Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Western Thrills from a High-Tech Specialist

Review: Gold for Horses (El Vasco Book 1) by Eduardo Suastegui


I usually look to Eduardo Suastegui for tightly-scripted novels about virtual intelligence and semi-cyborg characters. (Not always human ones, either; his Tracking Jane novels follow cybernetically-enhanced dogs and their handler.) I was a bit dubious about this novel, a western. How would the author's story-telling abilities fare once he was out of his wheelhouse?

Happily, I can report that he has made a successful transition! The tale is engrossing, even though the highest tech in it is rifles.


As his nickname suggests, the gunslinger El Vasco is a Basque in an era and a locale where the Basque were depised. His rescuer Marlene fears he will unbalance the uneasy peace she has managed to achieve, as she tries to keep her own secrets in the midst of a range war.

The physical setting for the novel is familiar territory for me: California's Mono Lake and its environs before the State Water Project opened the taps and drained much of its water to Los Angeles. Local mining communities, nearly ghost towns already by the time of the novel, play a major role in the story, as do the Great Basin agricultural industries of the era: horse-ranching and sheep-herding.

The action is full of suspense, and interations between the main characters are just as engaging as those in Suastegui's day-after-tomorrow science fiction. I liked it so much, I downloaded (for free) and read the short-short tale of El Vasco's backstory, Why El Vasco Killed a Man, and now I just have to wait for the sequel to come out. I expect it will also be thrilling and delightful.

Even without any cyberwarfare.