Bite-size Books: Advanced Triggernometry

Book cover: Advanced Triggernometry - Stark HolbornWANTED FOR FOUL NUMERICAL ACTS

“Mad” Malago Browne has retired with a saddle-bag full of stolen gold, but she can’t resist a cry for help from across the border. Is she right to suspect the West is beginning to turn against the Capitol and its repressive regime?

Stark Holborn’s Triggernometry was one of 2020’s rare delights: a novella introducing an alternate Wild West in which economics is a dirty word and mathematicians (mathmos) are the most feared outlaws this side of the border. If you’re ready for a world of train jobs, posses and the violent application of mathematical instruments (if you didn’t bring a protractor to the gun fight, you’ve already lost it, you just don’t know it yet) then jump aboard – because Professor Browne is back and its time to ride. Advanced Triggernometry is a direct sequel – while you’ll get the gist if you dive in here, it works far better in context.

We find Browne living safely and quietly across the border as Mrs Gray the school mistress. She’s got a sackful of gold and some new scars, with every intention of keeping her head down and dropping out of sight. But the price of being one of the most wanted women in the West is that someone always seems to want something from you…

The women who come to beg her help do so with side-eye and a sneer. They’ve no love for mathmos – they wouldn’t let the likes of her teach their children, no sir – but a sore need for fighters who can help them resist the tyranny of their local Capitol representative. Browne isn’t initially inclined to sympathy – folk like these supported the rise of the new regime; they can wear the consequences of their choices – but she can’t resist the sliver of hope that people may be ready to start pushing back against the Capitol. The challenge is finding enough mathmos who share her optimism and are willing to face down Sheriff Austin and his men.

Where Triggernometry was a classic heist (what’s a western without a train job), Advanced Triggernometry channels The Magnificent Seven then delivers the tongue-in cheek joy of both a recruitment and a training montage as well as a daring rescue from a lynch mob and an epic shoot-out. Stark Holborn leans into familiar settings and tropes with panache, but there’s sly commentary in the on-point world-building too: the villain is a former entertainer who rose to prominence for discrediting mathematicians back when their stock in trade was still theorems rather than violence. A society that has been manipulated by corrupt men into brutally rejecting reason – along with any experts who might challenge the discourse – is disturbingly familiar…

I looked down at my hands, remembering the headlines, the creeping, awful way in which the things we had laughed at and dismissed as lunacy became reality.

If Advanced Triggernometry doesn’t fill in all the blanks in the dystopian world-building, the additional details are intriguing. It also underscores that people of any gender, colour and disposition may be a mathmo, and opens up exciting possibilities for future instalments. This is both a good and a bad thing: good because hell yes I want to read more tales of Malago Browne and the mathmos; bad only in so far as this sequel felt like a bridge to a bigger showdown with the Capitol – the rapid expansion in cast didn’t give the new characters much room to breathe in between the beats of the fast-moving plot. It’s a minor criticism: Advanced Triggernometry was highly entertaining, and I happily recommend this series as a diversion in between meatier reads.

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. ADVANCED TRIGGERNOMETRY is released today via Amazon or direct from Stark Holborn.