Going into Brass Stars, I gotta admit: I had a few biases in the way of an objective read.
1. I know the author. Not exactly personally, but well enough to make she’s a killer author, creator and a lovely woman with fantastic style.
2. It’s a space opera. Points out the gate.
3. There’s a cyber-horse. Yes. A cyber-horse. Reminiscent of that gallant stallion from Vampire Hunter D (whose name escapes me if there is one?).
But let me say this: my trivial biases had very little weight on my judgment of this book. It was absolutely the book itself that left what I’m already going to assume is going to be an extremely lasting impression.
Simply? It. Was. Awesome. Yes. It was worthy of these fragmented sentences, because: wow.
I’ve read my fair share of novellas, or shorter books. I think I’ve reviewed a few even (prior to this), but none of them have had a punch like this. Fair warning: I’m probably going to beat a dead horse with how often I 1) state how good A. G. Carpenter’s Brass Stars is and 2) will make fighting references in my praise. That’s because it is really good, and the protagonist Tashndelu Sand leaves a bloody trail behind her. And I love her more for every body. Let me explain.
Tashndelu Sand has wandered the known universe on a mission of vengeance. She’s spent years tracking down the gang who murdered her mother. And, with the help of Snyder—a psychotic cyber-horse with an agenda of his own—she’s killed all but one: Brannigan.
Now she’s come to Paradise, a lonely town on a desert planet. Here, Brannigan rules with a new gang. Here, the graveyard is filled with the corpses of gunslingers who have tried, and failed, to kill him.
Get in, kill Brannigan, and get out. That’s the plan. And Tashn is determined to finish what she started. She’ll not be stopped: not by Brannigan’s army; not by her feelings for Johnny, an Extra sapien like her; not even by the darkness she sees in herself.
Tashndelu Sand aka Stars aka Scarred Heart of the High Sand is a tough woman. She’s intelligent, determined and ruthless. She’s also “multi-racial/(special?/species?).”And her mercilessness is one of her most admirable traits, if you ask me. Too often, when authors put women into these sort of situations (alone, on a mission, in conflict with domineering males), they make their leading ladies merciful. Because, I don’t know, it’s a virtue. And valued.
Well, I think some people don’t deserve mercy. And so does Sand–which made her my idol very quickly. Carpenter made her even more likable, however, as she painted a real woman, to her core: a person of wants, needs and a mission. All three of which she addresses accordingly, not allowing anyone and anything to get in her way. Even if it means losing the few precious people she’s started to care for, even if it means losing herself.
Carpenter does more than a commendable job detailing Sand, but she delineates all of her characters with care and it makes for an absorbing read.
She gives her settings and development as much care and precision as her characters, and that’s why reading this was a pure joy. It was an effortless read and I literally felt delight as the world unfolded before me. And each new hitch in the plan was just the perfect kick to the teeth.
In short? Gunslinging-take-no-sh!t-AND-no prisoners Lady Protagonist, space and desolation in desert planets, cyber-horses that house psycho killers, commentary of the stigma of mixed heritage, commentary on the far reach of misogyny (boundless) and commentary on the far reach of a woman (boundless).
Yes, it is pretty much totally splendid.
I agreed to read Brass Stars because I knew and enjoyed the work of the author. But I reviewed it glowingly because it really is a really good book. It was a welcome getaway with knife hard complications to revel in. And the resolutions to those complications, the resolution to the book was greatly satisfying, if bittersweet.
Carpenter can write. Really write. She’s the real deal. And Brass Stars is a quick and dirty way to get acquainted with her work before she totally blows up. Mm, SF-Western-yumminess. A very happy publishing day to you, Ms. Carpenter.