[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A fairly decent anthology of western-themed stories with a twist, often of the paranormal or supernatural variety, with a bit of steampunk thrown in. A lot of the “western codes” are followed here. Little towns and farms on the Frontier, homesteaders and professional players, gunslingers and sharpshooters, sheriffs and outlaws, finding themselves dealing with something that one day comes to disturb their life. Even though having so many stories follow the same “rule”, so to speak, it was still enjoyable. While none of the stories blew my mind, none was truly bad either; I probably wouldn't buy the book, but borrowing it from a friend or the library would be in order here. It would also provide a good introduction to this “weird wild west” genre (because all things said and done, it does feel like a genre to me).
The ones I liked best:
“Ruin Creek”: a pair of paranormal investigatores go to the little town of Ruin Creek, on board a night train, to investigate the disappearance of another investigator, after the latter reported mysterious occurrences.
“Son of the Devil”: or the trappings of a small town where people are so entrenched in their religious beliefs that they fail to apply them to people who're not perfect but could do with some mercy, thus driving them to committing dark deeds. I always tend to find this dichotomy interesting, because it raises the question of who is to blame: the sinners, or the “pure ones” who could have helped but didn't? And were the sinners “bad people” from the beginning, or did they just turn to “evil” because they were alone and desperate?
“Mungo Snead's Last Stand”: a brave and desperate tale, with aliens thrown in the middle for good measure. (It is the Weird West, after all!)
“Frank and Earnest”: fun and cute, with a bit of slapstick comedy. Two outlaws find themselves looking for a kitten, and stumble upon what could destroy the world.
“Abishag Mary” wasn't my favorite, and it was a bit typical (homesteader trying to keep her land), however I found the twist at the end quite funny.
“Rocky Rolls Gold” had an interesting premise, but the way it was told didn't work too well for me, I get that the tone was to be light and funny, but the characters felt too silly to properly work (as if they were meant to be competent at what they did, yet the banter and their reactions made them appear as stupid nonetheless).
“Fifteen Seconds”: this one's a bit different, because of its contemporary setting (all the other stories are cleary 19th century Frontier adventures). I also thought it had a bit too much info-dumping.
3.5 stars overall.