The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head by Cassandra Duffy is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi western steampunk—stick with me here—erotica lesbian love triangle action-adventure story. I was somewhat doubtful at first, as I usually am when so many tropes are put together. However, I found it to be a solid, overall self-contained story. The post-apocalyptic situation, the aftermath of an attempted alien invasion, was well thought out; the characters dealt with violence and death in believable ways. The aliens, the “slark,” provide the overarching plot and a large amount of character motivation, but while we see plenty of them die and try to kill, they are not very present. You won’t find any interspecies sympathies here, so you will be disappointed if you’re looking for ufology or xeno. I personally like to see inside the heads of both sides of a conflict, but The Gunfighter is from the perspective of two characters who lived through an invasion and couldn’t give a damn what the enemy is thinking, except in order to predict their strategy.
It may not be apparent from the start, but this is a story about women in charge: the protagonists are women, and about half of the antagonists are women. The central relationship is between Gieo, who brings in the steampunk element with her style and mechanical genius, and Fiona, a formidable alien hunter who was once a Victoria’s Secret model. The Gunfighter is part erotica, and thus the action is broken up by some fairly hot sex scenes, which build up nicely from abortive efforts to longer scenes. (Once I got a ways into the book, though, I was more interested in the plot than the sexy bits.) There are a few BDSM themes in the first half—including spanking and collaring—which fade as the story progresses to make way for the building plot. My one complaint is that despite being part erotica, this book failed at sex positivity: at least one sexual activity is universally derided by all of the women we see in sexual situations.
Some scores to further inform you:
Trans characters: zero
Racial/ethnic diversity: decent
Overall, I enjoyed The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head, and I would recommend giving it a read.