Weird Westerns discussion

The Six-Gun Tarot (Golgotha, #1)
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Group Reads > Feb 2015 Group Read Discussion

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message 1: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
Alright, everyone, let the reading commence!


message 2: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
So, is anyone reading this month's book? Unfortunately, I've had to opt out but I'm curious as to people's impressions.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I am, about halfway through. It's very interesting, not quite what I thought; heavy Lovecraftian influence (which I'm all for). But once I'm done I'll give my review.


message 4: by Quentin (new)

Quentin Wallace (quentinwallace) | 231 comments I was going to have to skip this one due to time and $$$ but now Philip has me reconsidering, that sounds pretty good!


message 5: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
I'm pretty much guaranteed to try anything involving Lovecraft + Western. Good to know!


message 6: by Quentin (new)

Quentin Wallace (quentinwallace) | 231 comments Ashe wrote: "I'm pretty much guaranteed to try anything involving Lovecraft + Western. Good to know!"

Exactly!


Eric Bahle (ericbahle) | 45 comments I'm about a third of the way through. A bit of a slow start, not in a bad way, just in a 'setting up a lot of threads' way. I'm pretty interested to see where it's going.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments I'm working on it, slow but sure. An interesting mix of influences.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments I'm finding it slow but interesting going, so far, but I really need these random-ass points-of-view changes to stop asap.

Also, the pacing of this hostage situation feels off; hello, man firing a gun around inside the store. Introduce yourselves and chat later, maybe?


message 10: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
A chatty hostage situation? That's how we get Stockholm Syndrome.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments Well, that's how hostages get killed, certainly, when the lawmen stand around outside with measuring tapes. However, about thirty pages after that, the book got awesome.


message 12: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
Definitely good to know.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments ...are you referring to the book's abrupt quality improvement or the measuring tapes? If the latter, I counsel against a career in law enforcement.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Ok, finished reading and ready to render my verdict!


From this point on my review will contain spoilers, so for those still reading or those that like surprises, hold off.










Golgotha, Nevada: the town where the weird is born, or comes to die.
The town that is about to be the epicenter for a no holds barred, bare knuckle, winner-take-Everything brawl between a Judeo-Christian/Chinese mysticism mashup and the Cthulhu Mythos.

Sounds awesome, right?

Well... it sort of is.

Don't get me wrong: it's far from bad. It's well written with a lot of really good bits when it isn't disjointed, I'll definitely read the sequel. It's just trying to be too much and is at times too unfocused.
There are six main protagonists (a kid with the eye of the First Man in Chinese myth, the town mayor who holds all the major artifacts of Mormonism, the half-Indian son of an entity that is strongly hinted to be Coyote the Trickster spirit, the town sheriff who cannot die, a woman who carries the birthright of Lilith, and an angel tasked with guarding the Mythos entity who has been on earth so long he's "gone native") who we get follow through their own personal struggles and demons while in the background a cult led by two lunatics tries to wake the outer god that is imprisoned by God within the nearby silver mine/mountain. They do this by turning one of the mayor's wives into super sexy Shub-Niggurath, who then causes a minor zombie apocalypse in an effort to feed the outer god and give it the power to destroy all of Creation.

(I will note here that I really appreciated that the high priest and his deacon are named after the most famous Cthulhu Mythos creators.)

The narrative tends to hop around too much and can at times, especially early on, confuse readers (like who is this angel, and what does he have to do with a weird western from his perspective at the freaking dawn of Creation?) and not make a lot of sense until late in the story when all the big puzzle pieces suddenly and conveniently and ham-fistedly in my opinion slam into place. Also the final roles each of the main characters play in the defeat of the great evil feel very contrived; particularly Jim Negry and Maude Stapleton - the former's lead up looks like it might be great, but he only ends up summoning the dead of Golgotha to distract the evil while it's already entombed, the latter uses her Lilith-inspired 'strong, independent woman don't need no man or no man's God' sass to "cure" the great evil by making it free willed and able to heal itself....???
Yeah, those bits threw me.
And it saddened me; it made the contributions of all the characters, really good, strong characters, feel undervalued by not suddenly not being characters so much as mindless chess pieces or blunt archetypes used in an effort to get a certain scripted, inorganic ending.

