Sci-fi meets the American West in this enjoyable genre-bending novella by Ethan Russell Erway.
The charm of the classic westerns merges with the tropes of sci-fi that will delight readers and leave them wanting more after reading Blowing Off Steam – When It Rains It Pours.
The time is 1891, and the place is the Arizona Territory. A year has passed since the death of her mother, and seventeen-year-old Emma Cartwright is struggling to manage life’s trials. Acting as the mother figure to her younger siblings, worrying about the overdue mortgage on her family’s ranch, and dealing with the eccentric behavior of her clockmaker father have not been easy tasks. However, things begin to look up when her father decides to take on a new apprentice, a handsome young man who hunts and helps them keep food on the table. Emma soon finds herself wondering what kind of life she truly wants to lead. Is she destined to live the simple, happy life of a wife and mother, or does something more exciting await her in the world beyond? When hired gunslingers come calling to harass the family into selling the ranch, Emma’s problems truly begin to multiply. She soon discovers that a life of adventure may be much closer than she’d ever imagined.
This is the first book in a series of novellas by Ethan Russell Erway that combine the steampunk and sci-fi genres in the American Old West. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry, it works well. The story revolves around Emma Cartwright, a brash, red-headed young lady who longs for adventure but feels trapped caring for her father and younger siblings.
Although the steampunk and sci-fi elements don’t make their way into the story until the very end of the story, there are some hints along the way that astute readers will notice. I expected there to be more but was satisfied it finally showed up.
Characters are developed nicely and it’s clear there will be more development in books to come. The lead character, Emma Cartwright, is a strong female willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family.
While I wouldn’t say this is a “polished Western” I think the author could have done a little more to emphasize the gritty living of a pre-industrial society. There’s nothing that stands out as beyond reality but I never felt fully immersed in the culture of the novel.
I’m looking forward to the follow-up to this book and seeing more steampunk and less Western. As it stands, this book barely scratched the surface of the sci-fi or steampunk genre. I would like to have seen that developed a bit more and more time taken to develop the ending. It felt a bit rushed and abrupt, like an episode of a TV series.
Blowing Off Steam – When It Rains It Pours is well worth the cost (just 99¢ on Amazon) and is a welcome addition to my growing e-book collection.