Tuesday, April 19, 2011
eBook Review of Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker
Today's review is the steampunk novella eBook, Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker.
Set in the gold rush era 1890's Yukon, this little book is a gem, or should I say nugget? I loved it. The delightful protagonist, Kali McAlister, is a tinkerer. Left to fend for herself in the frigid, rough and tumble Yukon after the death of her alchemist/steampunk scientist father, she builds amazing mechanical contraptions, much to the dismay of the local townsfolk. Her unique skills are occasionally useful to them, so they tolerate her presence even though they suspect her of being a witch. Her goal is to win a dog sled race with her steam-powered "dogless sled." With the prize money from the race, she hopes to be able to finally leave the backwards little town of Moose Hollow and start a new life. That proves easier said than done, however. A mysterious stranger who calls himself Cedar offers the services of his Winchester and sword. Not wanting or needing any so-called "help," she grudgingly agrees to let him come along after he saves her life. And her life, it seems, is constantly in danger from thieves who are convinced she holds the secrets of Flash Gold, a mysterious substance invented by her late father that holds the promise of untold power. Kali and Cedar begin their adventures in the race, where they battle the harsh Yukon elements, other mushers, and a stream of bloodthirsty bandits, gangsters and pirates who will do anything to capture Kali and possess her secrets.
Wow, this has so much cool stuff: Pirates, airships, mechanical guard dogs, swords and a modified "Gun That Won The West," a Winchester 1873 that fires almost as fast as a Gatling Gun. Another of Kali's inventions are smoke nuts, small shiny brass globes that, when activated, spew out smoke and --well, you'll just have to read and find out... And, of course, there is the mysterious Flash Gold that makes "regular" gold fever seem like a sniffle. The characters quickly seem like old friends and really take on a life of their own. Kali is a supremely capable young lady, and she's even better at getting out of a jam with her brain than she is with her rifle. That said, there are plenty of thrills, and nothing is ever easy for our heroes. It seems they are always just one old-prospector-whisker away from certain disaster.
I could practically feel the chill of the cold Yukon air and snow, and the setting is more of a character than a backdrop. I especially liked it when a behind the scenes gangster kingpin by the name of Soapy Smith was mentioned. That sounded vaguely familiar from my own research into the wild west. Sure enough, Soapy was a real historical figure, a con man and criminal mastermind who had operations in Colorado before moving to Skagway, Alaska. I love that kind of historical detail :)
Aside from the great characters and plot, formatting and copyediting are very good. There are no annoying little mistakes to possibly take you out of the story.
You should definitely check out Flash Gold if you have any interest in steampunk, westerns, or even just want a good adventure tale. The author states at the end of the book that there could be more stories with these characters if there is enough interest. I hope there is!
Finally, it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway that Flash Gold is a bargain at just 99 Cents.
18,000 word Novella
Barnes & Noble