday.  It was very anticlimactic, and was the biggest letdown for me.  After getting all hyped up for the battle between them for almost 300 pages, I was just expecting more from their final confrontation.  Likewise, the plot brings the characters together a bit too conveniently, and at times felt very thin. I did enjoy the characters, and loved Doc Holliday’s dry sense of humor. I thought this was a fun read, with clever dialog and characters I wanted to know more about. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher