Read Recently — March 2014 — Deadman’s Thumb

Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

Re-read. Didn’t say much about it the first time (January 11, 2004–I’d really only just started doing this) and I don’t have much to say now. Interesting book. Recommended.

The Panda’s Thumb: more reflections in natural history by Stephen Jay Gould

One of the great science writers of the last century presents another collection of columns on (mostly) evolution, and things as diverse as Dinosaurs and the titular thumb (which is not like your thumb (unless you are also a panda (in which case, please add me to your friends-list))). Well written, entertaining and informative. Recommended.

Deadman’s Road by Joe R. Lansdale

I’ve said before that the weird west is getting crowded, but Lansdale has been working this territory a long time. This collection of short stories tells the tales of Reverend Jebidiah Mercer, a gun-carrying, evil-fighting preacher. Mercer isn’t on good terms with his god, but as a repentant sinner he goes where he’s sent and faces off against the evils awaiting him.

In the first story, “Dead In The West”, Mercer arrives at the east Texas town of Mud Creek, where he meets a boy he could love almost as a father, and a woman he could love as a husband . . . but the town is threatened by an invasion of something of a cross between vampires and zombies, and you know that when the Reverend rides on, he’ll be going alone.

In “Deadman’s Road”, the Reverend helps a sherriff escort a prisoner down a road probably better less taken.

In “The Gentleman’s Hotel”, the Reverend puts up at the titular abandoned building, the site of a whorehouse abandoned after the attack of something dark. It’s also haunted.

In “The Crawling Sky” the Reverend visits the town of Wood Tick, where several people have been killed in a house in the woods, where something comes out of the well at night.

And finally, in “the Dark Down There” the Reverend visits mining country, where Kobolds are threatening the local livelihood. He also meets a woman who’s too damn ornery to be frightened off.

Now, this is the point at which I’d normally tell you if it’s recommended or not, but in this case, things are a little more complicated than that. For starters, there’s the sex issue. The Reverend’s damnation . . . is sexual in nature, and as noted, the Gentleman’s Hotel is a haunted brothel. In “The Dark Down There” there is mention of very mild bestiality. And in both of the first two stories, the haunting is the result of revenge for rape and murder. Which leads to another problem, what I call the “Bag of Bones difficulty”, after the Stephen King novel by that name (slight spoilers for that book may follow). Truthfully, Bag of Bones is in a lot of ways one of King’s better books, but it has one slight problem: if the monster which the hero has to destroy is the ghost of a raped, murdered, or raped and murdered Person of Colour who is seeking revenge for said rape/murder on the people who did it (and maybe casting their net a little wide), well . . . it kinda looks like you’re having us root for the bad guy.

So, yeah, highly problematic narratives, kinda gross in a lot of places, well-written. Recommendation: uncertain. Use your judgement.

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