My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I went into this not knowing what to expect and I still don't know what to call it. It's not quite steampunk or fantasy. It's more like Weird West though it's not really that since it's not the West. Spec fic, I guess but it doesn't matter what genre I try to shoehorn it into; what it really is, is a great read. I enjoyed this one a lot, my only frustration was my stupid ereader with its crap battery that kept me from reading it all in one gulp.
Bas is a tracker for the Directorate. He's hunting down the killers of one genuis Gridtech, Kimolijah, on the behalf of Kimo's sister. Also Bas is sort of half in love with the image he has of Kimo in his head. He has read all of the young man's research and thinks he knows him through that (In a way it reminds me of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Geordi does pretty much the same thing, falls in love with the holodeck construct of a woman scientist using her papers and then in a later episode meets her and she's nothing like his fantasy). Bas can 'taste' the various types of Grid and Kine tech (we're never quite sure what that means exactly but in Kimo's case it seems to mean he can harness some sort of naturally occuring power and use it as a weapon or to propel a train).
Bas heads to Stanslo's Bridge to find Kimo's killer and because more than one Gridtech has disappeared in that area. It's pretty much the wild wild west from the descriptions. Bas knows that "Baron" Stanslo is probably the killer of Kimo and his father, found as burned bones in Kimo's workshop. He's pretending to be a gunslinger, having gotten in good with some of Stanslo's flunkys. The train ride to the town is a surreal one, made more so when he finds out that the train seems to be running based on Kimo's plans, plans the Directorate said wouldn't work. Bas assumes that Stanslo killed Kimo for his tech designs which would make Stanslo both powerful and deadly, more so than he already is.
Mild spoiler here (but pretty much you could guess what comes next from the set up but if not, here's your chance to bail).
The man driving the train turns out to be the very short, very foul-mouthed, very very sarcastic Kimolijah. Even more shocking is yet another of the missing Gridtechs is also in Stanslo's Bridge. Bas has to find out if they are there willingly or not. This will be no easy task given Stanslo is crazier than a shithouse rat.
Naturally Bas wants to get Kimo free of this place but that is easier said than done. Kimo is nothing like Bas imagined and neither is anything in Stanslo's Bridge. It takes all he's got just to survive, especially after he meets the inhuman looking siblings in Stanslo's employ and takes in the strange hold Stanslo seems to have on the whole town.
Worse, Kimo trusts no one and Bas can't tell if he's willingly Stanslo's bed warmer or if he's being forced. No one can get straight answers out of Kimo who loves to deflect queries with random trivia. His relationship with Bas is a bizarre one that fits the situation well.
To say any more would ruin the onion layers of storytelling. I will say I loved Bas (he reads
I will say the middle is a bit soft with me wanting to nudge it along instead of retreading the same ground but that is a minor quibble. I loved the story. The end wraps it up nicely but does leave it open for more. Honestly, I'm hoping for more of these two.