Thursday, January 20, 2011
Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter Review!
Ashe Armstrong returns with a review of Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter!
Greetings once again, Emporium readers. It's Ashe and I'm back with another review. A solo read this time around. I bought and promptly devoured Edward Erdelac's Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter. And since Mark's a busy guy, I offered to once again lend a hand with a review. That being said, shall we?
If you're not already familiar with the book, well, you could scroll down to Mark's Christmas post but I'll save you the trouble. Merkabah Rider is about a Jewish man from a mystic order who can travel the planes of existence. That's all I'll say as far as details of the story goes because, quite honestly, finding out the details of the order and the things that take place as you read them is just plain fun. The book is made up of four stories which each take place in a different locale as our protagonist, The Rider, travels the southwestern portion of the US.
The first story is a right proper hook, believe me (they all are, really though). The Rider wanders into a dirty little town that's showing some rather angry teeth towards anyone of the Jewish persuasion. We find out why. In the adjacent area is a place called “Little Jerusalem.” In this place, children have started to go missing. The Rider aims to find out why.
Now, as I said, this first one is a good hook because it gives you a taste of everything these stories are about. The Rider is established as a driven man with a steel core but very unusual. And without giving too much away, we're very quickly shown just how unusual he really is. I really don't want to show much more because I enjoyed myself so much seeing what was happening in this fantastic setting.
The second story is set in Mexico in a sleepy desert town. As if that weren't western enough, here comes the weird: a voodoo man and a strange sandstorm. The third story of the Rider's travels involves an unstoppable gunman, a Christian preacher and a mountain town. And rounding things out is a fantastic end cap that shows just how human the Rider really is, even in his dealings with demons and greedy bandits. It also sets up perfectly for the sequel, The Mensch With No Name.
Erdelac's writing reminds me of Robert E. Howard's. Quite a compliment, by my standards. It's fluid, it gives good description and the pace when the action picks up keeps you reading. His phrasings are a bit more modern than Howard's, not that that's a bad thing. There's a smattering of Lovecraft in there and in fact, if you're like me and love Howard's and Lovecraft's stories, you will utterly adore this book. Fans of Lovecraft will get as excited as I did, I think. Erdelac's knowledge of Jewish mysticism and mythology is utterly fantastic as well and he weaves in Jewish words wonderfully. They are a bit jarring at first if you're unfamiliar with their pronunciations or meanings but the latter part is remedied with an included glossary in the back.
Mr. Erdelac has done a phenomenal job here and give us all not just a genuinely amazing weird west story, but a great story period. He makes beautiful use of the religious aspects used. The use of mythology and religion reminded me a bit of Mike Mignola's writing for Hellboy too. And I know I've left some of the story details pretty bare here (and I'm aware that you can find a bit more details around the Emporium of the Amazon page) but I wanted to make it clear how fun these stories are. I don't want to ruin any details ahead of time. The surprises are fantastic and you will absolutely be hooked.
My only real complaint about the book is the actual physical book itself. It's a little small in the width so you have to pull it open a little wider sometimes to read the words that are near the spine. It's minor but another six of an inch would've helped this problem. Still, it's an independent company so it's totally understandable. I'm sure that Mr. Erdelac, like I would no doubt feel, was thrilled to get the book published.
So, to sum up, it's weird, it's western, it's fun, it's exciting, it's dark, it's amazing. Buy it, devour it, enjoy it, thank me later. And do Mr. Erdelac a favor and just buy both books because trust me when I say, you're going to want them both.