J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Book Review: The Six-Gun Tarot.

Yes, I am posting again. And no, this is not an April Fool’s joke! From now on, I am posting here on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and whenever I feel like it in-between.

I’ve been busy with work stuff, wedding planning, and any number of silly side projects in the meantime. But I haven’t stopped reading for a moment. And I want to share the most recent book I read, because it’s quite notable to anyone who is a fan of crazy genre-mashing novels.

The book in question is The Six-Gun Tarot, by R.S. Belcher.

A cover that both looks cool, and is relevant to the plot. I like it already.

 

Sometimes, I get bored of genre-fiction. If I’m to be honest, I’m kind of bored of reading fantasy lately. Don’t get me wrong, I adore all of the formulaic plotlines, heroes and heroines, and tropey monsters of the week that almost every fantasy novel employs. But after a while, I seriously need a break from swords and sorcery. Ironically, I didn’t actually get that from this book. But it didn’t matter, because it busted up every other part of the trope.

If I had to peg this book, I’d pretty much label it a western/fantasy/sci-fi.That combination caught my eye in a hurry. No pun intended to the cover.

I’ve always adored western movies, ever since I watched my first Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Despite that, I’ve never been much for actually reading westerns, despite it being an absolutely huge genre (at least half a century ago, it was). Sure, I’ve read How the West was Won. If you twisted my arm, and your eyes, I could also claim Little House on the Prairie.

A show where the whole town is blown up in the finale? Maybe the show and this book have more in common than I thought.

 

But that’s historical non-fiction, so nah.

The blurb reads like this:

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.

If that doesn’t catch your eye and interest, well… you probably don’t have much of a sense of adventure to your fiction. Because that blurb promises a heck of a lot of fun, in a genre that rarely is touched. So did it deliver? Read on!

What I liked:

– The characters. This book is like a hailstorm of amazing character concepts. You see one, and think “Oh, that’s cool.” Next chapter comes, and you’re left thinking, “Oh, they’re neat too”. And it keeps coming, and coming, and coming, and you feel like you’re just being pelted by the author’s creativity. But it’s welcomed: each leaves a dent on your mind, but it’s a nice, fun dent. I mean, if you skimmed over the blurb, let me list this out for you:

– A sheriff who may or may not be basically undead/immortal, Beric Dondarrion from Game of Thrones style.

– His shape-shifting indian deputy.

– A dandy mayor who safeguards all of these crazy powerful religious artifacts for his faith. And oh yeah, he’s gay.

– A banker’s wife who leads a double life as a badass assassin bred from the line of a famous pirate.

– A crazy reverend who wants to bring the end of the world. (okay, so this one isn’t all that fresh. But it works here)

It was really hard not to picture this guy the whole time from Hell on Wheels.

-A dark, calculating businessman who’s on the shady end of everything in town, but has his reasons for everything he does.

All of these characters get POVs, and then some. But even the characters who aren’t a crazy awesome mash-up of neat ideas are interesting. Why? Because you know that their story will come into play, no matter how outrageous and far-feched it may seem at first. Which brings me to my next point…

– The plotting. Honestly, the first half of this book will leave you confused, more likely than not. You’ll be sitting there, wondering to yourself, “How in the heck is this going to come together into anything coherent?” when it starts with a down on his luck boy finding his way into a typical Nevada town, and then transitions to a faux-biblical story about angels just finishing a divine battle in heaven, and then to an origin story about a woman you just met that isn’t anything like what you thought she was. But trust me, it does. This book will jerk you from one side of reality to the next, but it’s just setting you up for a really crazy ride for the second half of the novel. Stick with it, trust me.

– The plot itself. This book honestly has one of the most original apocalypse scenarios I have ever seen. I would even dare to come close to calling it genius. I don’t want to spoil it, but basically I’ll say that it’s set up by the faux-biblical segments beautifully. It also references plenty of other strange happenings that also sound like a lot of fun to read about. It just bursts with creativity.

– The climax. The climax to this novel is about as awesome, crazy, and fun as the one in the movie Hot Fuzz. That’s the only other story I can think up that has a really slow, lumbering first half, just to set up for a crazy, wild ride for the second half. Totally worth it, in both cases.

To be fair, a lawman features prominently in both.

 

What I didn’t like:

– Some of the language. I’m not even talking about 4-letter word language… I honestly don’t care about that, and that’s not in this book.

No, what I mean is that the author occasionally contracted a case of Shelley-itis. By that, I mean he tried to get way, WAY too fancy with how he words things, even down to simple concepts. Just take this little piece, for example, as a mine owner delves down into his property with a posse behind him: This far below the earth, the only reminders a man carried that such a verdant place even existed were whatever he carried in the bone vault of his mind.

I can’t decide if the term bone vault is cool, or laughably bad. Either way, it disconnected me from the narrative, and that is never a good thing. Every once in a while, I’d come across a line like this, and shake my head. It made me trudge through parts of this novel, instead of devouring it as I do to truly excellent fiction.

It’s a shame, because I love this book otherwise. But that is a huge flaw.

– The table of contents. I get the whole “My book is titled Tarot, so my chapter names should match a Tarot deck” thing. I really do. It just doesn’t work for me. I would’ve been happier with plain old numbers, or a character name telling me what POV is next. It smacks of the author wanting to justify his cool title. Well, you don’t need any justification for the title, buddy. It works. Just keep it, and give me numbers, for God’s sake.

 

The bottom line: I give this book ****. By merit of the fact that both the cast of characters and the overall plot are very, VERY good. The execution, however, is a bit lacking in the first half. It does get pretty great in the last half, but truly amazing books are great from start to finish. I think my rating is fair.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. If a western-fantasy sounds like fun to you, pick it up. You won’t be disappointed. I hope to see more from this author in the future. He’s definitely one to look forward to.

 

 

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2 comments on “Book Review: The Six-Gun Tarot.

  1. R.S. Belcher
    April 2, 2014

    JA, Thanks for the kind and very articulate review and for taking the time to read the book. Sequel- The Shotgun Arcana is out in October 2014. Take care and thanks again!

    Rod (RS) Belcher

    • jagarrett
      April 2, 2014

      No, thank you for writing such an enjoyable book. I’ll definitely read (and review) the sequel as well! 🙂

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