Review: ‘Buffalo Soldier’ by Maurice Broaddus

Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus
Tor (April 2017)

144 pages, $9.57 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

So, we’ve got Desmond Coke, right? He’s a former James Bondian spy (full of all the expected baddass, class and Dapper Dan style that goes with the title) who found out a little too much. There’s also this boy, Lij Tafari, stuck at the center of the “too much” I just mentioned. They strike off from their home to find a place where the boy can live a normal life in peace, without being the pawn of political figureheads.

So far, Buffalo Soldier comes across as a fairly standard beach read. However, when it is thrown into a quasi-steampunk, alternate recent history where Britain won the revolutionary war, Jamaica is a major world power and several Native American tribes managed to garner enough of a hold on technology to carve out their own chunk of the middle of the country, you have something a bit different. Add in Broaddus’ trademark charm and characters which stand more than a bit outside of the norm, that something becomes a thing of beauty.

As someone who doesn’t usually like steampunk, I appreciate Broaddus’ focus on character and action over a fixation on gadgets and overt world-building. Also, it plays out more like a western. It’s a story of people finding out what matters to them and holding the line when that thing is threatened. It’s pretty damn awesome, really. Also, Lij comes across as someone with autism spectrum disorder, but Maurice avoids that stupid “autism is a superpower” crap the bugs me to no end.

The one downside is a pretty big one, though. It doesn’t feel like a whole story to me. More like the first third. Desmond has solidified his sense of purpose, Lij is starting to show a sense of himself and Cayt finds her own position as the forefront baddie. It’s a wonderful start, but that is where we leave off.

In the end, Buffalo Soldier makes for a great read, but you’ll likely be left wanting to know where it all goes from here.

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