Category Archives: Western

Davis, Milton & Ojetade, Balogun (ed); Steamfunk! (2013)

Illustrated by Marcellus Shane Jackson

Steamfunk! is my first encounter with the genre. Like all anthologies I have ever read, some of the stories appealed to me while others did not. No wonder really, considering the span of genres. Steamfunk is a US-centric collection of stories that love their steam. I keep on wondering to what extent steam could be an energy source. There are some ideas here that I have not seen before.

According to Balogun Ojetade the Steamfunk! anthology came about because:

The Steamfunk anthology came about from a conversation that I and several authors had online about the lack of Steampunk stories told from a Black / African perspective. We all agreed we would create an anthology in which we would tell such stories. Author Maurice Broaddus suggested we call it Steamfunk and author / publisher Milton Davis agreed to publish it.

They chose the correct person to illustrate the cover. Marcellus Shane Jackson has done a great job capturing the essence of each  story. There are cosmetic problems with my kindle version, mostly to do with ↵. It’s a distraction from the stories themselves.

The Delivery by Milton Davis

In the late 1800’s women needed chaperones to go anywhere. Anthony Wainright paid for one of the puppet-men (steam-powered robot) from GWC Factories to escort his fiancée, Miss Appelgate, from Freedonia to New York City. When they get there, Mr. Wainright has not come to meet them. Instead she is kidnapped by a Beuregard Clinton. Clinton shot the puppet-man and managed to hit one of the steam veins. Mr. Stiles, from the airship, fixes him. The puppet-man is fixed and he and Mr. Stiles must off to find and save Miss Appelgate from her kidnappers.

Tough Night in Tommyville by Melvin Carter

Problem-solvers Rudy and Boatwright get off the hopper at Thomasville. They have been hired by head gang-boss of the underbelly of Thomasville, Stanford “Rip” Tatum, to solve the problem of Rip’s ex and her river-wolf. Grace Baptiste-Neely and Lloyd “Daddy” Green supposedly hijacked and killed people Rip would prefer lived. Plenty of surprises line up to whack them in the face like a marching band on coke.

Men in Black by P. Djeli Clark

The title does not have anything to do with cockroaches invading earth. Whitewood and Blackwood are neighbouring towns. Mainly whites live in one of them and only Blacks live in the other. 40 years after slavery ended tensions still run high and it takes little to get lynching blood cooking. Laurence, from Blackwood, heard his dad say that this next lynching of a coloured man was unjust. So Laurence convinces Big Walter to see what it is all about. Whitewood certainly gets the surprise of its life during the sham trial.

Mudholes and Mississippi Mules by Malon Edwards

Genetic tinkering brought about Aeshna with her compound eyes and insect mouth parts. All she and Petal want is to be left alone. But that cannot be when Aeshna is able to judge a person’s soul and mete out appropriate punishment. Petal is another changed human fitted with a steam clock for a heart and a compost boiler for guts. One day Bald Man Head comes on an errand from the Hanged Man. I liked these two women and the story was fun to read. Especially towards the end.

A Will of Iron by Ray Dean

A Will of Iron is based on the well-known The Ballad of John Henry.

A man is nothing but a man,
But before I let your steam drill beat me down,
I’d die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord,
I’d die with a hammer in my hand

People fighting to keep their jobs from being replaced by new technology is an old and familiar one.

The Path of Ironclad Bison by Penelope Flynn

Zahara and Porter are left in the desert to die. They had both fallen a long way from a steady income with Cross Continental Airship Line. Was all that was left for the two friends a slow and painful death in the desert?

The Refugee by Kochava Green

In the world of Kochava Green humans must extremely careful around bodies of water or they risk the fate of the Lepidoptera larvae. The St. Lauritz All-Mother cloister are extremely lucky in getting a woman from San Lazare wishing to become a novice. The All-Mother cloisters accept women from all walks of life, no-holds-barred.  Sister Amelia brings unique strengths that aid in the survival of the women. She, in turn, finds a new purpose to life. Refugee is one of my favourite stories.

