Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: Quaternity

Howdy, partners!  As I pack my bags to head up north for SoonerCon, this seems like the perfect time to get back on the book-review wagon – and back in the spec-fic saddle.  This book here is special to me: it's not often I get to make friends with a fellow Weird Western author – and a real treat to read one whose knowledge so far surpasses mine.  If you're a fan of five-star, old-school, blood-spattered Western horror – BOY have I got a book for you!

by Kenneth Mark Hoover
Hell is Truth Seen Too Late! Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border. Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria. And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

You know those old silver-screen cowboys, like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, who wore white hats and fought for justice and shot the guns right out of the bad guys' hands?

This is not that.

This is the polar opposite of that. 

In fact, we spend 80% of this book with the black-hatted desperadoes who are raping, murdering, and pillaging their way along the Texas-Mexico border (light on the rape, heavy on the murder).  If you are not up for skinnings, scalpings, hangings, beheadings, disembowelings, feticide, homicide, and a body-count to rival the Alamo AND Goliad, this is not the book for you.  If you are looking for a progressive vision of women and minorities, this is definitely not the book for you.

So now that we've got that out of the way: this is an exceptionally well-written book.  I can't emphasize that enough.  The style is sharp and spare –ideal for the stark, grim subject matter.  The language is pitch-perfect, not to mention immaculately researched: if you know your Sharps from your sofkee, this will be right up your alley.  (If you don't, you might like to keep Google handy: there is plenty of jargon, not to mention a handsome amount of Spanish, and the narrative will not coddle you.)  For me, this was a huge plus: I love a story that expects the reader to pull her weight, and an author with a truly masterful command of his material.  With that said, be prepared to do some reading between the lines, as the 'whys' of the venture are sometimes not as clear as the brutal, bloody 'hows'.

In short, Quaternity is a grisly old-western Odyssey, starring the apex of antiheroes in a world drenched in history and horror.  If you think you can handle that, saddle up and hang on.

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My favorite bit:

Botis sat in a leather chair before the flames, dressed in rancid skins and wearing his black galero. His face was lit like a sword, and he was prepared to pass judgment on those men who had declaimed him. Buzzards sat perched in the high branches of tall juniper trees along the riverbank. The ground below was carpeted with a bed of their long, stinking feathers.

Botis picked up the tortoise-shell pince-nez with his customary dainty ease. He set them on the end of his nose and addressed the frightened congregation by the light of the burning church.

"I am Abram Botis," he said. "I ride with demons. I have come among you to judge all things past and future given."

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