I wanted so much more from this little dusty sketch of the dystopian west. It had a helluva hook – outlaw lesbians! Gun-slinging sisters-in-resistance! Non-binary action heroes! Unfortunately, it ground to a halt far short of its potential destination.
It begins as all westerns do: someone hanging taut at the end of a rope. There are western tropes a-plenty; rough-riding, chaw-spitting, howdy pardnering, thankya kindly ma’ams litter the landscape. This wild west is wild for a different reason, though: we’re in a thinly plotted dystopia. Men = the law, women = servants, learning = death. There’s a war somewhere, there’s a girl on the run, there’s a jilted groom standing by the hangman.
Want more details? Yeah, so do I! This novella feels more like a prestige TV pitch than a full story; time moves jerkily; sometimes we’ve been on the road a day, sometimes it’s weeks, but there’s no difference in character or setting from which to draw your bearings. The characters could be cool; lesbian librarians-in-arms, non-binary love interests, and smarmy assassins abound, but they are just hollow shells. Motivations are muddy, personalities bend based on the needs of the scene, and our lead either knows absolutely nothing or is an expert in everything- sometimes within the same sentence.
One could say this is the story of a woman finding herself, using her voice, and escaping the patriarchy; it could be on a poster or a t-shirt; but that’s all it is. An empty matter of fact instead of a real tale of power, desire, and strength. There’s plenty of blood, but it’s all for show. No hot blood runs through the veins of this piece, no matter how much folksy slang, blatant flirtation, or quick and dire violence spatters the page. It’s by no means bad; just a little blah. It could have been a rollicking adventure, but it was just another tumbleweed.
This marks another Bingo on my talley; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, and Violet. I finished the rainbow with a rainbow-friendly piece; it’s just too bad these characters didn’t get to live beyond their by-the-numbers outlines!