One of the best aspects of science fiction is how broad and adaptable it is as a genre. There aren’t all that many genres that are comfortable tossing disparate elements like spaceships and Old West style gunslingers together but science fiction straddles both in the most entertaining, creative ways. This week I’ll be reviewing a new series called Copperhead which is written by Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski and illustrates the genre’s versatility. Faerber and Godlewski have crafted a story which mixes the dangers of artificial intelligence, gunslingers, mining tycoons and a beleaguered law enforcement in a way that while not perfect is at least highly entertaining.
Copperhead opens with Clara Bronson and her young son Zeke arriving on a backwater desert planet. There are hints that a scandal in Clara’s past has forced her to accept the position of sheriff in the mining town of Copperhead and while she needs a fresh start, she isn’t exactly happy about it. Faerber doesn’t give her much time to dwell on it however as she’s almost immediately thrown into a family massacre, fights with the native alien population and a deputy named Budroxifinicus who is none too pleased that Clara got the position of sheriff over him.
Best of all, there’s an interesting element of tension between Boo and Clara as veterans of the war between Boo’s alien race and the humans that has only recently ended. This is exacerbated by the general distrust on both sides of the artificial intelligences that were created by the humans to fight the war. Some of the aforementioned AI have gone rogue since the end of the war and have been less than kind to their non-mechanical fellows.
The world building in Copperhead is well done but not its greatest strength. Faerber and Godlewski mix the gritty elements of classic western gunslingers and sheriffs and the science fiction androids and aliens together well but it’s basically tying together a lot of standard elements of both genres. So…not super original. Luckily the character development of both Clara and Boo was compelling enough that it’s not a glaring problem. Clara is a heroine that it’s all too easy to fall in love with. She’s tough, no nonsense and more than capable of taking care of herself. I loved that she struggled with balancing taking care of Zeke with doing her job as a peacekeeper in a way that felt believable and heartwarming. Any time that I get to have a smart, badass female lead, I am an extremely happy camper.
Boo was a surprise. I was expecting not to like him very much given his animosity towards Clara but his sarcasm and intelligent, resourceful nature made him a great match for her more hardened, take-no-shit attitude. The working relationship that developed between the two as they dealt with all the troubles that a frontier town can provide was really well done and kudos to Faerber for not just wrapping it up in a bow at the end of the volume. Some problems cannot be solved quickly and I’ll be very interested to see where Faerber takes these two in future issues.
Copperhead is a genre-bending story that hit all the right buttons for me. Clara is a fantastic example of a strong female protagonist and is well balanced by Boo and the other interesting side characters in the town. Copperhead is a strange mix of police procedural, western grittiness and all the alien and android glory of science fiction but somehow it just makes it that much more fun. It’s not one I’d recommend to everyone but if you enjoy that peculiar blend of science fiction and western, it’s definitely worth picking up!