Katie Raynes reviews The Gunfighter and the Gear-Head by Cassandra Duffy

Cassandra Duffy’s The Gunfighter and the Gear-Head is a fun melding of steampunk and Old West in a post-apocalyptic setting. The story centers around Tombstone – which, after a cataclysmic war between Earth and an invading alien force – has reverted to a harsh, dangerous place ruled by outlaws. The story follows Gieo, a dirigible pilot, mad scientist, and all-around genius, and Fiona, a former lingerie model who is now one of the most powerful and respected gunfighters in the area. Their relationship and its twists and turns forms the core of the plot as the characters battle cultists, other outlaws, and the aliens.

When I first started reading, I was initially somewhat put off by the frequency and descriptiveness of the sex scenes, owing to my personal preference for mooshy romance and drawn-out courtships. Gieo and Fiona didn’t know each other very well the first few times things got heavy between them, but I was drawn through the story by the complexity of their feelings for each other, and by the fact that those feelings were constantly evolving in reaction to events and revelations about each other. As they got to know each other, and I got to know both of them, their relationship became my favorite part, and I was rooting for them the whole way through. They went through plenty of rough spots as lovers, and I felt that these were all handled realistically. I was never left unsatisfied or doubtful about the nature of their feelings for each other.

Even though Gieo and Fiona’s relationship was my favorite part, it was Cassandra Duffy’s worldbuilding that impressed me the most. The history of the alien invasion and the years after it unfolded slowly and tantalizingly. Duffy also handled all of the technical terms utilized in describing Geio’s inventions and steampunk contraptions impeccably – they were completely understandable to me as someone who knows next to nothing about how machines work, but they were specific enough and showed enough expertise that I was convinced Gieo knew exactly what she was doing. I was also happy that Gieo is Korean, since queer literature in always needs more women of color. All of the characters were well drawn and had sudden flashes of depth that kept me engaged with each one.

I was sad about some of the things that took place at the end, but as luck would have it, there’s a second book in the series: The Steam-Powered Sniper in the City of Broken Bridges. From the Goodreads description, it appears to follow one of the side characters (a personal favorite!) so I’m looking forward to reading it.

Alyssa reviews The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head by Cassandra Duffy

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

Lesbians: lots

Overall, I enjoyed The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head, and I would recommend giving it a read.