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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

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918127,589 (4.2)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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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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 |
Summarising this book is a difficult task because there’s so much going on.

At the dawn of creation, god built the world on the bones of the defeated darkness. Step by step his angels drove it back, but there was one, the leader, the first, the source of the darkness that could not be stopped, could not be killed and instead had to be chained and buried in the Earth itself.

And now, those chains are loosening. The town of Golgotha in Nevada, a town that already attracts all things weird and bizarre, becomes the sight of the battle for the end of the world, a battle to keep the darkness chained. With powers from so many sources, under the eyes of the angel guardian and the best people Golgotha can throw against it - it's a diverse and powerful group, each with their own story and stake in the battle

This book is huge.

Not just in length – the world is vast and complicated with the story going back to the very creation of the universe, to a small town in Nevada where the strange and the unusual walk. There are a vast number of different powers and forces to incorporate into this small town, each of them having a massive effect of the overall story. The story itself is huge, with lots of different stories, lots of individual threads all coming together to form the whole.

And that’s told with a huge number of characters, each bringing more information, more world building, more angles and opinions and each being an essential part of the overall battle and progression. But each isn’t just a tool – they’re not just there for world building or to add their special powers or special resources or special insight – they’re all fully fledged, powerful characters in their own right. They all have histories, they all have links to other people, they all have their own wishes and desires – each of these many stories doesn’t just add to the whole, but they’re all deeply personal stories of the characters. They don’t just tell the story, they tell their stories.

The angel Biqa, at the dawn of creation conflicted and upset by God’s plan and his methods. Jim, the 15 year old boy running away from his past and that haunts him. Mutt, the Native American rejected by his people and facing resentment in the town. Maude, in an unhappy marriage for the sake of her daughter and trying to reconcile her current life with the teachings of her childhood that she intends to pass on. Mayor Harry, trying to reconcile his place as a pillar of the community and his Mormon faith with being gay and having found a man he loves. Augustus Shultz, still hurting and grieving from the death of his wife, caught between trying to hold onto her memory and finding love again. They all have their own, powerful stories to such a degree that I simply cannot pick out one protagonist because it’s all of their stories.

Even characters that are more referenced than having their own story told – like Sheriff Highfather- are still extremely rich characters with their own back stories, personalities and presence as full people in the book.

And the story itself is epic – not just a battle to face a force that can literally end the world, but the origin of it to pre-creation times, each character’s massive heroics in the face of it, their courage, their battles, their personal struggles, the ominous build up, the forces they try to bring together – it gives the whole book a grand crescendo feel. This is all helped by the writing that’s descriptive, but tight, that conveys emotion and feelings without excessive monologues, that gives us this full, glorious world without info dumping and that interspaces action and events with personal interaction and in perfect balance. It’s a beautifully written book.

This book is set back in the Old West in Nevada, just after the American civil war. Historical novels always make me cringe because they are often taken as an excuse to either erase marginalised people or treat POC, GBLT people and women extremely shoddily, often under the excuse of historical accuracy.

This book was one of the few that went a long way to do it right. It doesn’t rewrite history and pretend prejudice and bigotry didn’t exist – Mutt both has his demeaning name and is frequently racially attacked by other characters for being a Native American as are the Chinese members of the town. Maude is expected to be meek and mild and faces not just condescension but also violence from her domineering husband. Harry faces derision, contempt and the constant pressure to hide who he is.

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  FangsfortheFantasy | Sep 20, 2013 |
Debut effort by R. S. Belcher is a wild ride through the wild west as 15 year old Jim goes west to escape his troubled past and finds himself in even more trouble than he could have ever imagined; the cosmic- supernatural-oh crud here comes- the Devil kind of trouble. Jim encounters the most bizarre cast of characters I have read about in a long time when he reaches Golgotha, a town that is home to all kinds of lost souls. Some of the characters I still don't know what to think of. Especially Mutt (who is half coyote) . The imagery in the book is OUTSTANDING and scary at times. If you have a wild imagination, don't read it alone late at night. Jim is especially relatable. The flashbacks of his younger childhood before his father dies makes you want him be able to set things right and have some sort of normalcy or as normal as things can get in the strange town of Golgotha. You just have a sense that he longs for normal, just like everyone in Golgotha. The book is an adult book, but older teens, especially those who like fantasy, steam punk and mythology will enjoy it. Anyone younger than 16 may not appreciate the blend of aspects from mythology and religion if they have not learned about them yet. Belcher is a great writer and I look forward to what tales he will weave next, however I do hope that he doesn't try to cram too many elements into his next efforts. Readers who do not follow world religions and mythologies will never be able to keep up with this book, despite its excellence. ( )
  SparklePonies | Mar 26, 2013 |
Start with a western. Add some steampunk and some classic horror mythos. Have stories of Lucifer's Fall meet Native American Trickster legends meet Chinese creation myths of Pangu. Add the Divine Feminine plus Joseph Smith's Golden Plates. Stir it together with a wide assortment of other eerie and weird and you have the town of Golgotha, Nevada.

This book had been getting some minor buzz on some blogs I read and Library Journal gave it a starred review, so I thought it might provide a little escapist diversion.

Wow! It certainly was a wild ride. Belcher has populated this book with one of the most colorful and entertaining cast of characters I've seen in a while, and they rollick through a plot that doesn't really let up for a second. It kinda works.

However, 'kinda' is not 'totally'. The flaw in this book is that it's simply too much for its 364 pages. Even though Belcher has reserved a good chunk of the things you encounter as stories for another day, there's still so much in this one that it seems a bit cluttered and choppy. It might have been better had the order of assassins dedicated to Lilith or the local alchemist resurrecting the dead also been left for another day when we could get a truly satisfying bite out of them. The time regained could have been spent on this story's main arc of a Lovecraftian horror and its ancient guardian.

It was fun. It was certainly escapist. If you enjoy this whole strange olio of genres then, by all means, give this a try. I hope Mr. Belcher returns to this well. If he does, I hope he pulls in the reins a bit, focuses on one or two of the many intriguing characters, secure that there's plenty of time to tell all the tales. ( )
  TadAD | Mar 14, 2013 |
Per the usual required preamble, I received this book via a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration from GoodReads and the publisher, Tor, I give my frank assessment below.

It's been a long, long time since I've read a book that incorporated so many different aspects of so many different genres. Very seldom do you find a novel that includes zombies, angels, demons, heads in jars, ancient religious artifacts, Chinese folklore and gunfights all in one tidy package. "A book that has something for everyone" is an oft-used cliche but this book pretty literally lives up to that.

Since there's so MUCH going on, Belcher's novel defies any early unraveling. So many books telegraph their endings by the 100th page but Six-Gun doesn't so suffer. The reader can't make an early call since there's no telling when the genre might totally shift and there's a whole new story line to keep track of.

Unfortunately, this variety does tend to work against the author in some ways. With so many individual threads, it was sometimes difficult for one to keep track of who was doing what. The book was entertaining but at times hard to keep up with and I regretted at times that I failed to take some notes about who was who and their history.

In summary, Belcher's Six-Gun is a uniquely individual and rich world. Unfortunately, it's almost tiresome in its variety. Once drawn in it was easy to rattle off 100 pages but if you put it away for even a day it can be hard to catch up with all the dangling ends. Best read in one long and delightful sitting. ( )
  slavenrm | Mar 12, 2013 |
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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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