Review: The Weird Wild West

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The old west was the epitome of the unknown. It was the last untamed part of the world where man had yet to conquer and a place where unimaginable things could happen and usually did. The old west was the first frontier that left a lot to the imagination and even more to our fears. And that is why it has become such a powerful muse for writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

The Weird Wild West covereSpec Books has collected a strong cast of imaginative writers for their new anthology titled The Weird Wild West. Edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw, this wide ranging collection brings a unique perspective of the wild and weird old west. Some of the contributors are familiar names, some are award winners, but all of them are worthy of recognition for their talent.

The stories included are: Abishag Mary by Frances Rowat, Blood Tellings by Wendy Wagner, Ruin Creek by Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Via Con Diablo by Bryan C.P. Steele, Rattler by R.S. Belcher, Rocky Rolls Gold by David Sherman, Son of the Devil by Jonathan Maberry, Mungo Snead’s Last Stand by Robert E. Waters, Frank and Earnest by Tonia Brown, From Parts Unknown by James R. Tuck, Sundown by Liz Colter, Fifteen Seconds by Scott Hungerford, Redemption Song by John G. Hartness, Grasping Rainbows by Diana Pharaoh Francis, The Faery Wrangler by (editor) Misty Massey, Haven by Ken Schrader, and Eighteen Sixty by Faith Hunter.

The first story readers will find is Frances Rowa’s mystical pirate twist Abishag Mary, where a fearless woman made of water ends up on the in “very big island” of the old west. When a female homesteader takes her in, Mary helps her battle the local thugs who try to claim her land. With blazing guns and powerful characters, it a strong start for readers.

The last story in the book is Eighteen Sixty by Faith Hunter. Set in the year 1860, as suggested in the name, the narrator takes readers on a spiritual hunt from an animal’s perspective. Through the savage eyes of a magical predator with no verbal dialog, the landscape and human participants of a cattle drive and the life of living on the range will make readers pause the next time they look at tales of the old west. It is presented with such poetic grace and realism, the tension of mere survival provides a memorable way to close the book.

In between, all of the adventures are just as compelling. Even Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin (yes, THOSE Martins who have been mentioned here before) provide some notable work. Ruin Creek takes more of a Steampunk stance as a pair of investigators who specialize in the paranormal find themselves facing ghosts, aliens, magic, fantastic inventions, and even archetypical bad guys bent on greed. I mention this story in particular as it epitomizes the varied elements throughout many of the other entries found here. Of course it doesn’t cover them all, it would be difficult to mention each one here individually, but this is a good example of the overall quality of the collection.

Though the theme is the wild-west, eSpec Books has pulled together a fine collection of tales with just enough weirdness, fandom is bound to enjoy every page. The Weird Wild West brings new insight on what pioneer life could have been like as it takes readers across the fantastic frontiers of imagination.

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