The Switch by Valjeanne Jeffers

Revolutions seldom bring change, only new overlords. Z100 was a key player in the revolution that made women property. Because she had been a spy, she was exempt from those rules. But only as long as she did not marry. She was careful in her choice of men by never having humans for lovers. Life-like robots were her get-out-of-jail card. What is easy to forget is that no matter how tight your security is, all security protocols have weaknesses.

Benjamin’s Freedom Magic by Ronald T. Jones

Slavery is a common tool in human history. One of the many problems with slavery is the de-humanizing of people. In rare cases that might actually work to a slave’s advantage because masters generally do not see slaves or servants. Infiltrating the slaves is the only way our investigator, Sam, sees to find out what Cicero Jensen and Secretary Patterson are trying to hide in Jensen’s barn. In the process Sam learns a bit about himself, his attitudes and how far people will go to keep a secret.

Once a Spider by Rebecca McFarland Kyle

This was another favourite. Nansi is a shape-changing human/spider. Imagine the size of that spider! Her dual identity is a result of her Trickster father. At night Nansi, the spider, fights crime in the city. She is not the only shape-changer. There are wolves and tigers as well. One night, to protect a new-born baby, Nansi kills a tiger. That choice changes her life and the life of the city.

On Western Winds by Carole McDonnell

Through the journal of the Headmistress of a women’s college we learn what happens when the ocean brings a dock, or part of it, to the beach by the college. The dock is to be brought inside the city walls. A short time later, body parts turn up on the same beach. Then a sub-mariner hears a pulse coming from the depths of the ocean.

The Lion Hunters by Josh Reynolds

I really liked this one as well. It is time for the initiation of the Masai boy Saitoti into the ranks of lion-hunters. Eleven lion-hunters travel to Mombasa to meet with Ethiopian Bahati Mazarin. She tells them that there are two lions she wants killed. That is, if they are lions. Rumours would have it otherwise. Bahati Mazarin is coming with them to hunt. Saitoti cannot help but wonder why she is coming along with them or why she specifically asked for their group and hopes it has nothing to do with his history.

The Sharp Knife of a Short Life by Hannibal Tabu

Clara Perry is on the strangest journey of her life. Unbeknownst to her, Clara’s cryogenic chamber was not sitting in Las Vegas waiting to be opened years into the future. Instead, persons unknown had sent her to the planet Pless to introduce them to technology. It turns out Pless has human-like people on it, people who breathe air Clara can breathe, eat food Clara can eat and behave in a manner Clara can relate to. She soon establishes herself as a woman to be reckoned with. Widow Perry breaks gender roles and class roles enabling her integration with people from the various walks of life on Pless. I really liked this story as well. There is something about realistically portrayed strong women that I like. Not that steamfunk is realistic, but I hope you understand what I mean.

The Tunnel at the End of the Light by Geoffrey Thorne

Every ‘jack knew that secrets were death on the rim. But secrets had been kept from the younger generations of Breaktown. When a rip tears Kally Freeman from Other Country to somewhere else, Bannecker Jack does not hesitate to jump after her. “Where did we come from?” “How did we get here?” were questions the child Bannecker often asked his mother. He is about to find out.

Rite of Passage: Blood & Iron by Balogun Ojetade

Warden Clemons tells prisoner John William Henry that he is about to experience the breeze of the Virginia wind and the smell of its dirt again. Only thing is, John Henry will do that by being part of a chain-gang working on laying tracks for The C and O Railway. Oh joy. John Henry uses this as a chance to run away. He is shot but manages to make his way into an opening in the side of a hill.


