Published by Bloomsbury USA
Publish Date: June 5, 2012
Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. (Goodreads)
by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill
My Thoughts: I was really excited to get a chance to read Dead Reckoning early because 1) I love zombies and 2) that cover is pretty darn awesome. I still think the cover is pretty great, but after finishing the book, I’m less inclined to call it a zombie book than a Western…or some other kind of book with zombies in it.
1. The Characters. There are a trio of unlikely heroes that end up trying to solve a mystery surrounding some zombies and a weird cult establishment.
- Jett Gallatin. Jett is a girl that disguises herself as a boy searching for her missing twin brother, Jasper. She’s young and on her own, traveling with just her trusty stallion Nightingale. Jett is smart and level-headed, and she misses dressing and acting like a girl. There is talk throughout the book of Jett maintaining her appearance as a boy to keep her safe and alive, but I personally never really completely understood her reasons for this.
- Honoria Verity Providentia Gibbons. ‘Gibbons’ is just about as pretentious as a name like hers would stereotypically suggest. She is a bit of an oddball, traveling the country in the name of science, when she stumbles upon a zombie mystery and decides she wants to help solve the mystery. Gibbons goes completely against the standard culture of that time for women – dressing rationally, pursuing intellectual pursuits, and inventing things. She also does not feel that she is inferior to men at all. Gibbons is wildly annoying to me but very smart, and uses her scientific knowledge to help the others in more than one instance.
- White Fox. White Fox was raised from childhood by Native Americans after being the only survivor of an attack on his wagon train. He crosses paths with Gibbons when he is studying the disappearances of several recent cattle drives and wagon trains, and he is surprised to find that Gibbons is also studying the disappearances of people and entire towns for her own reasons. The two decide to work together and wish to proceed into the nearest town to interview the townsfolk on any news they may have regarding these disappearances. (This is where the two meet up with Jett, who is going in the opposite direction after narrowly escaping a zombie attack on the same town into which Gibbons and White Fox are headed. Despite Jett’s claims, the two insist on pushing forward and Jett tags along.)
- Brother Shepard. Crazy-weird cult leader of ‘The Fellowship of the Divine Resurrection’ located at Jerusalem’s Wall, a few hours’ ride outside the city of Alsop. This guy is bizarro. He has crazy ideas and acts on them all in order to build a massive zombie army. Our unlikely trio of zombie-fighting hero friends decide that Brother Shepard has to be stopped before he takes over any more of the territories and turns more people into the undead. But Shepard is just as smart as he is weird, and stopping him is not easy because he knows tons about science too.
2. The Setting. West Texas, 1867. The town of Alsop and its surrounding areas. Alsop is like all of the regular towns from this era that you have read about/seen on TV – except once the zombies come, they take all the townspeople back with them. The town becomes deserted overnight, a ghost town. This is where Jett, Gibbons, and White Fox make their base of operations in trying to figure out who these ‘zombies’ are, where they are coming from, and exactly what it is that they want.
3. The Genre. When I first read the description of this book, I thought it was a zombie-cowboy book with some steampunk in it. I was pumped about that mash-up! Who on earth wouldn’t be? Really, though, it feels a little more like a Western action story with unusual zombies instead of cowboys and a crazy cult thrown in to make it interesting. There is some steampunk as well, but not very much.
4. The Story. I think the story is…interesting. There are zombies being made somehow in dusty West Texas, and their numbers are increasing. There is a cult that is also growing in number with ‘Blessed Resurrected’ (aka zombies – see where I’m going here?). A little digging around by Jett determines that this growing zombie army is to be used to take over more cities and wipe out groups of traitors that have been determined by Brother Shepard. Scientific research by Gibbons coupled with clues picked up by Jett determine both the ways the zombies are made and destroyed. (And White Fox is there too, hanging out, just sort of being cool.)
I like Dead Reckoning, but I think I could have liked it a bit more if a few things were different. First of all, since so much fuss was made out about Jett’s brother Jasper, I’d have liked to know more about him…because I still know nothing about him at all except that she was looking for him and she got sidetracked for a bit to deal with this zombie issue. I also wish I had a better grasp on this cult-like compound in the middle of West Texas and exactly why so much was made out of it, when so much of it could’ve been left out. Admittedly, I got confused a bit when I had to re-read passages about the crazy cult. Brother Shepard, the leader – I got him. I understand why he’s in there. But most of his staff and followers – not so much. And they gave a lot of space to explaining their theories about how the zombies were made and destroyed. Very detailed explanation. More scientific-minded people might enjoy that a bit more than I did.
The characters – Jett, Gibbons, and White Fox – all had some really great things about them. Jett is a strong young girl, making it on her own because of skills she’s picked up along the way. She’s also good with a gun, which I love, and even though she was not completely fearless, she was incredibly brave. Like I said earlier, though, I don’t really understand the need to keep her dressed like a boy all of the time, particularly when she longs for and misses dressing like a girl so much. Gibbons just really grated on my nerves, but I wonder if maybe she was supposed to? I love that she was such a smart, smart girl – very driven in her pursuits – but sometimes she acted rashly and very stupidly in the name of science and had to be bailed out by one of the others. Science is awesome, but so is staying alive. Gibbons was ahead of the times, which is something that Jett did not necessarily understand nor agree with, and even though the two did not really ‘get’ each other, they were able to be friendly enough to work together to find solutions to the problems at hand. White Fox was the character that I had the most trouble connecting with, but maybe this is because I’m not a guy that was raised by Native Americans after my family was killed in an attack on a wagon train. Still, I love that White Fox was fiercely loyal to the job he was committed to and that he did not act inappropriately toward the young women he worked with or let anything else distract him from his goals.
The best part of Dead Reckoning, to me, is the setting because it was described and built well. I’ve watched enough Westerns on TV to be able to visualize this place perfectly, I think, so maybe that is why I loved this part of the book so much.
It is interesting to note that there is no romance in this book at all. You have one guy hanging out with – and spending several nights with – two gals, and you’d think there would at least be an implied romance…but, no. No way. Dead Reckoning is straight-up what the book says it is: a zombie western mash-up. I think if you like reading Westerns or books with zombies in them, you just might like this one.
Action-Driven > Character-Driven
Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill
is available for purchase on June 5, 2012.
*I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Bloomsbury USA & NetGalley!