Kassa's Reviews > Bristlecone Peak

Bristlecone Peak by Dave Brown
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's review
Feb 23, 2010

it was ok

This is unabashedly a fantasy western. The situations and atmosphere are a gay utopia with very little historical accuracy. The events and actions are over the top, just as the dialogue reads in the extreme and the characters escape death time and time again. There is no real ending, leaving the story dangling presumably to pick up in the next book of the series. The writing is stripped down and offers a colloquial style, easy to read but very little descriptive quality. If you can accept all of that and simply enjoy the wild ride, the sweet nature of the men will likely charm some readers and offer entertaining antics. I couldn’t quite buy into the gay utopia so the whole book read humorous but false, however I can see why some readers could just enjoy the book for what it is.

The story follows Jake Brady, an uneducated orphaned farmer who is on the run. His neighbors have accused him of getting their daughter pregnant, even though Jake is known to be gay. When Jake refused to marry the girl, the neighbor and his sons have set out to hang Jake and follow him across the country to Colorado. Along the way Jake meets Wiley Deluce and the two immediately become blood brothers and romantic partners. Together, they attempt to establish a life together amid the constant threat from Jake’s old neighbors, town manipulations, and a crooked lawyer.

The plot itself is both basic and flawed. From the jump in the beginning to the unresolved ending, characters and plot turns are thrown in at random to keep the action high and the story moving. There are numerous plot holes and devices used to further the story and often done brazenly. The story seems not to care how outrageous or ridiculous it becomes, instead reveling in the utopia and film-like actions. The threat from Jake’s neighbors runs through the entire book as Jake and Wiley are continually captured, almost killed, then suddenly escape or get rescued. Since Jake refuses to actually kill the 5 people constantly trying to kill him, the threat just repeats itself several times in the book with no resolution. In fact the neighbor and sons are still trying to kill Jake when the book ends and presumably this thread continues in the series. The reasoning behind this constant threat is weak and best ignored. It doesn’t make much sense but then again, the story itself doesn’t seem to care and relies on sheer entertainment value.

The setting of the Wild West in the late 1800s is sparse and ill described. Due to the basic writing, the story doesn’t spare much detail for the landscape or setting. The dusty, rugged feel of the West is muted and lacks a real connection for the reader. There are several glaring inaccuracies included, such as costs and services, but the biggest is the gay utopia of the west. Here almost every man is either gay, tolerant of gay men, or has had gay experiences in the past. Jake and Wiley brazenly flaunt their romantic relationship to the approval of just about everyone, as all the men in the book are looking for their gay partners as well. There are a very small handful of characters that don’t approve but they are all classic evil doer stereotypes with no depth or complexity. The main town setting of Alma, Colorado is made up almost entirely of men (gay men) and everyone is a stereotype. This feeds into the fantasy aspect where details and a concern for accuracy are ignored in favor of wild actions and over the top dialogue.

The characters of Wiley and Jake are also wooden and often ridiculous, but meant to delight and engage. Jake is an uneducated farmer that alternates between rare insight and a halting, chopped language. He often yells, screams, and hollers as if loud volume equals lack of intelligence. I can see where the story is trying to make him charming for all his faults and just about everyone he runs into adores him, including women and small children. His antics and language are rough and crude, highlighted in such scenes as burning down the outhouse to see where his shit landed. Perhaps if that scene hadn’t been repeated a few times, it would have been more humorous. Conversely Wiley is an educated man with a mysterious job that is never revealed. He humors Jake and falls instantly in love with the man within minutes of meeting. There are some mystical Native American influences that add nothing to the story but supposedly play into Wiley’s background. The contrast between the men works and helps keep either one from being too predictable and therefore boring.

Overall I couldn’t quite connect with the story and just enjoy it for the entertainment factor. While not badly written, I found the prose too simplistic and basic to allow for any depth of description and complexity. The light hearted nature start to finish never dwells too much on any motivation or action so this book must be taken for face value and nothing more. The story clearly means to be an enjoyable, over the top story with ridiculous actions but highlight the companionship between gay men of the Old West. Certainly some readers may be able to indulge and simply enjoy the outrageous ride, so if you think this sounds like a fun book check it out. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy or looking for a well written, complex characterization – this isn’t for you.

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