Guns of Seneca 6 (Chamber 1), by Bernard Schaffer
“The Old West Rises Again.
Get read for this trailblazing, gun-slinging, high-octane adventure of the Old West set on a distant planet in outer space. It’s full of bandits and natives, killers and lawmen, all set around a colony mining settlement called Seneca 6.
For years, peace was kept by Sheriff Sam Clayton, until the fateful day he ventured into the wastelands to confront the planet’s native people, Beothuk. Now, twenty years later, an intergalactic Marshal has crash landed there while transporting one of the galaxy’s most ruthless, despicable criminals. It is only a matter of time before his brother, Little Willy Harpe, arrives to murder the Marshal and kill everyone and everything he finds inside Seneca 6.
A cast of characters readers will immediately feel familiar with rally to battle the invaders, including Jem Clayton, the Sheriff’s son, and legendary scoundrel, Doctor Royce Henry Halladay. Together, they’ll make a stand against the Harpe Gang and their weapon of unholy power.”
I was invited to review the first in the Guns of Seneca 6 series by the author and I’m grateful to him for doing so as I might not otherwise have tried it, which would have been a mistake.
The reason for my initial reticence was my unfamiliarity and frankly lack of fondness for the Western genre. The extent of my knowledge is drawn from Clint, snatches of facts unavoidably picked up over the years, that TOS episode where Kirk and co are mysteriously forced to act out a Western scenario as the Claytons, oh and of course Back to the Future Part III (let’s not talk about a Fistful of Datas). So as you can see, no great love for the Western here.
That being said I am a massive sci-fi fan, so cowboys in space? Might just work, I thought, and it does – at least for me.
The story is solid and the characters are well drawn. What I thought was done particularly well was the neat mixture of space and the good ‘ole dusty Western border town. Seneca 6 certainly fulfils the latter part, with just enough of it alien to do the job of the former with a few spaceships and off planet scenes thrown in. Most of the action though takes place on the planet, which is compelling enough to hold the reader, and we get to meet the various citizens who live the border town/cowboy lifestyle. In particular there are the Claytons and a Doc Halliday. The one thing I did wonder is if true Western fans might be irked by the use of familiar names, kind of like I might be if Kirk or Picard and co were names used in a sit-com – but it of course didn’t bother me here, if anything adding to the Western feel for me; that being said I do fervently hope Star Trek the comedy never comes to pass.
I thought the narrative of the Guns of Seneca 6 flowed well, developing the themes and characters of the story as it went along, and it held up nicely as we headed to the inevitable climactic stand-off. While I did find the discovery made by Jem to be a little obvious – but then I do tend to be the spoiler of many films with my “oh, I bet …” comments – overall I found the story believable and the key characters eminently likeable, particularly Jem Clayton. While they sometimes teetered on the edge of precipitous cliché, overall I felt the characterisations struck the right balance. The only thing that did jar a little for me was the ‘powerful weapon’. I didn’t think it sat that well in the narrative or was that necessary. I can see how it helped with certain points in the tale but I think that these could have been achieved in other, less incongruous ways. With my sci-fi six gallon on it was certainly an interesting concept but for me an underdeveloped one, almost a non sequitur, which led it for me to seem out-of-place.
All of that being said I did thoroughly enjoy the story and found it easy to root for the good guys against the bad guys. As I’ve already said I thought the mix of genres was handled well and as a non-Western fan the characters were able to pull me in and hold me. Well done Mr Schaffer, now reach for the skies…
I’d give the Guns of Seneca 6 (Chamber 1) an upbeat four and a half.
Get it on Amazon now.