Book Review: The Big Empty

     

THE BIG EMPTY
by
LOREN C. STEFFY

Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
Number of Pages: 304 pages 

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When Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.

Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind. 

Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.

What neither man anticipates is the power the "Big Empty" will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.

PRAISE FOR THE BIG EMPTY:
“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”  
The Epoch Times

"Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.” 
— Southern Review of Books


To kick-off this review, I want to talk about the topic. The whole big corporate tech company coming to small-town Texas is very relevant right now. There are numerous tech companies moving their headquarters to Texas, mainly Austin, but I'm sure there are others putting stakes into smaller rural towns. I think the author does a great job of portraying how everyone feels about the big company, AzTech, going into the small town. He gets in the perspective of the townspeople, who have a both yes and no approach to AzTech. On one hand, their small town gets a chance to survive and bring business for them and their children. On the other hand, they lose a part of what makes their way of living unique and they lose their values in some form. We see the toggle between the two through our characters and their opinions. We also are invited to see inside the how the people of the companies feel about moving to a rural town and their apprehensions and hopes about it all.

This segways into our two main characters, Blaine Witherspoon and Trace Malloy. They are two sides of the same coin. They're both passionate about what they do, but they're two opposite personalities. Blaine is a vegan environmentalist from California, while Malloy is a meat-eater rancher from small-town Texas. Our author does a great job colliding the two and seeing the different points of view from our two main characters. I am from the city through and true, and there were some instances where I felt like I would react how Blaine would react to certain situations in the book, such as wearing a helmet when horseback riding. I enjoyed seeing not only these two personalities interact but also the townspeople and how they interact and talk about the "homies" (city people).
 
I also enjoyed the setting of the whole book. If you're not from a small town, we get a glimpse into small-town life and how everyone interacts with each other. Again, not from a small town, so I found the setting to be especially intriguing. I'm curious to see if the small town that our author pictures for us is in fact how it is, with a hospital being in the next town over and whatnot. Our author is pretty well-versed, so I'm sure it's as accurate as he could get it to be.

Overall, I found myself immersed in the story and enjoyed reading the life and times of the small town of Conquistador and its change. It was an enjoyable read with equally diverse characters whose interactions you'll enjoy. Thank you for reading my review! Until next time, Happy Reading!





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Loren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.

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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY, 
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11/15/21

Author Video

Chapter Break Book Blog

11/15/21

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

11/15/21

BONUS Promo

LSBBT Blog

11/16/21

Review

The Book's Delight

11/16/21

BONUS Promo

Hall Ways Blog

11/17/21

Excerpt

All the Ups and Downs

11/17/21

Guest Post

The Page Unbound

11/18/21

Review

The Plain-Spoken Pen

11/19/21

Review

Jennie Reads

11/19/21

Excerpt

Book Fidelity

11/20/21

Review

It's Not All Gravy

11/21/21

Deleted Scene

Forgotten Winds

11/22/21

Review

Rainy Days with Amanda

11/22/21

Guest Post

Missus Gonzo

11/23/21

Playlist

The Clueless Gent

11/24/21

Review

Bibliotica

11/24/21

Review

Reading by Moonlight



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Comments

  1. I love how the book felt so real for you and that the setting piqued your curiosity. Great review & vlog (& bookstagram)!

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