In the end I liked it. Didn't love it, didn't dislike it, but could have been better. Could have edited a lot out. I understand it was the author's first full length novel and there are always growing pains with a debut novel (believe me I know), plus there are a lot of good ideas and talent on display in this work. Just don't hit us all with them at once. Three out of five stars.


message 15: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
Oddmonster wrote: "...are you referring to the book's abrupt quality improvement or the measuring tapes? If the latter, I counsel against a career in law enforcement."

I'm too nice to be a cop.


message 16: by audrey (last edited Feb 16, 2015 03:39PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments Philip wrote: (I will note here that I really appreciated that the high priest and his deacon are named after the most famous Cthulhu Mythos creators.)

Holy cats, I totally didn't know that. That's awesome :)

I basically agree with your entire review: too many good ideas all at once without enough control over their assembly.

(view spoiler)

Fun stuff. Good zombies, nice law-making, interesting world. Agreed: three out of five stars.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments Quick question: did anyone know the tarot arcana well enough to know if the cards used as chapter titles tied in with the action in each chapter?


message 18: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
Just a reminder that there's a spoiler tag. All acceptable html tags can be found by clicking (some html is ok) above the comment box.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments Ashe wrote: "Just a reminder that there's a spoiler tag. All acceptable html tags can be found by clicking (some html is ok) above the comment box."

My apologies. I had thought, based on the guidelines set out for group reads in this group, that spoilers in this thread were to be taken as read. I think I've fixed my entry, but please let me know if there's a better way to do this.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Ashe wrote: "Just a reminder that there's a spoiler tag. All acceptable html tags can be found by clicking (some html is ok) above the comment box."

Oh, that one works? I couldn't get it to before. Okay, next time then.


message 21: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
No worries. Y'all gave ample warning. Honestly trying to keep the surprises for myself for this one since I couldn't afford to grab it haha. Carry on!


message 22: by Eric (last edited Mar 04, 2015 09:17PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric Bahle (ericbahle) | 45 comments A few days late, but finally finished. My thoughts pretty much echo what other folks are saying. Interesting read, enjoyable overall, but problematic enough to keep a rating in the three out of five realm.

The book has a slow start, which isn't always bad. There's a strong school of thought these days behind opening with a bang to hook the short attention spans of modern readers. That may be valid, but there's still plenty of room for a good slow burn, especially in a longer novel. What kept this one from working better was what's already been mentioned--point of view shifts. It seemed to me the author was trying to lay out many threads, but not all the later payoffs seemed worth that much set up.

That said, I did enjoy most of the characters and their arcs. The pace picks up and there are some well written action scenes as well as some pretty effective horror scenes.

The main problem for me seemed to be a lack of focus. I define Weird Western in its simplest terms as Western+Something Else+Weird Western. Meaning you could broadly define sci-fi westerns, or steampunk westerns, as Weird Westerns. Think Firefly and Adventures of Brisco County Jr.

Of course, for me and most fans, the Something Else is typically horror or fantasy. In Six-Gun Tarot the problem isn't what the Something Else is, the problem is there's too much. Ancient Beings, Judeo/Christian beliefs, Native American, Chinese mythology, Lovecraftian Old Ones, Mormonism...that's a main list, but there's more. Haints and other undead, a mad scientist, secret societies...that's a lot of ideas to mash-up. Any one of those threads could have been one book.

The Mormon angle especially struck me as a rich vein. I don't know much about Mormonism as a religion, but I know they started in Ohio and fled to the West. So what if a persecuted religious cult chased out of the U.S. into the territories is right? What if everything Joseph Smith said was one hundred percent true? There's a book right there.

I think the Book of Mormon also posits that Jesus Christ visited the Native Americans after he was crucified? And that the Natives were some lost tribe of Israel? I put question marks there because I'm not certain, but if so (or even close) there's your American Indian tie-in. I understand this is 'armchair quarterbacking'. It's not a criticism of the ideas, they're all pretty interesting, but it is a criticism of the execution.

Golgotha, Nevada is set up as a hot-spot for all this weirdness. That's fine, in fact that would be good, because then the stories crammed into this book could be separated into three or four more focused books, all set in Golgotha, and perhaps building to the end-of-days-the-whole-world-and-all-creation-is-about-to-be-devoured climax.

