REVIEW: DEAD MAN’S HAND – AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE WEIRD WEST / EDITOR: JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Dead Man’s Hand is a collection of 24 short stories by a wide range of authors in the subgenre of Weird West. If you haven’t heard of this before, then that is one reason to give this collections a try; Weird West is the American cousin of steampunk, but set in the Wild West and possibly involving more supernatural elements.
Like all good anthologies, Dead Man’s Hand features tales that define the subgenre, tales that fit in but could fit elsewhere and just a collection of darn good stories. Joe R. Lansdale (who is credited with formalising the idea of Weird West) kicks off with the Red-Headed Dead, featuring his character Reverend Jebediah Mercer in an encounter with an undead horror. Next up is one of my favourites, The Old Slow Man and his Cold Gun From Space by Ben H. Winters which manages to be grim, strange and funny all at once.
Other contributions include Orson Scott Card’s Alvin and the Apple Tree, returning to the world of Alvin Maker after ten years away. Alastair Reynolds gives us Wrecking Party, a story that is both Weird West and almost pure science fiction. It discusses the emergence of machines and is a Luddite’s dream.
Last is the title story Dead Man’s Hand by Christie Yant which tells the tale of the death of Wild Bill Hickock via the cards he was holding when he died. It is experimental in style and shows how minor events can change a whole life and therefore history itself. It does all this in a memorable few pages; masterful stuff.
Starburst is a massive fan of short story collections and the very best have more hits than misses. This is very much the case for Dead Man’s Hand, and Weird West is an offshoot of science fiction/fantasy that we will be paying closer attention to from now on.