In a century-long cryonic sleep, while waiting for research to develop a cure for eplasia, two clones were made of bounty hunter Jefferson Nighthawk, known as The Widowmaker. The purpose of these clones was to provide the capital needed to maintain Nighthawk's slumber until he could be cured. Mike Resnick detailed the short life of the first clone in The Widowmaker and the more successful second clone in Widowmaker Reborn. Now, in Widowmaker Unleashed, he turns his attention to the recently cured Jefferson Nighthawk. All Nighthawk wants to do is settle on a quiet planet, plant flowers and live as a 62 year old retiree. He is followed to this Eden by Ito Kinoshita, the lawman who trained both Nighthawk's clones and who views himself as the self-appointed sidekick to the Widowmaker. Although Nighthawk's retirement starts well enough, it isn't long before the enemies made by his two clones track him down and destroy the idyllic rest he had been looking forward to.
Even as he protests that he is no longer the Widowmaker, Nighthawk mustuse the skills he honed as a bounty hunter to protect his own life and those of the people he has grown close to. Throughout the earlier books, Resnick explored the issue of identity as both clones tried to figure out who they were in the face of an existing Widowmaker. Now, the original Widowmaker must come to terms with the fact that his own identity is as much a result of the way the universe views him, and his clones, as it is of his own appraisal.
As is often the case in Resnick's novels, the science fictional elements in Widowmaker Unleashed are a minor part of the story. The planets Nighthawk travels to have more in common with the small towns of theAmerican west than with globe-spanning civilizations of much science fiction. Resnick's Galaxy is filled with bounty hunters, outlaws, lawmen and similar roles taken straight out of a Gary Cooper film. This highlights the universality of the themes Resnick tackles as the reader realizes they can be applied to any fictional genre, and, therefore, are easily applicable to life.
While Widowmaker Unleashed does not stand on its own as well as theprevious novels, it can be read individually or as a coda to the earlier novels in the sequence. Both the characters and themes build on those Resnick has already established. Resnick has written a highly entertaining series which provides a thorough look at the meaning of self-identity.