Eric Mesa's Reviews > One Night in Sixes

One Night in Sixes by Arianne "Tex" Thompson
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really liked it
bookshelves: sword-challenge-2019

I added this book to my To Read list back in 2014 after hearing Ms. Thompson interviewed on Sword and Laser. I had a slightly different impression of what the plot would be - I think the interview focused on the character of TwoBlood - but the story I got was still great. Since I really liked the world Ms. Thompson creates here so much, I want to start with what I didn't like about the book rather than ending with what I didn't like. In list notation:

-Although it's a neat bit of world-building that the plot takes place in a town full of different native tribes, it leads to a LOT of confusion. At least a handful of characters have two names - the equivalent of their native name and their Christian name. They all have different rituals and things going on and it's a lot more complicated when layered on top of the fact that (view spoiler)
-Lots of POV paragraphs where the characters are either confused about what's going on or lying to themselves, overly complicating an already complicated plot
-Basically - I read something close to 100 books a year, am a big reader of tvtropes, watch other narrative things like TV and movies. I'm rarely confused about what's going on except for in detective novels and there were huge chunks where I was like "huh?"

That might sound like a lot, but if you read my reviews, you know I'm not afraid to give 1 and 2 star reviews. I go my Goodreads' tooltips so a 4-star is "really liked it". And so let me jump back in to what I loved/enjoyed about this book. A teeny-tiny spoiler is that this book doesn't take place in the late 1800s America, but an alternate universe America-ish place; namely alt-universe Texas. A bunch of characters speak what is essentially Spanish, but called Marin in the book. Actually, I said this a few times during my status updates, but this is a pretty uniquely Texan novel:
-The main characters are a city-slicker know-it-all who resents being stuck in a podunk town and a farm-hand who he looks down on because he isn't book-smart. However, despite having a more simple world-view, the farm-hand is very street-smart and almost the only sane man in this story
-The characters in the world are essentially Native "American", white folk, and mulattoes
-Everyone speaks either English, Spanish, or French - and the ones who interact everyone speak a bit of each. Ms. Thompson spells the words phonetically so you can sound it out and there's a bit of a Bilingual-Bonus if you speak any of those languages of knowing more about what's going on than what the characters themselves know.

Despite all the different tribes living in Sixes causing me a lot of confusion, I thought it was pretty awesome how Ms. Thompson creates a world in which they all have to live together and observe each others' rites, superstitions, etc. This novel is essentially a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense - a lot of it is moved forward by cultural misunderstandings between everyone - tribesmen, people with ulterior motives, the moneyed guy and his farm hand. So the pattern she weaves of this place where everyone is living in uneasy truce is fascinating. She also makes great use of the language barriers in a bunch of scenes where there are both misunderstandings and other issues that happen due to language. It's quite a realistic world she paints in which no one is really ever in as much control over their situation as they believe they are - except the one person smart enough to realize he's in over his head.

This was a complex read for me. The front cover of the version I read compares Ms. Thompson favorably to Stephen King. I've never read any King, but if they meant stylistically, then maybe it's just a very different style for me in terms of the certain...elements (I don't want to spoil at all) and/or the writing style. However, I did end up adding the next book in the trilogy to my to read list so we'll see how things go. Because if there's one more potential knock on the book it's that this does not follow the pattern I've usually seen where book 1 of a trilogy finishes a story and then books 2 and 3 are inseparable. This was clearly written as a story that does not end until book 3.

Anyway, if you like westerns, but feel bored by all of them taking place in our real-life history, check this out. It has many of the tropes and subverts some and deconstructs others while making full use of the fact that it takes place in its own world.
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Reading Progress

July 30, 2014 – Shelved
July 30, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
May 24, 2019 – Started Reading
May 24, 2019 –
8.0% "Another book had on my to-read list since 2014 when I heard an interview with Tex on Sword and Laser.
“¡Te-chinga!¿Kién keyengañas creyes?¡Wevoso timando eho de
puta!” - pretty good phonetic Spanish....except it's not because this doesn't take place in the Old West - it takes place in an alternate universe West. And I guess I should have realized there was a reason this book was on S&L - there's some magic, too."
May 28, 2019 –
12.0% ""Just like any gun was to be considered loaded, any woman was likewise a lady until proven otherwise – and God help any man without due and fearful respect for either."
So far a fun story of a guy who thinks he knows so much better because of his lineage."
May 29, 2019 –
17.0% "Seems like the kind of story that could only be told well by a Texan. The Easterner who thinks he knows better. The farmhand who doesn't know how to articulate the things he knows which aren't book-smarts. The mulatto charactrs and the meaning of those characters to others. Very good job writing what you know, Ms Thompson."
May 30, 2019 –
23.0% "Poor, poor Elim. Continually dragged beyond his comfort zone..."
May 31, 2019 –
28.0% "Elim has a very, very bad night."
June 1, 2019 –
41.0% "I've got a better idea of what's going on, but still a little unsure of all the rules of this world."
June 3, 2019 –
51.0% "...searching Fours’ ageless face and ... black eyes. “To whose benefit?”
Apparently, there was something of keen interest on the floor. “Oh – to yours, of course..." -> I love this writing - instead of "Fours started at the floor"

Awesome quote -> "Anyone not satisfied by this arrangement may direct his complaints to his god or his elder or the horse who ploughed his mother, as long as he does it out of my hearing.""
June 4, 2019 –
56.0% "More great phrasing:

Twoblood snorted, and triggered the fire-pistol to light the wick. “I wouldn’t have hired him, if I’d known he’d made a bride-gift of his balls.” Nevermind, anyway: Yes-Yes was lucky enough to have a family to go home to and a wife to lie beside him, and if he got as much satisfaction from her in the dark as Twoblood did from his service in the daytime, then it was a deal well struck."
June 5, 2019 –
69.0% "So many many names....losing track of the details. But still interested in where this goes. I thought it would be done by this point in the story."
June 6, 2019 –
76.0% "Almost finally understand how the different tribes fit together and their various beliefs and how it all interacts."
June 7, 2019 –
81.0% "Now we get to the price of everyone's actions"
June 7, 2019 –
87.0% "Because of the POV characters, some of whom are so obtuse in their thinking I find myself oscillating between understanding what's going on and not having a clue - or at least a clue as to the motivations of the characters and their scheming."
June 10, 2019 – Finished Reading
September 17, 2019 – Shelved as: sword-challenge-2019

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