In a previous post, I talked about Far West and reviewed the first four stories in the new short story collection, Tales of the Far West. Here is my full review of the book; to skip the reviews of the first four stories, click here. And, yes, there are already plenty of reviews of the book on Amazon but I started to review the collection here, so I felt like finishing it as well.
He Built The Wall To Knock It Down by Scott Lynch: This story re-energized my passion for the Far West setting, which had started to wane a bit with the passage of time from the initial Kickstarter project. It is cool in exactly the way a Western/Wuxia/steampunk tale should be, with clear, concise action scenes that impart a very cinematic feel to the story with an amazing brevity. It has bar fights, the requisite master teaching the apprentice by having him do mundane tasks, amazing feats of kung fu and gunfighting, gravity-defying acrobatic stunts, explosive fights, and steampunk limbs aplenty.
In Stillness, Music by Aaron Rosenberg, is about a Wandering Star, a member of a clan of couriers who, according to the Far West website “are carefully neutral, no matter what their hearts may tell them. While many of them would be swift to assist wounded farmers after a bandit raid, for all their martial skill, they would not lift one brightly colored finger to stop it in progress.” So of course this story is about an exception to that rule. This story was good but not quite as strong as the opener. (There is a distracting formatting error in the Kindle version of this book: when the character sings, his sentences are smushed together, two to each line, so you can’t tell where one phrase ends and another begins.)
Riding the Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig. I would call it more of a scene, or the seed of a story. It starts in media res and ends there as well. Secrets are hinted at and what happens next is implied, but as a stand-alone story in a collection, it left me shrugging my shoulders. It might just be me, but I expected something fleshed out more. If this is a prelude to a longer story someplace else, it should say so. If not, I don’t think it stands on its own.
Purity of Purpose by Gareth-Michael Skarka, is one of the vignettes that was already up on the Far West website. While short, it is a complete story with a well-described, fantastical fight scene that combines gunplay and kung fu.
Paper Lotus by Tessa Gratton: This is a morbid but curious tale that offers some insight into the religious practices, both official and folk, of the Far West setting.
In the Name of the Empire by Eddy Webb: A nice murder mystery where the suspect is the sheriff and the investigator is a female Twin Eagle detective. The Twin Eagles are a for-hire detective agency that use a lot of steampunk gadgets in the course of their work, which is fun to read about.
Errant Eagles by Will Hindmarch: This story starts out with a fight on a crashing airship, a great idea that is dragged down by the monotonous description of the fight itself. The two characters involved are named Redhand and Hollowaigh, and the scene plays out as “Redhand does something. Hollowaigh does something. Redhand does something else. Hollowaigh does something else. Etc.” Some variety in the description would have been more enjoyable, and this is not the last time in the story that a fight scene is handled in this manner.
Railroad Spikes by Ari Marmell: This is more of a Twilight Zone-y tale of a train robbery gone bad. I found it to be pleasantly wicked with a good ending.
The Fury Pact by Matt Forbeck: This is the third story in the book to include an Imperial Marshal, a sort of Judge Dredd-esque judge/jury/executioner wearing a stylized mask who protects the Empire’s interests in the Far West. In this tale, the main character has a jetpack that the Empire wants, so a Marshal is sent to collect it by any means necessary.
Seven Holes by T.S. Luikart: I enjoyed this story for the insight it gives into the powers controlled by the kung-fu experts in Far West, and also what can happen when those with powers are not trained properly.
Local Legend by Jason L. Blair: A bounty hunter comes to town claiming to have killed a local outlaw, and he has the outlaw’s famous sword to prove it. Not a bad story, but not very surprising, either.
Crippled Avengers by Dave Gross: This is a neat revenge story with a cool cast of misfits and a mwu-ha-ha evil villain. Of all the characters in the book, these are probably the ones I would most want to read more about.
Overall, if the purpose of this collection was to showcase various aspects of the Far West universe, then mission accomplished. If the purpose was also to show the level of professionalism of the team in putting out a Far West product, the outlook is a bit murkier. There are frequent typos, omitted words, incorrect use of words (clamor instead of clangor when describing the sounds of a smithy, for instance), an accidental mid-story name change, and the aforementioned formatting error that pulled me out of the stories. I was looking for more care to go into this project and I hope that the core RPG is better proofread before it is released.
Despite being pulled out of the world by those errors, I am still excited about Far West in general. I want to read more about it and I want to create in it. As I mentioned before, the fan community in the forums is already actively creating new content and this is before they even have the core RPG book to work off of. I am eager to see what happens when the world is fully opened up to the fans.