The Gunfighter and the Gear Head
by Cassandra Duffy
Sept. 7, 2011
Lesbian/ Sci-fi/ Steampunk/ Western
Sky-captain Gieo and her fleet of steam-powered dirigibles are humanity’s best chance to turn the tide of the war against the alien invaders, but only if Fiona can protect her from blind cultists, jealous ex-girlfriends, and a town of apocalypse cowboys with suspect sanity.
Wow, this was the most unusual and fun book to read. I don’t think I can even classify it as it’s kind of a hodgepodge of genres that come together in creative and delicious way.
It’s post-apocalyptic America. A war with an alien invader called the Slark has basically destroyed life and the planet as people knew it. Although the time period is not clear, references to current pop culture are made so it’s clear it’s sometime in the future but not far from our current time. Since almost all has been destroyed, including most of the population, the remaining survivors have come together in pockets around the country and are slowly setting up their own little societies and factions, many resembling the lawless towns of the West in America during the 1880’s.
In this new world, particularly in the central western states, women, prostitutes from Las Vegas mainly, have come to power and have started organizing armies and weapons to finally get control of the western states, which are still controlled by the Slark.
Most of this story takes place in Tombstone, one of the last free barrier towns between the Midwestern states and Southern states, which have formed their own societies based on old world mores, and the western states. Tombstone is basically controlled by a power hungry man who is able to control everyone due to his monopoly of Slark fuel, which is far superior to oil. The hunters, those who hunt Slark and kill them, are a rough and tumble lawless group. However they’ve created their own codes of behavior, which are a bit barbaric, but which they strictly adhere to.
Fiona, one of the main protagonists, is a deliciously intense character right out of Tarantino film. She’s a Slark hunter and takes no shit from anyone. She’ll kill without flinching or remorse if anyone breaks the hunter’s code and to defend herself and what’s hers. She’s a renegade and honorable warrior rolled in one and does what she has to to survive. She’s also quite powerful in Tombstone and people don’t mess with her since she has no scruples and parades the results of what happens when she’s crossed for all to see. It’s quite the contrast to her former life as famous world top model.
Gieo, on the other hand, is a naïve genius dreamer who keeps trying to fly her dirigibles close to Slark territory to map out the areas they control. She dreams of one day being part of an air force that will wipe them out. However, she’s the sort of happy-go-lucky type that can’t imagine killing either. Her dirigible goes down in the outskirts of Tombstone and it happens to be Fiona who’s out hunting who finds her and brings her back. She’s a technological wiz and this is how she survives. Both women just happen to be lesbians and the only women in the Tombstone.
These two make an odd but colorful couple. Fiona can’t believe it when after Gieo’s first night there, she finds Gieo surrounded by the roughest of men blithely trading her fix anything tech services for machine parts and technology she needs to get her gear going again. In an interesting twist of fate, in order to protect Gieo, the only other woman in town besides Fiona and who the crazy, fundamentalist cultist who live on the outskirts of town want to kill thinking she's the devil, Fiona has to claim her as her property by law of the hunter’s code.
Gieo quite gets into this wearing a dog collar and letting Fiona treat her as property in a semi-serious, teasing and flirtatious way, which bugs Fiona since this is not what she’s about.
Their sexual interactions are subdued on the one hand, Gieo only letting Fiona rub off on her but not getting off herself and keeping some distance, and yet, there’s a smoldering sexual energy that keeps them coming back for more. They kind of dance around each other in a somewhat cocky and playful way taking turns exerting power over each other.
I rather liked the push/pull and even the evasiveness on both parts in between some juicy sexual encounters. It’s a lust at first site but a budding love in a slow bloom, which made me root for them even with the many obstacles, including Fiona’s past catching up with her in the form of past lovers and betrayals. Fiona wasn’t a saint before she ended up in Tombstone. And Gieo, while being a straight up innocent in general, allows herself to get seduced outside of her relationship with Fiona. However, I liked the way it was handled. It showed character growth for both women.
Outside of the very entertaining and unique plot line and world building, there are many fascinating characters in this story as well. I think Cassandra Duffy created a very sophisticated world with characters, each having their own strong personalities---entrances and departures---that fully added to this story. Particularly all the women are portrayed as strong, sometimes ruthless, but very intelligent, which I liked.
The writing is very tight, no extra lines, characters or even tangents that didn’t add to this story. Fiona and Gieo aside, I’d love to read more from this world that Ms. Duffy has created. She definitely has a unique voice.
I definitely recommend this book if you’re into any of the genres but particularly if you just want a unique, entertaining read.
Heat level: 3 ½- sexual situations but not explicitly or deeply graphically written.