I really like the western genre, and the genre subdivision weird western, so when MsWas sent an email offering this collection of short stories I jumped on it. This book has been on my radar for a while, and I was super excited to read it. Overall, I quite liked it and found it to be a pretty good collection. Not all stories fell into my personal preference, but they were mostly fairly enjoyable. I wasn’t as fond of the stories with a science fiction bent, as I thought that the western affiliation of those stories was a stretch, but that’s personal preference.
Desert Gods by Aubrey Campbell – 4 stars – a weird experimental one, but it worked well. It’s probably the best futuristic western out of the collection.
Railroad by Matthew J. Hockey – 3 stars – Average story, and if I’m really honest I’m more interested in the background to the story. I suspect there’s a novel lurking in the edges of this story, and this read like a long novel brief more then it did a short story.
Pixie Season by Seanan McGuire – 4 stars – McGuire is one of the reasons I was looking forward to reading this collection and she didn’t disappoint. I thought she was going to set her story in her InCryptid universe, but this is a brand new world I believe, and one I wouldn’t mind spending more time in. There are were-coyotes and cactus dryads.
The Men with No Faces by Alexandra Christian – 4 stars/4.5 stars – Super creepy cowboys and aliens.
Lost Words by David B. Coe – 3 stars – Barter for what you need with a song.
Boots of Clay by Laura Anne Gilman – 4 stars – this one is set in her Devil’s West novels and I loved it. A Jewish community and a Native American tribe face a common enemy in a west where magic happens.
Trickster’s Choice by Jo Gerrard – 4 stars – I have a soft spot for jackalopes, and this one features a were-jackalope.
Wolves Howling in the Night by Faith Hunter – 2 stars – this one fell into the noble savage trap. AND mixed up Native American legends. The Cherokee don’t have skinwalker legends. Even more annoying, it was so clearly trying hard to be progressive, saying things like ‘people of color’ – which is modern terminology and felt extremely anachronistic.
To Hear a Howling a Howling Herd by Gunnar De Winter – 3 stars – humans on the edge of space hunting space rays. Except the rays are maybe more sentient then they think. Honestly, this one is a good story, but had the weakest ‘western’ connection.
Calliope Stark: Bone Tree Bounty Hunter by Edmund R. Schubert – 4 stars – I loved this one so much. I would read a hundred stories about Calliope.
Cards and Steel Hearts by Pamela Jeffs – 3 stars – This one is definitely inspired by the Books of Amber by Zelazny, but I thought it was a clever riff on that.
Bloodsilver by A. E. Decker – I skipped this one. I tried a couple times but I couldn’t get through it.
Volunteered by B. S. Donovan – 3 stars – Miners and lawmen.
The Stranger in the Glass by Dave Beynon – 3 stars – An exorcism and travelling salesmen.
Belly Speaker by Nicole Givens Kurtz – 4/5 stars – Creepy, super creepy. A freed slave finds her own freedom.
Walk the Dinosaur by John G. Hartness – 1 star – This one made me angry. I was willing to push through it until one of the main characters thought it would be funny to misname the chupacabra using Taco Bell menu items. Nope. This was a rare mis-step in an otherwise decent collection.
The Time Traveling Schoolmarms of Marlborough County by Barb Hendee – 4 stars – Is there more in this world? I would read all about these Marlborough County Schoolmarms.
Rainmaker by Margaret S. McGraw – 3 stars – The sacrifice required to make it rain. This was fine, but I thought it got a little angsty. The characters took more grief upon themselves then the situation they were put into actually required. This wasn’t a character flaw, rather a flaw of the author who couldn’t see the quite obvious solution. But it had an interesting concept, and I liked it otherwise.
Out of Luck by Jeffrey Hall – 3 stars – Shoot out in a western fairyland. There were some nice concepts here, however I found the centaur replacement for Native Americans distasteful.
Rollin’ Death by Jake Bible –1 star – subterrainan cave dwellers attack a caravan and a man must avenge them, because of course he does. I rolled my eyes a lot during this one.
Over all I quite liked this collection, and I think that if you enjoy the weird western you should check it out.