Dead Reckoning, by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill (Bloomsbury, June 2012, YA) is a science fictional story of zombies in Victorian Texas, raised from the dead by a megalomaniac madman, and three unlikely comrades who ally themselves against him.
These three are Jett Gallatin, a girl from New Orleans passing for a young man (her ability to shoot straight helps her disguise considerably), Honoria Gibbons, a young woman with an extremely rational mind, whose steam powered vehicle provides a dash of steampunk to the story, and White Fox, a white man raised among the Meskwaki, and now working as a scout for the army. Honoria and and White Fox have both come separately to west Texas to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances; Jett meets them while escaping from one of the disappearances while it is happening. She got to witness an entire town (albeit a small one) engulfed by zombies.
And so the three of them put their disparate skills--science, gun slinging, and scouting-- to work to crack the case of the zombie attacks. There is a Dark Plot afoot, that must be stopped lest the zombies, and the evil mastermind whose minions they are, takes over not just Texas but the whole of the wild west!
Now, I am not, in general, a fan of zombies or of stories set in the wild west, but Dead Reckoning went to show that my biases are set in sand, not stone--I ended up enjoying this one. My enjoyment came not so much from the characters, who, though not uninteresting, tended somewhat to slightly exaggerated types rather than sympathetic, real, people. Instead, and this took me somewhat by surprise, I was really interested in the plot--from whence came these zombies, and how were they going to be stopped? It was a fast, undemanding read--good for summer time leisure, not desperately powerful in the Horror of it all, but disturbing enough to be engrossing.
Essentially, it seemed to me a collection of fun elements (like the steampunk vehicle--no real Need for it, but diverting), strung together in a "look, here's the next exciting bit!" way. The female characters had lots of agency (good), I didn't find the "white dude raised by Native Americans" as objectionable as I might have (although I have some doubts viz stereotypes, the fact that all three of the main characters are exaggerated makes it hard to figure out if they are worthy doubts).* Although I still won't be looking actively for wild west zombie science fiction, I was quite happy to read this one! And would probably pick up a sequel, if one emerged....
*(off topic rambling). For instance, Honoria knows White Fox was raised by Native Americans because he walks toe-heel. Is this, I asked myself, a stereotype, or is it a valid observation? Much research and experimental walking later, I have concluded that the "toe" part is a misnomer (not Honoria's fault, just terminology), and "ball of foot first" is a much better way to say it, and quite possible that was how people who don't wear hard-soled shoes walk. Although I don't think you can walk that way if, like White Fox, you are in fact wearing boots. At least, I couldn't. "Barefoot runners" says the website of the Society for Barefoot Living, " very quickly learn not to do heel strikes because of the transient forces created." I am now wary of transient forces.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher