Coilhunter by Dean F. Wilson
Review by Michael Evan
I am a massive fan of the work Dean Wilson has created with Coilhunter, and the first book in the series introduces his unique world and characters and sets the stage for some groundbreaking and unique storytelling.
On the surface, the novel takes place in a dystopian steampunk world in The Wild North, more or less a wasteland full of wanted criminals. At the start, we find The Coilhunter, in true Western fashion, hunting bad guys (complete with classic western trope names like Old Mad Jack) on Wanted posters and serving his own form of vigilante quick draw justice.
As the novel progresses we learn that Nox, as the titular MC begins being referred to as, has a tragic backstory that leads him to his lonely life as a feared bounty hunter. There is a secret hidden with the buried corpse of an old friend and he’ll stop at nothing to solve the mystery ,achieve justice and finally allow himself to be at peace.
Aside from the incredible descriptions of the world , specifically the technology (Nox drives a circular Monowheel which simply needs to find its way to film), what makes the novel brilliant is the way each chapter brings us further in to the mind of it’s anti-hero. The stereotypical cowboy vigilante of the first chapter becomes a philosophical three dimensional character, who constantly questions his choices, his lifestyle, and his entire self concept. Where other fictional vigilantes allow their tragedy to envelope them completely in their Grimdark quest, Wilson’s Coilhunter, is unable to prevent the kindness he possessed in his former life from seeping in to his interactions. He struggles with his reputation as a feared killer, the desire to be decent and just, and his selfish want to complete his personal quest and be left alone.
Then there is the action. Oh the glory of the Monowheel chases, the shoot em ups, and the desert monster fights. These are a pulp lover’s dream come true. Wilson is clearly a film lover and he’s perfectly juggled the quiet nuanced character moments with massive blockbuster action sequences. It was hard not to hear a John Williams score while reading them.
Coilhunter was a lot of fun to read. It was entirely different than just about any speculative fiction I’ve read of late. It is far from a comedic story, though at times, Wilson’s narrative reminded me of Hunter S Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, and the quirky and more abstract sections found me laughing and wanting to capture quotes as there were so many memorable ones.
There’s no doubt that after reading this novel you will need to devour the other books in the series, and if you’re like me you’ll be holding out hope that this amazing series will one day make it to the big screen.