Atomic Moo Book Review of Dead Man’s Hand

An Anthology of The Weird West!

Dead Man's Hand_cvr

In the introduction of Dead Man’s Hand, editor John Joseph Adams makes an important distinction: The Weird West isn’t Steam Punk. According to Adam’s: Steampunk is often focused in “urban settings”, and can take place in any time, or place, but Weird West is different. It’s a world of gold rushes, gunslingers, and dust. Though the two genres share similarities (steam powered machines or maybe a clock work automaton) the Weird West takes place exclusively in 19th century America during a time of lawlessness, and expansionism, into a new frontier. To be honest, I never knew of this genre until recently reading Dead Man’s Hand, but now knowing of it, I love it! It’s the fantastic “what if” applied to a world of grubby cowboys, gamblers, and mountain men, mixed with shamanism and folk lore.

Published by Titan Books (2014), This collection of Twenty-three short stories is the literary equivalent of Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain ride. Well, Except you don’t have to pay a hundred bucks for as much fun. The stories are fantastic, thrilling, and diverse. Short Stories from the likes of Elizabeth Bear, Joe R. Lansdale, Alan Dean Foster, and Orson Scott Card will take you through whore houses, cursed cemeteries, and meet ups with iconic American folk legends.Weird West Some of my favorite tales were those by Walter Joe Williams; who’s story, The Golden Age, turns the 1849 California gold rush into a battle of valiant masked vigilantes versus sinister villains. Then, in Joe R. Lansdale’s The Red-Headed Dead, we get to read about the reluctant agent of the lord, Reverend Jebediah Mercer, and his gun slinging fight against the undead. In Holy Jingle, Alan Dean Foster takes mountain man, Mad Amos Malone up against a demon possessed whore, and then tells of his “unique” method of exorcism. Oh, and I should also mention Tobias S. Buckell’s exciting tale, Sundown, where a Gatling gun toting Frederick Douglass takes on an air ship full of bug like aliens!FDouglas

Which, imagining a stoic Frederick Douglas on the business end of a 19th century machine gun, is also a great way of describing the wonderful and wild chaos of this book. These stories aren’t the tea sipping, dainty, jaunts on a steam powered dirigible you get from Steampunk. To hell with that. The weird west represented in Dead Man’s Hand is like Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone sitting on top a speeding wagon full of dynamite as it races toward the gates of hell! It’s cowboys versus dinosaurs, aliens and clockworks with warrants on their heads, and sultry whores who will literally suck the life out of you! It’s so much fun you’ll want to beat down the next steampunk cosplayer you see with his own frilly umbrella, and then ride off into the sunset with his stolen woman and gold! Though, we here at Atomic Moo do not encourage harm, or violence, against steampunkers, no matter how tempting it may be… Now, I’m off to watch some 1960’s Wild West and then maybe ride into down and buy me some viddles and a loose woman. Well, I don’t have enough for the woman, but I think I can mange the viddles. Yup.

Dead Man’s Hand is available now in all major bookstores, or online at!

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  1. Excellent review. Literary equivalent of Big Thunder Mountain—if I’d written that, I’d be proud of it.

    I read a ton of Alan Dean Foster books in the 90s. Read his Star Trek short stories, which were pretty good (maybe based on the cartoon?) and his movie adaptations, which were awful. He did a lot of other things too, some of which were pretty fun reads.

    Wild Wild West is a pretty awesome show. Sort of a cross between Star Trek, Batman and Maverick.

    • Mister Trog

      07/12/2014 at 8:47 pm

      It’s such a good show that I’m thinking about changing my name to Jim West… or Trog West. Jim Trog?

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