By Maurice Broaddus
Paperback, 142 pages
Desmond has abandoned his mission and spirited away his young charge, Lij, in order to save the boy from a lifetime of experiments. Dogged by several political and religious factions, the two cross borders from Tejas into the land of the Five Civilized Tribes and Desmond wonders if they’ll ever be safe.
Guys, I can’t think of how to blurb this book without giving a ton of stuff away, but it is friggen awesome! It combines alternate history with steampunk and sharpshooters and sorta telekinetic/psychic people who have been created by the government and oh my gourd why haven’t I seen more people talking about this novella?!
Desmond is compelling and stubborn and badass and I can’t wait to learn more about him. Originally hailing from Jamaica, he seems like a sort of government agent/super spy, yet also viewed as an outsider among his people. The short story is rich with folktales and legends from not only Desmond’s childhood, but other characters as well, (who doesn’t love stories within stories?) and I enjoyed whenever Desmond would slip into his native dialect.
Lij is a bit of a mystery and it’s best he stays that way until you read the book. There are a few strong female characters here too, one being the assassin dogging Desmond’s heels. There’s more to her than meets the eye and all I’ll say on it is that she makes a rather compelling villain, especially when you get to the very end.
I’m eager to know more about the world Desmond’s living in. I’m absolute rubbish at American history (much to Sweetbeeps’s dismay), so I can’t tell just how much has changed. But there seems to be the United States and Canada, but also Tejas (boy, the commentary on that territory is incredibly relevant) as well as the land of the Five Civilized Tribes. There’s Albion as well and I’m totally not clear on where they are, but that’s ok, because the story was so great I didn’t worry about it. Jamaica is also a leading power in technology at this time. There’s Pinkerton’s too! Not sure if their mission is similar to the historical ones or not, and I really don’t care. But, if you’re big on alternate history, all of this stuff will probably interest you even more.
I don’t know what else to say without getting into too many details. The characters are intriguing, the plot is steady, there are some politics and history, plus most of the main characters are POC (own voices, too). Also, there are steampunk elements like large, man-operated robots, people who have some of their appendages replaced with weapons and machine parts and really cool guns! If you ask me, that’s more than enough reasons to check out Buffalo Soldier!