Author: R.S. Belcher
5 out of 5 stars
Book Info: Genre: Weird Western
Reading Level: Adult (although one of the main characters, Jim, is 15 and his coming-of-age is part of the story, I still think it's more of an adult story)
Recommended for: Fans of Lovecraftian literature, Weird Westerns, urban Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, domestic violence against wife and daughter, slavery (during the part set prior to the civil war)
Animals Injured: Horse injures leg badly, had to push on through desert with no water for days (she's okay); two coyotes killed after they attack
My Thoughts: While at DragonCon 2013, I spent a good bit of time in the dealers' rooms looking at books and talking to authors. One of the books I noticed was The Six-Gun Tarot, a steampunk-influenced Weird Western with strong Lovecraftian ties. As it turned out, the author—R.S. Belcher—was there at the time and took a few moments to talk to me about the book. While I didn't buy a copy right then (as I've been spending profligately enough and my bag was full to bursting), I did note it and put it onto my wishlist as soon as I came home that night. Finally I picked it up this winter with some of the many gift certificates various friends sent me to help cheer me up after my cancer diagnosis.
Some of the imagery in this is pretty amazing (especially the Lovecraftian bits), like this rant from a madman:
“You don't know what they do up there on that mountain, do you, Sheriff? It's tossing and turning. It eats the heart of the world, like a worm burrowing an apple! Maybe the preacher's right and my faith is just shivering, weak—is it wrong for me to try to keep them from hollowing me out from inside? I should just blow all of you stupid bastards back to Kingdom Come, while it's still there! Before they burn down Heaven and feast on the corpse. Maybe we should all die now, better that way!”Then we have Gran Bonny, whose ideas are blasphemous and often extremely funny, like this one:
“Guns are like men—only useful for a little while. They can go off at a moment's notice when you don't want them to and they make a lot of damn fool noise doing it.”The blasphemous part comes here:
“The tyrant-father of Heaven, the one who created, hated and drove out the first woman, yoked men with a horrible curse, far worse than any imagined to have been handed down to Eve. Men were told they were masters of this world, of their mates, of the beasts and fish, of the land and sea and sky. How ridiculous! That's like telling a little boy he's in charge of the house when his da is gone. It's silly!I really like the use of Lilith in the history of this world, and the idea of the Load. I wish we had spent more time with Gran Bonny, heard more of her stories. That would actually be a pretty cool spin-off series—give us Gran Bonny's life story! But I digress...
"And like that little boy, men have tried to live up to the unreasonable demands of their mute, wayward, celestial father. They have enslaved and dominated, conquered and killed, all in the name of shepherding, of protecting, of ruling the world. They spend their lives trying to do what they think is right, what their father on high would want of them. The bastard.”
As I said, I really liked how Lilith is presented in this book, and the handing down of Her secret purpose (the Load) over the generations as protectors of the Earth and the Mother. “I am the Mother's blade, the Mother's wrath... You have poisoned her, raped her and her children. Left her to die. Now you will suffer, you will die.” Really hardcore stuff, you know?
This is set in Nevada shortly after the Civil War. There is (of course) a lot of strife with the Native American peoples, and the Mormon/Latter Day Saints were a fairly new religion. Most of the more wealthy people who live in Golgotha in the book are Mormons, and I was startled by how much and how often most of the ones we spend any time with in the story drank. The only character who paid any respect to the rules was Sarah, who offered Harry coffee, even though it was a sin. My understanding is that Mormons are not supposed to drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke, or otherwise pollute their bodies with drugs of any kind. That doesn't necessarily mean that is what happens, of course, but a lot of the drinking was being done by fairly high-ranking and prominent individuals and it surprised me that they didn't at least try to hide it. While this is the first book in the series, events from the past are frequently referred to (and I hope someday the author will write some of these prequels). It is also obvious that people who live in Golgotha are aware of the weirdness and danger in the area, especially the sheriff. Check out his armory:
“He [Jon] cleaned and oiled the collection of rifles, scatterguns and pistols that were caged in iron bars behind his desk. He also made sure the other objects locked in the gun cage—wooden stakes, silver bullets, various Indian and Chinese charms and amulets, a crucifix and several vials of holy water, blessed by the Holy Father himself all the way from Rome—were all in equally good condition.As you can see, Jon is ready for just about anything the town can throw at him, and I for one would love to know some of the stories of how and why.
Fans of Lovecraftian stories, Weird Westerns, and urban fantasies should enjoy this book. I really enjoyed reading it; it held me engrossed right to the end, and I highly recommend it to anyone who might be interested.
Series Information: Golgotha Series
Book 1: The Six-Gun Tarot
Book 2: The Shotgun Arcana, expected publication October 7, 2014 by Tor
Disclosure: I bought this book for myself after seeing it and talking to the author about it at DragonCon last fall. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: Buffy meets Deadwood in a dark, wildly imaginative historical fantasy
Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.
A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn… and so will all of Creation.