Reviews:

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with Peacemaker. Peacemaker also has a first installment of the webcomic edition on De Pierres website. De Pierres has called her Peacemaker stories cowpunk, meaning they are Australian Westerns (yes there is such a thing) with possible aliens/paranormal creatures, technologically enhanced humans and animals and an environmentally challenged country. Australia has gone from having its current 500 national parks to only one, Birrumen Park. There was still an outback while Virgin’s father was alive. He started a park lobby because he saw the direction real estate developers were dragging the country in. Now, Birrumen lies, as the last of its sort, in the heart of a supercity and is surrounded by a road, The Park Esplanada. Noise, people and buildings drench the outside of the park.

Peacemaker is told by Virgin. She is our main character.  She was pretty much raised in the park by her father. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and he passed on his love for the park to her. Virgin is passionate about keeping the Park out of the hands of real estate developers. As long as the tourists keep coming, the Park still has a chance.

… the company scientists deemed it too environmentally fragile to handle the impact of permanent residents. Tourists did enough damage.

And we had to have tourists.

The Park saved Australia’s tourism industry and tourists save the Park. My daughter just did her BA dissertation on eco-tourism. Many places depend on tourists to stay alive, but tourists bring their own set of problems that aren’t compatible with keeping a place “untouched”. Inhabitants make concessions like the Wild West theme of Birrumen. The future we see in Peacemaker is a likely one. Humans don’t have the intelligence to control our population growth or ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of outside becomes too much. Both are filled with technology. Benny has been augmented with recording equipment, and endurance and cognitive enhancers. All of his augmentations send information back to Totes, the park tech, and then on to the company storage and processing centre. Birrumen has all sorts of measuring equipment to make sure the park is left as undisturbed as possible. An electromagnetic field above the park keeps unwanted people out and the view in.

No human is supposed to be in the park after dark. One evening Virgin forgets her phone inside and has to go back in.

Even though I’d been ranger here for a few years, I was suddenly a little nervous. The sand and rock and palms that I knew so well during the day had taken on an eerie quality.

The company didn’t like us “on board” (their expression for being in the park) after dark – something to do with insurance. I always pushed that directive to the limit because I like to see the sunset. …

As I bent to fumble with the pump, I felt my phone underfoot. Then another sound attracted my attention – muffled voices from the other side of the semicircle of palms that skirted the Interchange area.

Voices? Impossible! I was the last person out of the south-east sector every day. Park scanners and satellite imaging confirmed it, as well as my own visual sweep.

I picked up my phone and crept towards the sound, my boots silent on the sand. There were two of them, arguing, but I couldn’t get a handle on the thread. …

A strangled cry got me running toward them, hauling my pistol free from my holster. …

But the pair had fallen down onto the sand.

I flicked my phone light on and shone it at them. Only one person was there. Blood trickled from a small, deep wound on his neck.

Impossible! There were two! …

Weirdness arrives in the form of a crow. Virgin is attacked and wounded but manages to escape. On top of that, Virgin is late in picking up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence. Then her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin thinks she is going insane because she is the only one who sees her. Except she isn’t. Nate can also see imaginary friends. Hmmm. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as Virgin thinks. Nathan calls them disincarnates.

Her life is turned on its head. She goes from routine to chaos, from safety to one life-threatening situation after the other. Some constants remain. What is going on? Virgin’s investigative journalist friend, Caro, helps Virgin many times. Her boss, Bull Hunt, Superintendent of Park Ecology, remains on her side even when the police go after her. He used to be friends with her father and has continued to take care of her.

In some ways Virgin is a loner. She certainly thinks of herself as one, but tends to gather friends because of the way she treats people. Blunt but tries to protect the weak. Some of those friends are interesting cases. Totes, the park tech, is one such. Even though he bugs her apartment, Virgin keeps him on because she believes he is on her side. Chef Dabrowski feeds her and is as much of a surrogate parent as she will let him. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people loves, yet does her best to help the very same people. Her personality appeals to my Asperger.

