Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry

Just finished reading Deadlands by Jonathan Maberry.  This is one super strange read!  It’s a fantasy smorgasbord.  Set in the weird wild west with a larger than life gun toting bad boy cowboy gun for hire who, with his almost Tonto-but-not sidekick, is about to come to the rescue of a sleepy backwater town where the inhabitants are being driven out by a greedy rail magnet type.  I actually enjoyed this.  It’s larger than life, totally hammed up and full of every trope imaginable but it felt like a cheeky read and I would definitely continue with this series.

The setting, clearly the Wild West, California, or what remains of it, following the great quake of 1868.  This place is weird to say the least.  If you’ve read Journey to the Centre of the Earth for example, now imagine the earth’s crust has split open and revealed all these caverns beneath – and all the unimaginable creatures that lurk therein.  On top of this the quakes have revealed ‘ghost rock’ – forget about panning for gold, everybody wants ghost rock and unfortunately it’s in fairly short supply.  Basically ghost rock is a strange substance that can create great power, curiously, when it’s burned it emits a screaming noise that sounds like the minions of hell writhing in a fiery pit!  The discovery of this strange fuel is a game changer.  The US has found steampunk and is now filled with dirigibles and other creations.  On top of this, we have a strange alchemist who has come up with a diabolical use for this new fuel and now, with dreams of world dominion is about to unleash utter chaos upon the an unsuspecting population.

The main characters are Grey Torrance.  Torrance is a tough, weathered character and a dab hand with a gun.  When he says he’s running away from ghosts he’s not talking about memories that trouble his thoughts – he’s talking about actual ghosts that are following him to presumably seek their revenge.  Thomas Looks Away is a sioux scientist, classically educated in the UK and consequently with a strange stiff upper lipped vocabulary.  The two of them are something of a comical pair and have a strange friendship that oftentimes borders on irritation.  There are plenty of other characters.  Not least a young former ranch woman and a disgraced man of the church.  And, of course, the crazy, mad eyed alchemist who has delusions of grandeur.

There is such a lot going on here that it practically boggles the mind.  Necromancy, zombies, manitou, harrowed, disappearing ghost-like/vampire(ish) towns.  I’m just going to stop there because if you can imagine it – it’s probably in this book.  So, yes, it’s kind of crazy and almost a little bit overpowering.  Did I mention that there’s a lot of death?  People lose their heads and much more.  Blood and viscera fairly liberally paint the landscape – not in an overly graphic way but just thought I should mention it for good measure.

I did have a few criticisms.  Fairly minor to be honest.  There’s a little bit of an info dump feel to the way Looks Away provides information about the mines and the rocks, etc.  There was also at the beginning of the story a bit of a disjointed feel.  I don’t know how else to phrase it other than it felt as though we were going to jump from one adventure to the next.  Fortunately that didn’t turn out to be the case.  The only other thing that did bring me up short was a tendency to either repeat certain phrases or, as the action stepped up to use word repetition such as ‘Fired. Fired. Fired’.  To one extent I understand the use of it – it almost comes across like the use of ‘wham’ and ‘kerpow’ in comic books.

I understand that this is based on a RPG – I confess, I have absolutely no idea how this compares so I’m not going to go there.  What I can say is that if you like weird, wild and whacky pulp horror fiction then you might enjoy this.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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5 Responses to “Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry”

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’ve only read one book by the author, but this sounds very different. I’m also mostly familiar with a lot of the high fantasy RPGs so Deadlands is totally new to me. The mix of alternate history, horror and steampunk sounds perfect for a novel though, and of course the western theme has my attention! 🙂

  2. Tammy

    Pulp! Love it. I have a soft spot for westerns, and weird westerns are hard to resist. Sounds like fun:-)

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The Ghost Rocks are the most intriguing feature in what promises to be an entertaining book: with so much on the table, I believe I can overlook the small blemishes affecting the story. And your description of Thomas Look Away’s character makes me like the guy already! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. James T. Witherspoon

    I’m familiar with the RPG – played a bit of it and read quite a few of the sourcebooks. Didn’t know Jonathan Maberry wrote any of the novels. Will have to check this one out sometime.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think this is a new trilogy. It looks as though there was a previous novels or maybe a series that seemed to be pretty popular. It would be interesting to know his this stacks up.

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