Monday, 15 September 2014
Review: The Six-Gun Tarot
The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a difficult one to rate. Three stars usually means I didn't enjoy it much, but for a long time I was enjoying it. However, when I got about two-thirds of the way through, the horror elements became more dominant. Since I don't like anything more than mild horror, and I was starting to be ready for it to be over anyway, I stopped reading at that point.
Early on, I felt that, despite some notable editing issues, it had the potential to be great (or rather, that the author did). I still think that potential is there, with the right developmental editor and a better copy editor. It's not just the same old tired tropes, though it gets a little tropey when it brings in bits of Mythos (there's even a sly mention of the King in Yellow). At the same time, there's some freshness to it, and a sense of depth - though I felt, on reflection, that the author might have been trying too hard to achieve depth and ended up merely with complexity.
I mentioned the copy editing. A good number of the problems are sloppy typing: missing quotation marks or other punctuation, missing words, fumbled words (like "clam" for "calm"), the kind of thing you would once have blamed a typesetter for back when there were such people, but must now be blamed on the author. There are also a good few examples of using the wrong word, though: "filament" for "firmament", "proscribed" for "prescribed" (though I've seen Samuel Delaney make that mistake, so Belcher is in good company there), "taunt" for "taut", "shorn" for "shored", "utterance" for something written down, "willing to sate the most jaded pleasures" (instead of "appetites").
The prose sometimes purples to the point of incomprehensibility: "a flute made out of a human femur rattlesnake whirred an ice-knife tune up and down his spine", which is also a thoroughly mixed metaphor. People know things they couldn't know. There's head-hopping. There's a direct commuter line to the Department of Backstory, and it's used on every possible occasion.
Notwithstanding all this, the potential is there. The cosmic significance, and at the same time the authentic Western feel, and the two not seeming at odds - that indicates talent. I feel the same sort of thing has been done better, though, notably by [a:S.A. Hunt|6952140|S.A. Hunt|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1407378268p2/6952140.jpg].
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