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The Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher
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The Six-Gun Tarot (edition 2013)

by R. S. Belcher

Series: Golgotha (1)

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1281394,050 (4.03)5
Member:kidstaple2013
Title:The Six-Gun Tarot
Authors:R. S. Belcher
Info:Tor Books (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2013, Top 13 of '13, Debut
Rating:*****
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The Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher

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The story has a few things that I am not really a fan of, such as third person retrospective narrative to tell us what happened to a character. Not all of them tell their story using that device though. The sheriff is still a mystery to me, even if he revealed part of his life to another. Still, as much as I didn't like that particular way of telling a story, it worked well here, but I had to read the whole book to see it. While I was reading, it was occasionally annoying to have the main story interrupted like that.

Jim, a thirteen year old is on the run from the law. He is trying to get as far away from his home as he could. His plan, as we find out, is to get to 'Virginia City and the mythical job with the railroad.' Instead, he ends up in a place a lot weirder than anything he could dream of. Golgotha is a special special place. 'Why is Golgotha the town where the owls speak and the stones moan? Why is this the town that attracts monsters and saints, both mortal and preternatural? Why is our schoolhouse haunted? Why did Old Lady Bellamy wear the skins of corpses on the new moon? How did old Odd Tom's dolls come toe life and kill people? Why do you still pour a ring of salt around that unmarked grave and how did this little ditch of a town become the final resting place of some of Heaven's treasures?' This best depicts how special Golgotha is. In the course of the story you find out what exactly Jim had done back home, you get to see snippets of Golgotha's residents' lives, their loses, their fears and their hopes. There are no boring characters in Golgotha.
The introduction of a small group of major characters is really slow. You don't realize they are the most important people until later. The author took his time to introduce us to Maude, a woman whose life turned out to be something her strong grandmother had never expected. It would take the end of the world as we know it for her to remember herself.
Two of my favourites, the sheriff and his deputy Mutt (a coyote shifter), never disappointed. I wish there were more of them in the story. "This is ridiculous! Is everyone with a badge in this dammed town crazy?" "It helps," Highfather said. There are a lot of Mormons in the town, the Mayor being one of them. At first I was afraid this story would become some kind of Mormon story, but fortunately I was wrong. They and their faith do play a role, but it isn't more important than faith of others in Golgotha. If I had to choose just one character to feel sorry for, it would have to be the mayor.

Considering the place and time it is understandable that faith is one of the most important things in the story. Other, uglier things are part of it too - the blatant racism (Mutt gets a lot of that), homophobia (well incorporated into the story) and misogyny (Maude's part of the story). I spent a lot of time being angry and waiting for some of the characters to die. All this made this story pretty real even with paranormal and horror elements. Even if it was annoying and hard to read parts of it, the story is great. If you don't like weird stories that have a touch of Lovecraft combined with various religious mythos, then you might not like this. ( )
  Irena. | Aug 26, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book. It starts off weird but gets incredibly interesting and you get sucked into this world R. S. Belcher made. All the characters are diverse and play an important part in the story. You are kept hooked on what every character is doing, and not just centered on one. The story is exciting and really does feel like a Buffy episode (in a good way). I am looking forward to the next one. ( )
  renbedell | Jul 2, 2014 |
This was strange. I think the idea was pretty cool but the writing seemed sloppy/rushed at times and the execution didn't always work for me. Some of the "side plots" seemed to be a bit extraneous and I thought the ending was pretty lame.

I think I would have enjoyed it if it would have been darker. It had the potential and there were definitely some dark ideas but instead turned into a kind fun disneyesque romp. So if you're into really dark, serious fantasy like I am I probably wouldn't recommend it but if you want a fun summer blockbuster give it a try. It's definitely not boring or trite. ( )
  ragwaine | Jun 9, 2014 |
Book Info: Genre: Weird Western
Reading Level: Adult (although one of the main characters, Jim, is 15 and his coming-of-age is part of the story, I still think it's more of an adult story)
Recommended for: Fans of Lovecraftian literature, Weird Westerns, urban Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, domestic violence against wife and daughter, slavery (during the part set prior to the civil war)
Animals Injured: Horse injures leg badly, had to push on through desert with no water for days (she's okay); two coyotes killed after they attack

My Thoughts: While at DragonCon 2013, I spent a good bit of time in the dealers' rooms looking at books and talking to authors. One of the books I noticed was The Six-Gun Tarot, a steampunk-influenced Weird Western with strong Lovecraftian ties. As it turned out, the author—R.S. Belcher—was there at the time and took a few moments to talk to me about the book. While I didn't buy a copy right then (as I've been spending profligately enough and my bag was full to bursting), I did note it and put it onto my wishlist as soon as I came home that night. Finally I picked it up this winter with some of the many gift certificates various friends sent me to help cheer me up after my cancer diagnosis.

Some of the imagery in this is pretty amazing (especially the Lovecraftian bits), like this rant from a madman:
“You don't know what they do up there on that mountain, do you, Sheriff? It's tossing and turning. It eats the heart of the world, like a worm burrowing an apple! Maybe the preacher's right and my faith is just shivering, weak—is it wrong for me to try to keep them from hollowing me out from inside? I should just blow all of you stupid bastards back to Kingdom Come, while it's still there! Before they burn down Heaven and feast on the corpse. Maybe we should all die now, better that way!”
Then we have Gran Bonny, whose ideas are blasphemous and often extremely funny, like this one:
“Guns are like men—only useful for a little while. They can go off at a moment's notice when you don't want them to and they make a lot of damn fool noise doing it.”
The blasphemous part comes here:
“The tyrant-father of Heaven, the one who created, hated and drove out the first woman, yoked men with a horrible curse, far worse than any imagined to have been handed down to Eve. Men were told they were masters of this world, of their mates, of the beasts and fish, of the land and sea and sky. How ridiculous! That's like telling a little boy he's in charge of the house when his da is gone. It's silly!

