Steampunk, dust storms, and dinosaurs! Oh my! The imaginative and varied collection of stories in Once Upon A Time in the Weird West offer fans of western and science fiction fantasy a special treat. Some of the best authors in the genre have rustled up a host of short stories that center around the West, but always have a special twist. Some of the stories are stronger than others and there were a couple whose resolutions lost me completely, but for the most part this is one of the stronger anthologies I’ve seen in awhile. Instead of going through each story for this review, I decided to pull out three of my favorites to give you all a little overview.
Get Lucky by Ginn Hale
I admit to bias where Ginn Hale is concerned. For me this author can do no wrong I’ve never read anything by Hale that didn’t compel or entertain. And in this case, she gives us a western world replete with mages, Pinkerton agents, and dinosaurs. Let me say it again – dinosaurs! And who doesn’t love those? Lucky Spivey is a water mage eeking out a living while trying to deal with the obnoxious Swaim Brothers. When a Pinkerton Agent rescues Lucky from a run in with the Swaims, his well ordered life begins to unravel. This story is fast paced and plotted well and while there are a few contrivances that pop up, Lucky, Dalfon, and the dinosaurs make the whole thing enjoyable.
Oh Give Me A Home by Nicole Kimberling
This is probably my favorite of the anthology. Gordon and his partner Henry are ranchers on the new colony of New Saturn. Their sprawling herd of bugs help terraform new planets for colonists. But they have to deal with a brutal environment and the danger of rustlers, either of which could kill them quicker than a flash. This story was just fun. The bugs steal the show and Gordon’s charming connection with them is sweet. He and Henry have an established relationship that feels natural and warm without being sappy. This short piece hits all the right notes and you’ll find yourself thinking about bugs in a whole new way.
Gunner the Deadly by CS Poe
Gillian Hamilton is a special agent and mage sent to apprehend a maniac who attacked the city of Baltimore. In the Wild West he’s out of his element and no more so than when he teams up with a roguish outlaw called Gunner the Deadly. Nothing like his criminal history suggests, Gunner is devoted to stopping the Tinkerer and protecting the people of a small western town. The Tinkerer is a bit like Miguelito Loveless from the TV show Wild, Wild, West and much of this story seems to channel that program’s essence. And when you’ve got the charming Gunner and tenacious Gillian thrown into the mix, you end up with a fun, fast paced, quirky adventure story.
Overall Once Upon A Time in the Weird West was a great anthology and it’s safe to say there’s a little something for everyone here. Not all of the stories pay off, but the majority posses an excellent mix of science fiction with a western flare. Anyone who enjoys fiction that doesn’t mind having fun and taking a few risks, will probably enjoy Once Upon A Time In the Weird West.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.