Thursday, June 26, 2014

@AuthorRSBelcher #Review of #ARC THE SHOTGUN ARCANA by R.S. Belcher

The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Weird Western
Reading Level: Adult
Diversity: GLBTQ characters, various religions, interracial relationships
Tense, Person, POV: Past tense, third person, limited POV
Recommended for: Fans of Weird Westerns, Lovecraftian books, steampunk
Book Available: October 7, 2014 in Hardcover and Kindle formats
Trigger Warnings: murder, mutilation, torture, mention of necrophilia, cannibalism
Animals: at least one horse killed

My Thoughts: These are listed as steampunk, but thus far there is limited steampunkery. To me, this is mostly a Weird Western with strong Lovecraftian influences. There are also very many stretches of interesting philosophical discussion between the various characters that I quite enjoyed. For instance:
God simply is,” Bick said. “Humanity embraced It. They gave It color and gender, shape and form. They put words in Its mouth. They always have, and they still do, perhaps they always will. I always experience God as a 'He,' but God is too vast to be held prisoner by language or biology.

...What things do you think the Almighty was whispering in my ear all those countless eons? Words of endearment? Of joy and peace and love? No. He dipped his tongue in the blackest blood and he whispered to me of slaughter, of death of torture and atrocity. That is your creator, Biqa. He built this entire lovely, lovely playground so that he could tear it apart, abuse and neglect his toys and listen to the terrified screams of the monkeys as they tried to understand.

Where did payback end exactly? Charlie Upton had murdered Jim's Pa. Jim killed Charlie. One day Jim might get shot or hanged for what he did to Charlie and sometone like Mutt or Jon Highfather might seek revenge in his name. How far back did the blood flow? When was it enough? Could anything ever get square?
I'm enjoying the character development in these books. Mutt, for example, has really loosened up, and he's quite funny in this book. Jon is off a lot, leaving Mutt and Jim to take care of business in the town. Doc Tumblety is such a creeper, and of course incompetent to boot. As Jon Highfather states: “And that's our first-rate medical care here in sunny Golgotha. He may seem pretty horrible at first, but after awhile you come to realize that deep down inside, he's much worse than that.” He's very misogynistic, saying at one point to Kate, “Hush now... Men are talking.” As for Kate, she makes a great addition to the cast and to the town; I hope we'll see her again! I enjoyed the bits and pieces of Chinese history and legends that Ch'eng Huang provides to Jim as he is instructing him on how to use the jade eye. I was more than a bit troubled by the inclusion of the Thuggee, as their worship of Kali Ma is a perversion. It is true Kali Ma is the Mother-Destroyer, the one who must destroy the world so it can be remade anew, but that doesn't mean that people should be going around randomly murdering in her name.

Also, it is mentioned off-hand that Baba Yaga came to Golgotha, albeit briefly. She is not mentioned by name, but a house on chicken legs is a dead giveaway. I do hope that this story will be told in full; maybe the author has a number of these little anecdotes that he could use to put together an anthology of short stories set in Golgotha?

Toward the end, Clay and a Professor Zenith have a “science showdown” that is wonderfully fun as they shout at one another, using very civilized language and high-toned insults. It struck my funny bone and hopefully I won't be the only one amused by it. At the end, Clay says, “I swear... anyone with a little copper tubing and a dynamo thinks they're a scientist these days.

This is an excellent follow-up and I'm grateful to the author for sending me this ARC so I didn't have to wait until October to read it! I haven't commented on editing because this is an uncorrected proof, so any errors I spotted will likely be cleaned up by the final draft. Definitely check this out if it sounds like the sort of book you'd like!

Series Information: The Golgotha series
Book 1: The Six-Gun Tarot, review linked here where formatting allowed
Book 2: The Shotgun Arcana

Disclosure: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: 1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness.  But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before—and some of them will never be the same.

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