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Friday, March 26, 2010

"Merkabah Rider: Tales of A High Planes Drifter" by Ed Erdelac (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order Markabah Rider: Tales of A High Planes Drifter from Amazon here

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Ed Erdelac is the author of 2 previous titles and is also a regular contributor to the Star Wars canonical universe. He is an independent filmmaker who has released his film “Meaner Than Hell” last year. He’s also an award-winning screenwriter, an independent filmmaker, a chain reader, and a closet gamer.

BOOK SUMMARY: Set in 1879, the tales follow the adventures of The Rider, a Hasidic gunslinger, the last of an order of ancient Jewish mystics capable of extraplanar travel, as he tracks down the renegade teacher who betrayed and murdered his enclave. Along the way he encounters a cult of Molech worshippers bent on human sacrifice, a murderous possessed gunman, a powerful ju ju man holding a boomtown in his sway, and a bordello full of antedelluvian succubi.

This tale is a mystical western coupled with Jewish mythology. Think of it as David Gemmell’s Jon Shannow series meets Stephen King’s Dark Tower meets H.P. Lovercraft

FORMAT/INFO: This book is 294 pages long divided into 4 novella sections and comes with a glossary of various Jewish esoteric terms. Narration is via third person omniscient and consists of various characters including the Rider. It is a self contained story with pointers to future stories .

December 1, 2009 marked the paperback publication of the book via Damnation books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: In Ed Erdelac’s Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter readers are presented with a world wherein the time is of the late 19th century and the setting of the stories have a western flare. The authorial twist to this tale is that the protagonist is a Jewish gunslinger of sorts. The setting of this story and the main character potentially seem very Dark Tower-ish and the main character also seems akin to the character of Jon Shannow[that is in search of someone]. The book is made up of four different novellas which seem to progress in a serial order. The titles of the four stories are:

- The Blood Libel

- The Dust Devils

- Hell’s Hired Gun

- The Nightjar Women

The first story opens up and shows the Rider riding into a town wherein a heinous crime has been committed. A recent child kidnapping has lead to a mob building up its nerve for burning down a Jewish settlement. The Rider has to face enemies on dual planes both physical and spectral as he investigates the happenings. This story was a nice introduction to the rider and his story however it just scratches the surface of the world and its Protagonist as it offers small clues here and there.

In the 2nd tale we come across the Rider as he arrives at a town wherein foreigners die and the town is being governed by a violent gang. The Rider discovers that the town has a sorcerer whose powers seems equal to himself. The story shatters the invincible nature of the rider and shows that he can be overcome. This adds a further zing to the story when you know the main character is indeed fallible. This story was a bit longer and shows a bit more of the mythological background of this world as well.

The third tale was a very atmospheric one and was the first in which we are shown connections with the previous episodes. Also showcased in this story is why the rider is constantly on the move. The villain of this piece Medgar Tooms is one who begins as a monster but in the end we realize has more to him than just plain brutality. This tale also gives a bit of the Rider’s past and was the tale which truly hooked me onto this book much more so than its predecessors.

The last tale is my favorite one as it is the one with the least amount of action, however it unveils the most background story about the Rider; his life, his mission and the over all back story. The story has him finding solace in a town with a stranger. However he comes finds that the town’s whorehouse is providing much more than simple human pleasure. This piece was the clear winner for myself, as after finishing it, the future becomes very enticing and the reader will be very compelled to see what the rider does next armed with the information he has gleaned in this tale.

Ed Erdelac has written a very straight forward story which at an earlier glance might not offer much appeal. However, on reading the entire collection, these stories come together and give readers a nicely detailed world, that shows us that this is much more than a simple mystical western. The book also has a bigger story going on in the background as there is talk amongst various characters referring to the “Hour of incursion” and also thrown into the fray is the Rider’s search for his wayward master, Adon, which fuels his resolve. This book was another surprisingly good read and definitely has me hooked for the further adventures of the Merkabah Rider and the weirdly dangerous world which he abides in.



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