The Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher
I can see how “Weird Western” got its name as a genre if The Six-Gun Tarot is anything of an example. I have never read a western, let alone a weird western, so I had no real idea of what to expect. Despite the insanity that was The Six-Gun Tarot, the fact the I finished reading it and found myself, somewhat to my surprise, enjoying it must mean that it got something right, even if I’m still not quite sure what it is yet. Also, this is the first book in a trilogy known as Golgotha, the name of the Nevada town where many of the events take place in the mid 1800s.
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The first thing that I didn’t like about this book is that there are many, many POV characters. Let’s see, Jim, Highfather, Mutt, Maude, Biqa, Malachi, Otis, Auggie, Deerefield, Harry… and more. I felt this got a little out of hand in that while every chracter is unique and interesting, many of them are only left with a general profile and are not fully fleshed out. Hopefully, furhter titles in the series may be able to alleviate that unless many new characters are also introduced to keep the page count for each POV still fairly limited. There were several characters that I wanted involved more or wanted to learn about more, but too many minor POV characters that were only briefly part of the story kept getting in the way.
Another major thing that I was disappointed with in the big was the use of some of the magical artifacts. The main offender is the eye that the main(ish?) character Jim has in his possession. Originally it was his father’s eye that he obtained from some Chinese men after he lost one of his in the American Civil War, despite it being one of the most powerful object in the world or something. Once it is in Jim’s possession he can sometimes accidentally use its power in his travels. The real problem is not just its vague usage, but how the actions it sets into motion actually resolved anything. (I know kind of hard to explain without giving anything away.)
Probably a pro and a con was that absolute strangeness of the book, but overall it must have come out more on the plus side since I did enjoy the novel. We have secret societies, cults, divine battles, the end of the world, steampunk quasi-resurrections in tanks, zombie(ish) things, tentacle porn monsters, and talking coyotes to cover the major things. Somehow it all works together in some weird way to the point where things don’t seem strange when they are introduced.
Another plus of the novel is definitely the dialogue and atmosphere that is created with the Golgotha setting and the very diverse cast of characters. This Nevada desert mining town has become a melting pot that allows character from many places and many walks of life to live next to one another creating a great environment for the novel to take place in. There is also usage of authentic dialogue and Chinese and Native American culture throughout the book.
Overall the book was a strange, insane, weird (in a largely good way) ride through the Wild West.
3.5 out of 5 stars.