Between the title and the cover, it didn’t take much for me to be salivating over buying this. I’m a big fan of the Weird West, as many folk know, going back to my work on Doomtown Reloaded for the Deadlands RPG universe. Add in some of my literary heroes like Jim Butcher, Kevin J. Anderson and Larry Correia, and I was practically begging Baen to take my money on this one.
As I write this, it’s sitting at #2 in Anthologies and it’d be a GREAT time to click to push this beautiful book to #1. I may have spoiled how much I enjoyed it, but read on if you’re not convinced yet.
I had a long plane ride home last night from LibertyCon and got a lot of reading done, including this anthology. The stories included were so action-packed that I was able to sail right through it. Really a stellar job of getting a lot of unique voices that are both fun and have a great handle on writing stories that make weird west.
I’m not going to do a summary of every story involved, as it would take far too long, but I’ll highlight some of my favorites.
The best story in the volume, hands down, was “Trouble In An Hourglass” by Jody Lynn Nye. Jody has always had a great feel for short fiction, and didn’t disappoint here. The characters really stand out in this time travelling adventure that made for a lot of fun. One can see how big of a fan of Dr. Who she is by the way that she made this world work, another bonus. I really hope i can see more shorts with Trouble involved, a character very difficult not to fall in love with — even though you know you shouldn’t!
My next favorite was “Dry Gulch Dragon” by Sarah Hoyt. She poses a simple question at the very beginning of this story which is one of the best hooks I’ve ever read: would you let your sister marry a Dragon. It spins from there in to a world of elves and a fae-land within the west, something I’m not sure I’ve read done before, and I loved it! This felt like a classic fantasy tale and is worth the price of admission by itself.
Best concept and unique exectuion award, which I do differentiate from my favorite story, goes to Peter Wacks with “The Key”. It opens up as a tale within a tale, a Chinese woman betting a bar that she has a story worth giving her a free shot of whiskey. Wack’s use of time in different scenes, which follows a crazy path featuring Nikola Tesla and Rasputin, exectues a really nice way of using formatting and scenery to add a cool temporal flare to the story, as heroes hunt down and protect the key.
There wasn’t a story I disliked in the whole volume, which is rare for anthologies. I can’t get enough of the Weird West, and this actually surpasses my last favorite weird west antho, Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams, which I nearly uphold as a bible of what the genre should be. Great work all around.