Review – Corporate Gunslinger: A Novel by Doug Engstrom
Advance Review Copy Details
- Title: Corporate Gunslinger
- Author: Doug Engstrom
- Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
- Source: Edelweiss
- Publisher: Harper Voyage
- Publication Date: 16 June 2020
- Format: Kindle
- Duration/Number of Pages: 320
The cover hooked me straight away, swiftly followed by the slogan ‘Greed means debt means violence’ . The synopsis was the icing on the cake. I immediately knew I had to get a copy and read it as soon as possible.
Like many Americans in the middle of the 21st century, aspiring actress Kira Clark is in debt. She financed her drama education with loans secured by a “lifetime services contract.” If she defaults, her creditors will control every aspect of her life. Behind on her payments and facing foreclosure, Kira reluctantly accepts a large signing bonus to become a corporate gunfighter for TKC Insurance. After a year of training, she will take her place on the dueling fields that have become the final, lethal stop in the American legal system.
Putting her MFA in acting to work, Kira takes on the persona of a cold, intimidating gunslinger known as “Death’s Angel.” But just as she becomes the most feared gunfighter in TKC’s stable, she’s severely wounded during a duel on live video, shattering her aura of invincibility. A series of devastating setbacks follow, forcing Kira to face the truth about her life and what she’s become.
When the opportunity to fight another professional for a huge purse arises, Kira sees it as a chance to buy a new life . . . or die trying.
Structured around a chilling duel, Corporate Gunslinger is a modern satire that forces us to confront the growing inequalities in our society and our penchant for guns and bloodshed, as well as offering a visceral look at where we may be heading—far sooner than we know. Goodreads
I read Corporate Gunslinger whilst making a work day return trip. Every moment that I wasn’t moving (tube, train, plane and taxi) I was reading this book. I was hooked, reading it in one day starting at 6am and finishing around 10pm.
Before I started reading it, my assumption was Corporate Gunslinger was likely to be similar to those worlds where savage entertainment is eagerly devoured by the populous to divert their attention from the misery and restriction in their lives, in the vein of Westworld, Roller Ball and The Hunger Games, et al.
So it was no surprise that it did hark back to the feel of gladiatorial games. A fully realised world, with a range of characters who neatly illustrated the scope of the rules, regulations and society at large. It is a polished rendition, more than an entertaining read. This is a slick world, with the worse aspects of our current century front an centre.
Corporate Gunslinger seems so very timely about the power of corporations and overwhelming debt. Insurance companies already use small print to deny claims, thus it’s no stretch to imagine the possibility that they would eventually utilise skilled killers to ensure they don’t have to pay out. In no way does it seem strange that gunfighting is part of the American legal system.
I became emotionally invested in this tale of Kira an aspiring actress who took her last autonomous option to become a gunslinger to pay down her debt rather than becoming an indentured slave. The Coronavirus, makes it even more relevant – this pandemic is changing the economy on a daily basis and making people unemployed and driving them into debt.
What will they be reduced to – forced to do – to address their circumstances.
The questions it raised are eerily applicable to today
- How can you get into debt for wanting to better yourself?
- Why the push to a college education if it doesn’t result in a job?
- Why can’t you get ahead when you try so hard.?
- How can you work full time and still not have anything to show for it?
What came through clearly was the helplessness of not being able to make a difference, how it was almost futile to try to go up against big corporations. And the demoralising effects of looking at your life and seeing all the steps, maybe mistakes taken that brought you to this situation. But this is mitigated by the those who do take up the challenge to make a change, no matter how small to show that they are not crushed by life in this speculative world.
I apologise for making it sound depressing because Corporate Gunslinger is not, it is factual, illuminating and shows Kira trying and making a difference despite her awful situation. Doug Engstrom has written a book about a world which enthralled, characters that spoke to me and a plot that gave me all the feels.
Thank you for keeping me engaged on a long journey and reminding me to look out for compound interest. It goes without saying, this is my book of the month for March 2020.
My thanks to Edelweiss and Harper Voyage for a digital advance review copy in return for a candid review.
4 Stars – Really Liked It