*I won an ecopy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This has not influenced my review.*
I was, oddly, in the mood for some sci-fi/fantasy western—odd because I had never read a sci-fi/fantasy western before, or any western, unless you count one webcomic—so I was excited to read this.
A couple things threw me off a bit though, so I’ll get those out of the way first. For one, I’m not sure there was a protagonist. The guy mentioned in the blurb, Buddy, isn’t even the narrator. Plus, the narrator, Tom, was kind of all-knowing in that he seemed to know other characters’ thoughts and feelings. Normally this is something that would bother me, but somehow, with the way it was written in this book, it wasn’t confusing, and I was able to just accept it.
The other thing that threw me a bit was that the book meandered without a clear plot or goal; it was just kind of about the people and goings on in the town. I guess you could say the goal was just to keep Ms. Parker and her baby alive until the baby was born, but that’s still vague. Surprisingly, even though that’s another thing that normally bothers me, that didn’t bother me much either. At least not until I reached the end and the book suddenly cut off with no warning in a really weird place. I imagine there must be an overall story that will span the series at least though.
There were reasons I still enjoyed the book though, despite the issues. For one, the setting was interesting. Not only was it the Old West, it was even more lawless since it was set in the afterlife. There were good ol’ gun fights in the street, but characters also shot/stabbed/killed each other with no warning basically any time they felt like it (yes, they could die again). No one was ever safe, and there were no consequences for killing unless someone else decided it was a good reason to kill you too. But a word of warning, because it was set in the Old West, characters sometimes treated others in offensive ways in regards to race/gender/etc. It was fitting with the setting, but I wanted to point it out in case it’s something that will bother anyone.
There was also a lot in this book that was just effed up but that I couldn’t help but laugh at. Like how they would bet on when other people in the town would be killed, and the jokes about murder and dead men that would be in really poor taste if it were real life. Just know that this book is not for the easily offended or the faint-hearted. I also loved their ridiculous theories about the town.
Then there was the vampire, who was entertaining to me because he could’ve killed everyone in the town if he wanted to, but he didn’t because 1) since they were all dead already, their blood wasn’t any good to him, and 2) if he killed them all, he’d be alone and bored because literally his entertainment was sitting on his balcony and watching the people kill each other. He mostly just hissed at people and otherwise didn’t harm anyone unless they bothered him first. But imagine being hungry and having no food, except it didn’t kill you—you were just forever hungry. I mean, I’d be grumpy too! I’d probably also hiss at people, and I’m not even a vampire. He was just hangry, the poor guy. Then he became the kind of reluctant town protector, and I already have a weakness for vampires, so of course I liked him.
Buddy seemed like he was going to be really unlikable when he first showed up, but then I couldn’t help but like him too as the story went on. He was just so jolly and kind of oblivious to so much of the danger, but he was also really good at gunslinging, and he was the one who risked his life to stand up to the men for their violence against a woman.
Speaking of which, I definitely liked Ms. Parker. Especially her cleverness during that first card game. And she was great because she was soft and feminine, but she was tough in that she didn’t cower and was able to hold her own in this town. For a while, she was the only young woman in a town full of men who were on their way to Hell (so most didn’t have much in the way of morals)—I’m sure you can imagine why that’d be a bad situation. But she was clever and smart and proactive in figuring out how to survive and even saved the narrator at one point.
Mabel was actually a great female character too. Yeah, she immediately found the top gun and essentially slept with him in exchange for protection, but the reality in that town was that women didn’t survive without protection (unless maybe they were the fastest draw in town). So she made her own decisions, took matters into her own hands, and did what she had to to survive. And by the end, she came up with an even better solution that didn’t require sleeping with anyone.
I’m not sure how this review got so long, but I just have one last thing worth mentioning—there was even some disability rep since the narrator had a limp, though I can’t speak for whether it was portrayed well or not.
So overall, this book had a couple things that threw me off a bit, but it was an entertaining start to a series I plan to continue about a paranormal western afterlife with some likeable characters.
Anyone who likes inappropriate humor, paranormal, and the Old West.
More Books in the Series:
Buddy Baker is a dead man. Literally. After gunning down more men than Billy the Kid—and being hung by a rope necktie for his crimes—the jolly, fast-drawing fugitive reckoned he’d earned himself a nonstop ticket to hell. Instead, he finds himself in Damnation: a gun-slinging ghost town located somewhere between heaven and hell.
There are no laws in Damnation. Only two simple rules: If you get shot, you go directly to hell. If you stay alive without shooting anyone for one year, you just might get into heaven.
Hardened outlaws pass the time in the saloon playing poker and wagering on who will get sent to hell next, while trying not to anger the town’s reclusive vampire or the quarrelsome werewolves. Buddy winds up in everyone’s crosshairs after swearing to protect a pretty gal who arrives in Damnation pregnant. Her child might end up a warm-blooded meal for the supernatural residents, or it could be a demon spawn on a mission to destroy them all.