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Friday, November 4, 2011

"Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name" by Ed Erdelac (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Read FBC ‘s review of Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter
Read FBC Interview with Ed Erdelac

LinkAUTHOR INFORMATION: Ed Erdelac is the author of various books and is also a regular contributor to the Star Wars canonical universe. He is an award-winning screenwriter, an independent filmmaker, a chain reader, and a closet gamer. He was born in Indiana, pursued his education in Chicago and then moved to L.A. to pursue his career interests. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his family.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: The Merkabah Rider continues his journey across the American Southwest of 1880 in search of the renegade teacher who destroyed his mystic Jewish order in the second volume (containing novella episodes 5-8) of this acclaimed weird western series.

In this installment the Rider unravels more of the mystery of Adon's Hour of the Incursion plot and quickly learns that demons are the least of his troubles. He defends a remote settlement against a gang of half-demon gunmen in 'The Infernal Napoleon,' joins forces with Doc Holliday to hunt down an invisible creature in 'The Damned Dingus,' aids a group of Indians against the mindbending horror of 'The Outlaw Gods,' and takes his hunt to hell itself in 'The Pandæmonium Ride.'

CLASSIFICATION: 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. Lovecraft.

FORMAT/INFO: This book is 231 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 mainly including the Rider. It is a self contained story however has a few references to the events occurring in the previous book.

September 1, 2010 marked the paperback and e-book publication of the book via Damnation books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Merkabah Rider series began with Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter. I read the book nearly 2 years ago and was very much surprised by the quirky amalgam of Jewish mythology with the 19th century west settings. I did enjoy the author’s vision and so happened to read book II as well last year however due to certain personal reasons never got around to reviewing it, this is the review which got left behind.

The Mensch with No Name continues the trend of the first book by being a mix of four novellas which are sequential in time frame and continue to showcase more of the world of the Merkabah rider. The four stories are:

- The Infernal Napoleon

- The Damned Dingus

- The Outlaw Gods

- The Pandæmonium Ride

The stories continue the Rider’s search for his previous master Adon who has been revealed as the main mastermind behind all the supernatural incursions, he however cannot discount the fact that his teacher is also aware of his search and is also doing his active best to stay hidden.

The book directly opens with its first chapter wherein quite a few weeks have passed after the end of chapter four “The Nightjar Women”. The fifth chapter chronologically and the first of this volume is titled “The Infernal Napoleon” and it is set in Varruga Tanks wherein the Rider is passing thorough when he happens upon a strange phenomenon. His curiosity is awakened however before he can partake much of the mystery he finds that his pursuers have met up him and want a battle wherein only the victors will leave alive.

The second chapter “The Damned Dingus” showcases the Rider on his way towards Las Vegas wherein he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time however he does have one right person by his side, that person being John “Doc” Holliday. Forced to join Holliday because of reasons revealed in the story, the Rider also does his best to acquit himself with various western legends besides Holliday as they search for something which seems entirely out of the realm of possibility.

The third chapter “The Outlaw Gods” has him rattled from the events of the previous chapter, fate however has a different plan when he meets a group of Apache tribesmen who have been waiting for him and take him to Tats’adah. This new round further exposes Rider to the mysteries of the universe which he thought he knew. The ending leaves him shattered and with out a clue wherein the next & last chapter “The Pandæmonium Ride” opens up in quick succession as the Rider is at his wit’s end with the things he has seen and now knows about. He is forced to go to the very ends of nature into Hell itself to meet the Lord of lies himself.

The plot of this book is much darker to begin with, from the last one and has a lot more going on in each of the chapters as well. The reader is exposed to more of the world’s mythology and this increases the understanding about the stakes which the main characters are worried about. The story is much more streamlined as each story follows on the heels of the previous ones. Another plus point was all the extensive Jewish mythology which was utilized, since I didn’t have much knowledge about it. It was fascinating as the information was tabulated at the end of the book and the glossary of terms helped tremendously.

As for the characters, the main protagonist is put through a lot of physical, mental and theological wringing by the author along with quite a few character deaths as well which makes for quite a few grim endings. The author also has managed to insert a few historical characters in the story and therefore that was an additional plus as I got to discover a few more names in western front history. Also this time around the main protagonist’s story is much more akin to Roland Deschain and Jon Shannow as Rider is constantly facing challenges and even when he’s not looking for any trouble, it still manages to find him. There’s also the stoicism portrayed by the main character which was reminiscent of those two characters, I found that these aspects were much clearer in this volume.

The book while have these plus points also has a couple of drawbacks namely that it goes out of its way to showcase the problems faced by the rider and therefore falls to the predictably factor. So while the problems faced by the protagonist are gargantuan, the reader knows at the back of their mind, probably how it’s going to end. This is usually the faltering point for most serial stories however the author does his best to entertain by giving us a world wherein Jewish mysticism is meeting the western wilds giving the readers a strange mix wherein there is something new to be discovered at every nook and corner. The other point is that this time around the climax of the book is not as strong as that of the last book and while it ends, it leaves the reader hanging. This was a bit of a downer since I was expecting a few more revelations in regards to the Hour of Inclusion storyline as well as the appearance/motivations of the main antagonist.

CONCLUSION: A weird western novel which has a very intriguing storyline that acts as its main propellant along with the eclectic cast of characters that populate the land. Ed Erdelac has to be lauded for his wildly imaginative efforts in recreating a time that never was but feels as wonderfully alluring as the other fictional times and places that SFF readers often love to read about.


Tim Marquitz said...

These books require some effort, but they're great. The detail Ed goes into is amazing and it only gets better as the series progresses.

If you're looking for something different and intelligent, this is the series for you.

The Reader said...

Thanks for stopping by Tim :)

This series is indeed different with its quirk mix of Jewish mythology, wild west history and smooth amalgamation.

Sure makes for a fun read.



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