Book Review: Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Owl Dance is by far the most authentically “western” feeling steampunk I’ve read in a while. It’s a self-described Weird Western set in 1876 New Mexico, the first in a series dubbed the Clockwork Legion by David Lee Summers that also includes Lightning Wolves and The Brazen Shark, each of which is already available on Amazon.

A surprisingly realistic Southwest cultural flavor pervades Owl Dance, and I felt these environmental details truly set it apart from the steampunk pack. Little things like Spanish words and Mexican lingo might be easy enough for a well-researched writer to fake, but Summers knows when and how to use them like a local and it makes a big difference. Geography and settings are so fully realized and natural, you could visit a lot of these places in real life, if you want to. This level of historicity is often lacking in a lot of fiction but Summers really succeeds in transporting you to a distinct time and place in American history.

Owl Dance uses an episodic chapter structure which I think keeps the novel accessible in its opening chapters before the overarching saga exposes itself. Plot developments that might otherwise seem mildly predictable are saved by expediency and culminate in satisfying mini-climaxes within each chapter. When the larger saga takes over, though, it draws from characters and developments throughout these early chapters, resulting in a truly cohesive novel rather than just a random collection of shorts. A good balance. Continue reading “Book Review: Owl Dance by David Lee Summers” »

Book Review: X-Troop by Clay Davis

X-Troop by Clay Davis is a mostly western tale following an elite force assembled to fight the various threats faced by America in the late eighteen hundreds. It’s a short read, about 155 pages, (I think a little over 30,000 words) making it more of a novella.

Xtroop cover

You can find it on Amazon here.

X-Troop resembles a relatively well-polished but underdeveloped attempt at Ocean’s Eleven meets Magnificent Seven. Most of the novel amounts to little more than what you would find in the outline of a “How-To” guide for writing genre fiction, stacking clichés on top of stereotypes and predictable plot points.

The thrust of the story is that Col. Orsen Ritter has been recruited by President Grant and General Sheridan to form a team of special secret troopers to go after America’s threats. The threats are vague and non-specific and so is the reason why this or any team is appropriate to solve them. Custer’s massacre is regularly mentioned as a catalyst for forming the team, but the team does nothing to follow up on that historical event and instead spends their time arbitrarily addressing an outlaw gang whose only real threat is some gold shipment robberies that will somehow cripple the US economy.

Continue reading “Book Review: X-Troop by Clay Davis” »