Don’t let the title of the book Earthbound by Adam Lewinson fool you. Even with the shadowed figure from the old west on the cover, readers still might think it’s a space saga about being in-route and “bound” for good ol’ terra forma. But on the inside, it is more about two young men struggling to survive in a ravaged world with their dreams directed more toward the mocking stars in the sky. It doesn’t take long for readers to discover that the word ”bound” means restrained rather than destined.
Earthbound is a multifaceted story that is difficult to pin down to just one specific genre. It’s promoted as a futuristic western akin to “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.” But the appearance of an army of killer robots lends more toward a Steampunk adventure. All the while, the backstory gives credence to the classic science fiction audience as the narrator explains how the rest of the human race had escaped the planet before the effects of a destructive supernova. Mix in a little mystery and romance, and you have an exciting adventure that is difficult to put down.
With the planet’s resources all but dried up in our distant future and those lucky enough to escape the planet are long gone, a handful of remaining souls struggle to live on an Earth that is slowly drawn back into simpler times reminiscent of the old west. Small towns are left scattered across the dying plains and the once thriving big cities are now crumbling monuments of a distant past – mere husks of sad memories.
Once again, gunpowder and greed rule the land and the fine line between law enforcement and tyranny is as blurry as the dust in the air. The story has the feel of a classic western with just enough action to keep the adventure flowing while the mystery behind the robots in pursuit of them helps keep the reader’s curiosity thriving for more.
Asher and Pace are an unlikely pair of bandits who start out as rivals. But after some unfortunate twists, the two soon band together to become the most notorious outlaws around. It doesn’t take long for them to discover the vulnerabilities of small town banks and their unique knack for breaking into them. But when the banks start fighting back with mysterious technology that didn’t even exist when the planet thrived long ago, they are forced to change their tactics if they want to stay ahead of the law.
The story is absorbing and all around fun, but the strength of Earthbound comes from the well-crafted characters that Lewinson has created.
Our narrator Asher was struggling to make ends meet in the small town of Great Falls. Orphaned at an early age, he has grown into an ill-tempered brawny young man who’s most significant skills come from his fists and his guns. Fighting his own demons as well as anyone else who challenges him, Asher learns that the only way to get what he wants is to take it.
Pace is the well-to-do son of the town’s banker who is a self-proclaimed ladies’ man and the envy of his pears. After his father’s death, he soon experiences the vulnerability of those he had previously looked down upon. But instead of falling victim to those who were like him, he takes his knowledge of banks and turns it against them.
The relationship between Asher and Pace is both complex and endearing as both try to control their own destiny. But the most dangerous element in both of their lives turns out to be the girl Becca. Working in the local saloon, she is the town’s most eligible bachelorette. Both Asher and Pace are interested in her, but the more she gets drawn into their outlaw world, the more out of reach she becomes. She is the proverbial fly in the ointment and a difficult character to like as she taunts our heroes and remains just out of reach.
The only fault in Earthbound comes when the narration occasionally strays from literary norm and starts to read like a staged script. Written as the narrator’s recollection from six months earlier, the storytelling is most successful when it reads like a memoir. But though it happens infrequently, the story tends to lose its veracity when we are taken to important scenes of action, only to be told by the narrator, ”More on that in a second.” Unreliable narrators are excepted points of view, but being left hanging by teasing narrators is not.
Earthbound is Adam Lewinson’s first published novel, but most likely not his last. Any work that varies in genre’ such as this will be a welcomed addition to numerous fandom member’s libraries. If you’re looking for a solid work of science fiction, mystery, romance, western and even a hint of space adventure, this just might do the trick. Luckily, the author has provided us with tight wrapped story and a satisfying conclusion, but there is still a hint of hope that we just might see our heroes once again somewhere down that dusty trail. Or if we’re real lucky, we might even hear from those who escaped to the stars, returning, and “bound” for Earth.