This is my favorite De Pierres series thus far. Her writing is compelling and the story asks interesting questions, is fun, full of action, full of interesting characters and has a great female lead. Plus it’s in Australian English. So, a definite yes from me.


Reviews:


Winner Aurealis Award– Best Science Fiction Novel, 2014


Peacemaker can be found at:

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Lackey, Mercedes & Edghill, Rosemary: Dead Reckoning (2012)

Artist: Regina Hoff
Artist: Regina Roff

I have been looking for an updated website for Rosemary Edghill. This link is old (2013). I haven’t found one anywhere else, but she is still alive. She and Mercedes Lackey wrote Dead Reckoning together.

The setting of Dead Reckoning is the Wild West a couple of years after the Civil War. Two of our characters are from either side of the issue while the third is indirectly an American Indian. Jett’s story set me looking for how likely it was that a woman would cross-dress around the time of the Civil War. Well, it happened and not that seldom either. There really wasn’t much choice for any of them. Not for Jett either. If she/he wanted to go off and try to find her brother she would have trouble doing so as a woman. It simply was not accepted. But all of her female habits had to be set aside and Jett had to learn how to walk, talk and adapt the mannerisms of the men of her time to be left alone. She also had to shoot really well, because sometimes seeming like a post-adolescent boy brought many of the same challenges women had. Gunslingers were the shooters who were quick draws and fast shooters.

Honoria had the advantage of an unconventional childhood with an eccentric father. Perhaps eccentric isn’t the correct word. Her father was a genius whose ideas kept interrupting his life and drawing him into new mind-zones. With a daughter just as bright, that may have been a good thing. Honoria was given the freedom to study what she wanted and that enabled her to do what other unusual women of her time also did, invent. I found myself rather liking her insistence upon science over all. Sometimes I wanted to tell her to get over herself, but she was consistent with her character all the way through.

In fact, that can be said of all three characters. Jett remained the male she wanted to be taken for. The last of the three compatriots, White Fox, was consistent with the civilian scout and Algonquin adoptee he was supposed to be. White Fox was on a mission for the 10th Cavalry to find out what had happened to his Captain’s mother at Glory Rest. What he discovered was that the town was completely deserted. There had, in fact, been several incidents of people disappearing or groups of people being slaughtered by unknown parties. The disappearing people fit with the allegations Honoria was investigating.

Their encounters with zombies and cultists are fun and full of action.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Dead Reckoning available at


Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK & nook


1993: Women in the Civil War
2000: Women Inventors By: Ping Chen W S 301
Way of Life – Algonquian Indians

Meskwaki-Sauk language
Meshkwahkihaki/Sauk history
10th Cavalry Regiment

Grey, Zane: Writings from the “Old West” (1903-1963)

Zane Grey and his horse Carlos

This post about Zane Grey and his Romances / historical fiction set in the Old West became too unwieldy, humungous and wasn’t getting across what I wanted. So I have created a blog called:

Zane Grey and Me: Writings from the “Old West” (1903-1963)

I hope you will go there and take a look.

Dupree, Ross: Midnight on Frostveil Mountain (Tales of Correndrum) (2013)

midnight on frostveil mountain

Short stories are fascinating creatures.

Family, grief, danger, courage, hope, death, and relief. All of this in 18 pages.

Amund is Barrandal’s sheriff and when the log palisade around the town is taken by a slide and bandits sow murder and mayhem in the area, it is Amund’s duty to find a solution – no matter the dearth of people from whom he can choose.

I enjoyed the way Ross Dupree managed to allow us a glimpse of the many lives of Barrandal and its surrounding area without detracting from the whole. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and Mr. Dupree does.


  • File Size: 167 KB
  • Print Length: 18 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Rams Rampant Press; 1 edition (January 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B6PRSK8

Adina, Shelley: Magnificent Devices (Magnificent Devices III) (2013)

Magnificent Devices - Shelley Adina
$ Cover artist: Claudia at Phat Puppy Studio

Steampunk opens up to a lot of wondering about the practicality of the ideas put forward. Some of those ideas are possible to look into for a layperson like myself. The idea of a personal zeppelin like the one the Dunsmuirs take on their transatlantic trip is one such idea. I discovered there is quite a bit of information on zeppelins out there on the net (see some links below). My questions were answered.

Who should appear on the Lady Lucy but Rosie the hen. Yes, Rosie the hen. That must be one incredibly smart hen who has managed to gather to herself a network of conspirators willing to sneak her onboard as a blind-passenger. I never knew hens were good at networking. Now the only person the gang is missing is Snouts – left at home to make certain the less known gang-members stay loyal to the Lady of Devices.

Magnificent Devices brings us a step away from James Sewyn saving Claire from the dreaded prospect of marriage with the villain. Being a noble probably means that you have been involved in the grayer areas of life – or at least your ancestors have. In Lord Sewyn’s case, James is the crook / villain / rapscallion. Lady Claire is the black sheep of her family and as such not really able to protest James’ high-handed methods. But she does, feeling there is a difference between going for the rival gang or your fiancée and friends. Personally, I agree with her.

We find Lady Claire Trevalyan and her new family safe and sound on board the Lady Lucy at the beginning of Magnificent Devices. The Mopsies, Trig and Jake seem to have explored the airship and have already made a place for themselves in the hearts of the crew. Both boys have developed their talents further. We already know about Trig’s engineering skills and now find out about Jake’s navigational ones – until he is thrown out of the Lady Lucy by Ned Mose.

Ned Mose is a pirate of the piraty kind. I like him. There is nothing swashbuckling about him at all. Instead he rules his crew with an iron fist (literally). His arm is a work of art made by his step-daughter Alice Chalmers. When Ned Mose captures the Dunsmuirs and the flock, we are brought to the Wild West. In fact, we end up in a desert town ruled by Ned Mose and he is not a gentle ruler there either. I believe he might be defined as a “bad egg”. Whether Lady Claire is going to be able to defeat Mose is a good question.

We meet both men who want a piece of Claire in Magnificent Devices. Another one comes on the scene in the form of Captain Hollys. He seems to have fallen for all the qualities that Lord James Sewyn despises and that Mr. Andrew Malvern is not completely aware of. But we aren’t looking at any kind of love story in the Magnificent Devices serial. These are only small parts of the story that act as a spice to the whole. Claire is more than busy enough trying to get out of all the sticky situations she lands in while trying to remember her manners. It is funny how she holds on to them in the strangest situations. Somehow they seem to act as a buffer for Lady Claire’s ability to be courageous.

Magnificent Devices is a fun and lighthearted read with plenty of action and adventure.


Reviews:



My review of:

  1. Lady of Devices
  2. Her Own Devices

Monk, Devon: Dead Iron (2011)

Dead Iron

The Age of Steam is the new series started by Devon Monk. This time she writes steam-punk (I wonder where they got the word steam-punk?). I don’t really understand why so many fantasy buffs don’t like steam-punk. It’s great fun along with most other fantasy. As Monk is the author, the quality of the book is guaranteed (thankfully). It’s light entertainment (a little heavier than the lightest) and doesn’t strive for moralistic or philosophical preaching. However, Monk does treat her characters as complex beings with dark and light sides. I abhor literature where the goodies are sugar-good and the baddies are black as tar bad. Way to go Monk.

Dead Iron is the first installation in the series about the bounty hunter Cedar Hunt. Cedar has a “slight” health problem that becomes uncontrollable about once a month. To protect others, he lives a bit outside town.

When a small boy goes missing, and the parents go to Cedar for help. After a lot of hesitation he takes on the case. During his search Cedar meets other strange people and a lot of prejudice and fear. In Dead Iron, Monk combines fantasy and technology in a wild-west world where the impact of iron and technology threatens to destroy the presence of magic.