"And like that little boy, men have tried to live up to the unreasonable demands of their mute, wayward, celestial father. They have enslaved and dominated, conquered and killed, all in the name of shepherding, of protecting, of ruling the world. They spend their lives trying to do what they think is right, what their father on high would want of them. The bastard.”
I really like the use of Lilith in the history of this world, and the idea of the Load. I wish we had spent more time with Gran Bonny, heard more of her stories. That would actually be a pretty cool spin-off series—give us Gran Bonny's life story! But I digress...

As I said, I really liked how Lilith is presented in this book, and the handing down of Her secret purpose (the Load) over the generations as protectors of the Earth and the Mother. “I am the Mother's blade, the Mother's wrath... You have poisoned her, raped her and her children. Left her to die. Now you will suffer, you will die.” Really hardcore stuff, you know?

This is set in Nevada shortly after the Civil War. There is (of course) a lot of strife with the Native American peoples, and the Mormon/Latter Day Saints were a fairly new religion. Most of the more wealthy people who live in Golgotha in the book are Mormons, and I was startled by how much and how often most of the ones we spend any time with in the story drank. The only character who paid any respect to the rules was Sarah, who offered Harry coffee, even though it was a sin. My understanding is that Mormons are not supposed to drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke, or otherwise pollute their bodies with drugs of any kind. That doesn't necessarily mean that is what happens, of course, but a lot of the drinking was being done by fairly high-ranking and prominent individuals and it surprised me that they didn't at least try to hide it. While this is the first book in the series, events from the past are frequently referred to (and I hope someday the author will write some of these prequels). It is also obvious that people who live in Golgotha are aware of the weirdness and danger in the area, especially the sheriff. Check out his armory:
“He [Jon] cleaned and oiled the collection of rifles, scatterguns and pistols that were caged in iron bars behind his desk. He also made sure the other objects locked in the gun cage—wooden stakes, silver bullets, various Indian and Chinese charms and amulets, a crucifix and several vials of holy water, blessed by the Holy Father himself all the way from Rome—were all in equally good condition.
As you can see, Jon is ready for just about anything the town can throw at him, and I for one would love to know some of the stories of how and why.

For those readers who are familiar with the tarot, each chapter heading is a card's name, and either refers to a person or event in that chapter. I think it would be cool if a tarot deck was created to match this universe. As it is, those familiar with the cards and their meanings can have some fun by working out how the specific card applies to any given chapter.

Fans of Lovecraftian stories, Weird Westerns, and urban fantasies should enjoy this book. I really enjoyed reading it; it held me engrossed right to the end, and I highly recommend it to anyone who might be interested.

Series Information: Golgotha Series
Book 1: The Six-Gun Tarot
Book 2: The Shotgun Arcana, expected publication October 7, 2014 by Tor

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself after seeing it and talking to the author about it at DragonCon last fall. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Buffy meets Deadwood in a dark, wildly imaginative historical fantasy

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn… and so will all of Creation. ( )
  Katyas | May 12, 2014 |
This is an odd but entertaining book. Overwhelming in scope, it encompasses many characters in a small town in Nevada called "Golgotha", which is a whirlpool of occult activity, including displaced angels, Native American, Christian, Mormon, and voodoo style magic. This one is hard to keep track of the many characters and backstories, and the events playing out in the novel can be bewildering. However, this is the first book of a promised series, and it looks like it will be a good one.
Each chapter opens with a name of a Tarot card, and this card indicates the action of the chapter. For example, the Five of Cups, usually associated with loss and bereavement, recounts the journey of an Indian to the homesite where he and his mother lived before his death, and a visit to a tribal village that had kicked him and his mother away 20 years before. He also meets his father at a campfire, Old Man Coyote, who recounts the origin of the world. An odd chapter, but one of loss and bereavement, and sadness. Other chapters have other cards, but rather than point the way of the action to the present, deal mostly with the past or the present only.
Technology has a way of being useful in this book in a steampunk sort of way. Dated to 1869, science and technology seem to wander the gambit of all the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as understanding of chemicals, mining and "six shooter" hardware. The occult sciences wander in and out and weave themselves into the story, from a decapitated head in a large jar filled with small wheels and gears, that wakes up and converses with her husband and friends, to a magic jade glass eye from China that allows people to speak to the recently dead.
The author requires the reader to balance on a teeter-board as the action and point of view of the characters constantly change and evolve. This demands that the reader become part of the story because the ending is never in view and the plot is never really defined. To those readers who like to passively read books with little effort, simply following the words and sentences without engagement, this is not the book for you. This book is more like a pinball game, where when the reader strikes the ball with a flapper, they are never really sure where the character or action will end after bouncing around. In short, this book is more intellectually fun, even if much of the book is about depressing people who have depressing things happen to them. That is why I gave Six Gun Tarot five stars. ( )
  hadden | Feb 13, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765329328, Hardcover)

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.

R.S. Belcher’s The Six-Gun Tarot is “an astonishing blend of first-rate steampunk fantasy and Western adventure.” (Library Journal, Starred Review)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:37 -0400)

"Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker's wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone's business, may know more about the town's true origins than he's letting on. A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn . . . and so will all of Creation. "--… (more)

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