cover image Corporate Gunslinger

Corporate Gunslinger

Doug Engstrom. Harper Voyager, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-289768-8

Engstrom’s promising debut offers a stark, dystopian vision of a near-future American Midwest in which debt slavery is commonplace and livestreamed gunfights are a popular form of entertainment. Former actor Kira Clark accepts a sponsorship from TKC Insurance Company to duel civilians on live TV to avoid defaulting on her student loans and resigning herself to a life of debt slavery. Kira adopts a cold, composed persona in her gunfights, but outside the arena she’s kind-hearted and loyal, if gradually becoming more unstable. At her side are her best friend, Chloe Rossi, and her mentor, Diana Reynolds, who support Kira through all of her highs and lows. The violence is never glorified as Kira’s surprising empathy makes her easy to root for. Scattered flash-forwards reveal that Kira makes it through the competition to the final duel, leaving only the question of whether she’ll overcome her nerves and guilt to outwit her fiercest competitor. The gunfights become repetitive over time, weighing down Engstrom’s grim, intelligent examination of the American debt crisis. Still, fans of insightful dystopias will find plenty to enjoy. Agent: Danielle Burby, Nelson Literary. (June)