Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2016)

The old crew went their separate ways, built new lives, and tried to forget the last job. Years later, the Captain tracks down and recruits each of his old compatriots for a new job that will make up for the last one, and maybe uncover the traitor who sold them out.

The Builders is a gritty, violent, dark western with a cast of anthropomorphized animals, which you might be tempted to think as cute, but you’d be wrong. For a novella-length story, the plot is surprisingly fast-paced, and those pages turn even faster with extremely short chapters. The nonlinear structure unfolds the tale behind the previous job without slowing down the present-day revenge momentum. The archetypal characters capture the essence of a classic spaghetti western, and combined with the ultra-violent modern action scenes, The Builders is straightforwardly entertaining.

The author himself refers to this novella as a “one-note joke”, which rings surprisingly true. The too-large cast of characters (which require almost half of the book to introduce/recruit each one) are largely unmemorable and unsurprising. The shrew is shrewd; the mole is a mole; the rat is a rat. Character motivations are simple; plot reveals are expected. I appreciate this story for what it is — but the lack of plot novelty and character connections is not for me.

Recommended as a short fast-paced action story for fans of the western genre, snarky one-liner humor, and a dark, gruff, and rough leader (who also happens to be a mouse).

“I wonder if you’re fast as they say,” Bessie Weasel chirruped, her hand slowly straying toward the belt.
“Wondering is free,” Cinnabar said finally, his voice soft and low. “Certainty has its price”.”