The thought of three or four books takes me to a bit of a tangent...the sticky issue of price. This book was $9.99 and the sequel is going for $12.99. In my opinion, that's way too much for an e-book. I know several folks opted out of this group read because of price. It's been in my wish list for some time, and if it wasn't for the spur of the group read, I probably wouldn't have sprung for it. I would think several books priced at $4.99 would sell better and end up making the author more money. One of the best things about e-books is being able to keep the price lower than print. But Mr. Belcher's books seem to be doing well on Amazon (better than my own certainly), so what do I know?

On to the actual story, and my one unsoftened criticism. The ending. (view spoiler)

Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant. There's a lot to like here and I did enjoye it overall. But I didn't fall in love with it either.


message 23: by audrey (last edited Mar 05, 2015 08:15AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments Eric wrote: "In Six-Gun Tarot the problem isn't what the Something Else is, the problem is there's too much ...Haints and other undead, a mad scientist, secret societies...that's a lot of ideas to mash-up. Any one of those threads could have been one book."

I both agree and disagree with this sentiment, helpfully. :) The bit I disagree with is where Weird West = Western + 1 other genre, because I liked how Golgotha was this swirl of everything and the kitchen sink. It was fascinating to spot tiny threads of yet another genre hidden in various chapters or throwaway details. It reminded me very strongly of Simon R Green's Nightside series, an alternate London where 12 different kinds of mythology come to die, live and have a beer together.

Where I think we're in agreement -- and correct me if I'm reading this wrong -- is the same reason the Nightside's ultimately a more successful iteration of a multi-thread mashup: trying to weave together that many influences takes more skill than was demonstrated in this particular book. The various strands just got away from the author and wound up a bit tangled in service of moving the plot forward.

I still liked that the effort was there. I love the idea of Golgotha for that reason; the Western frontier in its unexplored phase seems perfectly suited for locating a nexus of multiple unexplained weirdnesses. I hope it's out there, still, frankly, and having driven across Nevada several times, I'm unconvinced it's not.

And I'll put the rest of this response under this here (view spoiler).

This book was $9.99 and the sequel is going for $12.99. In my opinion, that's way too much for an e-book.

$9.99 is too much for any book, imo. That said, do we need guidelines around pricing for group reads?


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Oddmonster wrote: "Eric wrote: "In Six-Gun Tarot the problem isn't what the Something Else is, the problem is there's too much ...Haints and other undead, a mad scientist, secret societies...that's a lot of ideas to ..."

Oh! Another Simon R. Green and Nightside fan! I was beginning to think I was the only one.


audrey (oddmonster) | 106 comments Philip wrote: "Another Simon R. Green and Nightside fan! I was beginning to think I was the only one. "

SWEET. Is this where we start talking about how the Nightside's a weird western or nah?


message 26: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric Bahle (ericbahle) | 45 comments Oddmonster wrote: The bit I disagree with is where Weird West = Western + 1 other genre, because I liked how Golgotha was this swirl of everything and the kitchen sink.

I am in agreement with your disagreement! That formula is what I consider most basic, there's plenty of room to build on it. The various somethings else's just started to feel too crammed in for me. I actually thought the smaller moments that hinted at Golgotha's history (the sheriff tending to the salt circle, a townsperson complaining of 'those rat men') of weirdness felt more natural than some of the bigger arcs. I could see Golgotha being like a Western version of Eureka--weird stuff happens so much here that it becomes business as usual.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Eric wrote: "Oddmonster wrote: The bit I disagree with is where Weird West = Western + 1 other genre, because I liked how Golgotha was this swirl of everything and the kitchen sink.

I am in agreement with your..."


Some of the smaller stuff mentioned, like the salt circle and the rat men problem, I actually wanted to know more about than the story that was being told.


message 28: by Ashe (new) - added it

Ashe Armstrong (ashearmstrong) | 604 comments Mod
My favorite part was all the butts.

I will eventually actually read this, I swear.


message 29: by Quentin (new)

Quentin Wallace (quentinwallace) | 231 comments Ashe wrote: "My favorite part was all the butts.

I will eventually actually read this, I swear."


I wont swear, but I plan on reading it eventually too.


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