Thursday, August 30, 2018

SFRB Recommends #84: Dustwalker by Tiffany Roberts #sfr

Cheyenne, Wyoming. At least a hundred years from now. The southwestern United States is dust. A giant desert, thanks to a probably nuclear war. Also, there are humanoid robots, called "synths," running around and having lives. Odd lives, in that they don't age or anything, but lives nonetheless.

Lara Brooks scavenges the desert for her living, bringing bits of scrap back to Cheyenne to trade for food. When her trade partners don't remain viable, she's set to starve. When she dances one night, a synth named Ronin is oddly moved by the sight. He proposes he protect and feed her in exchange for watching her dance. A romance develops between them, one forbidden by the human-hating ruler of the city, a synth called Warlord. How they can make a life together? And what would such a life mean?

Dustwalker asks questions about what we consider human and offers some potential answers. The plot points are neatly tied together: questions from the first half are resolved in thoughtful ways, including the villain's motivations. He's both abhorrent and sympathetic, and all of his actions make a twisted kind of sense. It's great when you can easily see yourself making the same choices the bad guys do.

The world of Dustwalker is captivating. The authors kept the scope small, so they could concentrate on the details. The reader gets a gritty picture of the desert that reminds them of Mad Max, but they won't miss anything if they're unfamiliar with that franchise. The world is a lot bigger than the action, and I'd love to know if there are other pockets of humanity or synths still alive, and what stories they would have to tell me.

Author/book site: Tiffany Roberts' books
This recommendation by Lee Koven.

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