Friday, January 15, 2021

"Corporate Gunslinger"

Doug Engstrom has been a farmer's son, a US Air Force officer, a technical writer, a computer support specialist, and a business analyst, as well as being a writer of speculative fiction. He lives near Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Catherine Engstrom.

Engstrom applied the Page 69 Test to his 2020 novel, Corporate Gunslinger, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chloe exited Simulator Thirty-Seven, her face stoic. For the hundredth and final match of her qualification series, her mech managed a 62-point shot to her lower chest, while she’d administered only a 27-point shoulder graze in return. The loss hurt in the battle for class rank, but Chloe’s sixtieth Qualification Week victory on Thursday had already assured her future as a TKC gunfighter.

Kira greeted her at the edge of the simulator field. “Hey, you’re done!”

Chloe rubbed a spot on her lower ribcage. For the qualification, the shock suits administered little more than a hard tickle, but the irritation could persist. “I thought I had it until it turned.” She looked back to the field, where the mech had already assumed the start position, and the next trainee verified his holster settings with an instructor. “Damn, those things are fast. The turn block is loose, though. It overshot when it brought the gun around and couldn’t zero in fast enough. That’s what saved my butt.”

“Thanks, that’s good to know.”
Is page 69 a good representation of Corporate Gunslinger? No.

Partially because it is a chapter start page, and therefore short, the test misleads by making the book sound far more technical than it is, and overstating Chloe’s role relative to Kira, who is the main character. However, I like the way it highlights Chloe’s role and her relationship with Kira.

Corporate Gunslinger is the story of Kira Clark, a young woman in the near-future United States who has mortgaged her freedom to finance her education. Facing foreclosure, which would allow her creditors to control every aspect of her life, Kira takes a large signing bonus to enroll in gunfighter training, where she learns to represent TKC Insurance in the duels that have become the final, fatal stop in the American judicial system. The chapter takes place at the very end of training, as Chloe and Kira are trying to pass their final simulator duels against training robots and earn a high class ranking.

Technology is incidental to the story, serving mainly to remind the reader that, “we’re in the future, and they do things differently here.” Though it tackles themes of violence and corporate power, the story is anchored by the friendships between its main characters—KIra, her best friend and roommate Chloe Rossi, and their trainer, Diana Reynolds. Though Kira is the most important character, Chloe isn’t just a sidekick who exists to serve Kira’s needs. Chloe has her own aspirations, concerns, and adventures, and she and Kira have a warm, mutually supportive relationship. I’m pleased that you can see a little bit of Chloe’s story on page 69.
Visit Doug Engstrom's website.

--Marshal Zeringue