The Deadlands franchise started out as a table-top roleplaying game, but like many of these things, it’s slowly expanding its appeal thanks to the growing interest in stories with solid world-building. It is an alternate history Wild West world, were the presence of a supernaturally-enhanced fuel (called Ghost Rock) has sped up technology in an anachronistic sort of way. It’s also a world where ghouls, ghost and other hideous creatures seem to have clawed their way out of Hell. In short, it’s steampunk horror for those who prefer cowboys to Victorian explorers.
Jonathan Maberry is a highly prolific creator of pulp horror fiction who mostly focuses on short and snappy horror stories that feature vampires and zombies. The Bram Stoker Award-winning author’s work includes Patient Zero, Ghost Road Blues and Rot and Ruin. Given his back catalogue, you have to wonder why they hadn’t thought of bringing him into the Deadlands franchise sooner.
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers brings the two together to create a superior piece of pulp adventure. Make no mistake; this is not high literature, its pulp adventure. The horror is of the gross-out and jump-scare kind, with extended action scenes and lots of gun play. The story focuses on Grey Torrance, a cowboy cut-and-pasted from any given Clint Eastwood or Yul Brynner movie. He has a trusty Native American sidekick who tags along to mostly provide endless sarcasm and pull Torrance’s fat out of the fire during the scarier scenes. The ladies are tough yet sassy, the holy men are brave yet easily shocked, and so on.
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers is a perfect introduction into the world of Deadlands; it’s filled with tropes, actions and violence yet at the same time has a sharp and distinct vibe throughout. Those who know the world well (and know the broader story arcs) will read this with a sly grin on their faces, as they are well aware of what is coming next. Newcomers are in for a treat. A great start to what we hope becomes a regular thing.
DEADLANDS: GHOSTWALKERS / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MABERRY / PUBLISHER: TOR / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 22ND (KINDLE), NOVEMBER 1ST (PAPERBACK)