Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tales of the Far West A Wuxia Western Anthology

Tales of the Far West is an anthology of wuxia western basis for the Far West setting. I didn't back the Kickstarter but it's a topic I'm interested in. One of the things I like about antholgoies is that it's a little easier to sneak them in then a five hundred page monster novel. In between some of the games I ran at Gen Con, this was good 'buffer' material to prevent me from rereading sections of the One Ring over and over again.

In terms of why I bought it, first thing up movies. While The Man With the Iron Fists isn't going to win any awards, there were some great fight scenes. Another favorite of mine, Sukiyaki Western Django combines a lot of those elements and then there's the Warrior's Way where a man from the east winds up in the west. Of course this ignores Kung Fu from back in the day.

Anyway, you can see why I might be interested in the theme.

The book is hit or miss. For example, Riding the Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig just doesn't go anywhere for me. I found that odd as I enjoy a lot of Chuck's work. I check his website on a regular basis and have bought several of his books on writing. He has a good 'voice' if you will. Maybe it was just too short for me.

And that's exactly the problem with Purity of Purpose by Gareth-Michael Skarka. I would swear that if the RPG comes out, this is going to be the chapter opener for how advancement or combat works. It's well told but so short I was left wondering why it was included. It's basically a well told fight scene. Yeah, it's well told. Love the description of the guns for example.

Mind you as science and technology go, I wonder how longer term that will work. In most fantasy genres, the strength of the ancient swords and armor are reliant on the old magic and forge abilities that have been long lost. That doesn't necessarily work that way with technology. Hard to look at a gun from one hundred years ago and think, "Yeah, that's going to out class some of the newer stuff."

The good news is that I didn't feel lost when reading the stories. There are a few things that poke odd as odd but I assume they'll be getting more details in the future. For example, how 'magical' is the setting. Demons are mentioned as a rumor, but there are 'thunderbirds'. There's a lot of 'steamtech' but seems fairly out of the way for the most part.

The setting also seems capable of handling more than just straight up wuxia action. For example, Ari Marmell does a tale that fits soundly in the horror-suspense field. While its a little jarring compared to some of the high action we see in other tales, its told well enough and fits with one of the other themes of the setting, steam punk weird science.

That genre blending comes into focus in the tale Crippled Avengers by Dave Gross where the main characters all have some type of crippling injury inflicted on them by the villain only to have Science! restore them.

The even better news though, is that there are some solid stories in here. The strengths of Riding the Thunderbird and Purity of Purpose may have seemed weaker and out of place because they followed He Built the Wall to Knock it Down by Scott Lynch and In Stillness, Music by Aaron Rosenberg, both of which were longer and fuller and really brought the action.

He Built the Wall to Knock it Down hits a lot of the standards of 'fantasy' writing/showcasing that I've mentioned before. It includes the unknown stranger with a dark past, the building up of the stranger in terms of his strength by showcasing what a powerful fighter he is against more and more outrageous odds and then the final show down. Even better though, some of the characters introduced can make future appearances or even show up in flash backs to previous tales. It's that strong in my opinion.

All told there are twelve tales including authors like Matt Forbeck among the others I've mentioned. The electronic version is under $5 so if you're looking to dip your toe in something a little more off the beaten path, this should have you covered.