CBR #72 – Too Many Cards In the Deck

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

A damn grand concept and well-executed.  It’s a western, set in a universe with all manner of religious and arcane symbology.  And that’s the problem.  It’s ALL MANNER.  It’s got Mormon religious doctrine, it’s got Christian allegory — with angels and demons, it’s got Native American tribal lore, it’s got Lilith/First Mother mythos, it’s got tales of The Hanged Man, of Chinese mythology, a little bit of Elder Gods, hints of Robert Chambers, Edgar Allan Poe, steampunk Frankenscience.  Christ, I know I’m missing something, because there’s so much more.  It’s just so fucking busy, that’s it would be nearly impossible to get everything clear and concise and coordinated without at least twelve other books.

Each chapter gives us a card from the Tarot.  And it gives us a brand new character.  There are plenty of authors who can and have pulled off massive casts.  But usually, the number of these characters get worked in over long series.  Belcher has to spend practically 7/8ths of his book giving us the entire cast.  And he does it.  But it just makes the ending seem so rushed.  Especially when there seem to be four or five CHOSEN ONES among his cast, each doing something independent of one another to save the world.

Plus, his characters keep making reference to stuff that happened beforehand, which made me actually tweet Rod Belcher to find out if there are subsequent short stories that are due about the various asides of the characters.  I’d gladly read the other books, and I am currently reading The Shotgun Arcana, which is his follow-up.

It’s a great cast of characters filled with plenty of ghosts in their pasts and their histories are all fantastically interesting.  It just feels like too much at once in one book.  We just learned about everyone, and now they are fighting Stained townsfolk possessed by demon worms that threaten to unleash the Greate Olde Wurm from beneath the earth.  And then it’s over, after seventeen different people save the day in one way or another.  Still, like I said, Belcher does a great job, and it’s steampunk without the over-bronzing, and a damn fine western to boot.

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