Nope, we’re not in Kansas anymore, or Wichita for that matter. We’re in New Halchita, not much more than a carbuncle on the back of the western plains. The dusty little town would have gone completely unnoticed for another century had it not been for the visitation of the “giant cast-iron cockroach the Martian (if that’s what it was) rode in on.”
Author Jonathan Eaton’s novels are not “your grandfather’s westerns,” as his later books, A Good Man for an Outlaw and Outlaws and Worse, so definitively prove. The Prairie Martian is no exception. Told with Eaton’s droll, pitch-black humor, it’s the story of a Martian who calls herself “Nancy,” come to earth for God-knows-what reason. But this is post-apocalyptic earth in the 25th century, still recovering from the great war (the GIW, but no one can remember what the letters stand for). It is earth like the mid-1800’s, before electronic technology, because orbiting high overhead are the last bitter words of advanced civilization: “lagamachies”—satellites programmed to obliterate any trace of higher technology.
Presiding over this Grand Guignol is Sheriff Frank Westfall, former “tick-juicer” (Oh, Mr. Eaton, what nightmares you must suffer!). For those of us old enough to remember, think James Arness, only taller.
Author Eaton draws us in with his lean, understated prose. The story is engaging, even thrilling at times, the world-building convincing, and the characters memorable. I give it a very enthusiastic thumbs-up.
A note to my friends: I’ll be interviewing Jonathan Eaton in my November newsletter, and he is every bit as entertaining as his novels! If you haven’t subscribed yet, please use this link. And by all means share the link with your friends so we can grow our group. No spam, no clutter!