Deadlands: Ghostwalkers

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers - Jonathan Maberry

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I used to play the Deadlands RPG when I was in high school. That was, well, long ago. Long enough for the game to be in its original iteration, no LCG or anything. Back when we used poker chips that could act as jokers, but we greedily kept them because the unused ones would turn into experience points at the end of the game. Yeah, that was quite a few years ago.

So I wanted to try and see what a novel set in the Deadlands universe was like.

Though I admit my recollections of the game are far and few between, I'm not sure the book exactly related. Some elements fitted, and had the "Weird West" feeling I tend to associate with that world, but they seemed to be thrown in more as add-ons than as true parts. (Dinosaurs, zombies, steampunk weapons, etc.) It was fun, sure, yet it also looked as too much being crammed in it... and at the same time, the novel felt too long for the story it had to tell.

It worked well enough as a "strange western"-like story in the beginning, in that the action started fast, and the tropes I was looking for were there: gunslingers, little town under the tyranny of a couple of rich white guys with their own militia of sorts, inhabitants trying to resist but being outnumbered... However, after a while, I began to lose interest, likely because of the repetitiveness of said action, and because the characters didn't have much depths, all things considered. Grey had a troubled past... but there isn't much more to him once this past is uncovered (he did work as a character thrown in that mess without much knowledge of what happened, as other people explaining things allowed the reader to discover them as well). Jenny was the mandatory brave female character with a shotgun, and her courage was commendable, yet out of this and her relationship with Grey, there wasn't too much to her either. The monk was forgettable, and the villain was... gloating?

A definitely problematic character was Looks Away, the Sioux guy who happened to be part of a circus in Europe, got an education there, and now throwns in "British" slang all the time. Making him a Sioux felt more like ye olde mandatory POC than like a real person, as basically he could have been a British scholar just as well, and it wouldn't have changed the plot in any way. (Granted, had the author gone overboard the other way, by making him a Native American cliché, it'd have been just as bad. But I believe in middle grounds.)

A good deal of the novel was also both boring and too over the top to fully belong. Characters discover awful weapon and enemies, fight them, manage to escape at the last moment, bit of deus ex machina here, rinse and repeat. (A corset stopping a bullet... Uh... Not sure about that, and if the explanation is what I think it was, it wasn't made very clear in the end.) As for the enemies, I could do with zombies (in the Deadlandsverse? Sure!), but the vampire-witches mqde me wonder what they were doing here, and dinosaurs was too far-fetched, seemingly added to the mix just because at some point, someone must've said "hey, why not put dinosaurs in there, too, they're cool." Odd.

Writing style: long descriptions (of which I quickly get bored), and a tendency to veer into very short sentences/3-word long paragraphs that worked sometimes, and were jarring at others.

Conclusion: Some interesting ideas, but the characters need to be fleshed out, and the novel to be trimmed down when it comes to descriptions.