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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

With Sword and Pistol by Edward M. Erdelac (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order With Sword And Pistol HERE
Order Andersonville HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Deadcore 
Read the Genesis of Andersonville by Ed Erdelac (guest post)
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Ed Erdelac

GUEST AUTHOR 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: Collecting four incredible novellas in one volume, these are the writings of Edward M. Erdelac (Merkabah Rider) from some of his finest pieces to date.

• "Red Sails" is set in the year 1740 when British marine and a Dominican Blackfriar are hunted across a cannibal isle by a savage crew of shapeshifting pirates.
• "The Night of the Jikininki" is about a sadistic samurai sword tester who leads a pair of criminals in a bid to escape a prison filled with the ravenous walking dead.
• "Sinbad and the Sword of Solomon" is set in 796, where Sinbad the Sailor leads his crew to a monster-haunted island to retrieve a magic sword from its demon owner.
• And "Gully Gods" enters the modern era, where a South Houston gangbanger learns the utterly horrific secret behind the incomprehensible powers of a Liberian clique of ex-child soldiers.

Hundreds of years removed. Thousands of miles apart. But they all fight to the bloody end WITH SWORD AND PISTOL.

FORMAT/INFO: With Sword And Pistol is 281pages long divided over four novella parts. Narration is both in the third-person for each of the novellas. August 17, 2015 marked the e-book and trade paperback publication of " With Sword And Pistol " via Ragnarok Publications.

ANALYSIS: I am a fan of Ed Erdelac’s Merkabah series, and previously having read a couple of his short stories I was very excited about this new collection.

The author has provided a note before the start of each story and it’s very illuminating to read the origins of each one. The first tale of the book was the one which I was looking forward to the most called “Night of the Jikininki”. This tale is set in 1737 feudal Japan and features three remarkably dark characters, all of whom are stuck in the Fukuyama han prison for various reasons when a comet passes by and awakens the dead. Thereby setting off a horrid turn of events to which none are spared. The author has discussed quite a bit about the origins of this tale on his blog which makes for a fascinating read by itself however readers should be warned as it has minor spoilers for the story. Whilst keeping it horror-tinged, the author has very smartly also included commentary about the feudal situation in Japan and especially about the downtrodden class that is known as the “Eta”. Cleverly merging Japanese folklore and societal structure in a thrilling race to survive, the author’s efforts clearly make this tale a special one and one to be savored. Clearly this tale was my second favorite based on its inventive approach and suspenseful handling of its twists. The ending again in line with the collection is a very dark one and potentially underlines the cruel nature of fate.

The second story is titled “Red Sails” and features Jan a British Marine who has been shipwrecked along with a Dominican friar named Timoteo. The horrid part is that they are being cruelly killed in the water by a pirate crew. Jan challenges them and he and his friar companion are called for an audience with the captain. Things take a worse turn when the captain is revealed to be a vampire named Captain Vigoreaux and his crew is a group of Native American werewolves. They have taken the duo to hunt on a native island where the resident population and them will be their quarry. Sampari is the native islander who has her own plans for the island. This tale while being a dark one, has a strong thriller component and the author gives us two remarkable POV characters to follow. The story has quite a smooth pace to it and the readers will be racing all along to see how it all ends.

"Sinbad and the Sword Of Solomon" is a pulpy adventure story focusing on the fun and pulp aspect. We are introduced to Sinbad and his gang consisting of Rolf a Scandinavian viking, Henri a French archer & his trusted aide Omar a Sindhi seaman. Tasked with finding Solomon’s sword, Sinbad and his companions find themselves wondering who all can be trusted especially with a weapon that’s labelled as game-changer in the course of history. Flowing with snappy dialogue and action across the sails, this story was such a fun one that I genuinely wanted to know more of the characters once the story ended. This easily was the lightest in tone among all of the stories and the most fun to read.

"Gully Gods" is the last story and also the darkest one. It deals with J-Hoss or Joseph, a teenage gangbanger who arrives in Chicago after feeling Houston. He soon finds that gangs are virulent in Chicago as well and gets an invite to one. Trying to stay afloat of trouble and getting to know a Latina girl of his age soon lands him afoul of a Latino gang and J-Hoss has to decide whether to thrown in his lot with a bunch of Liberian ex-child soldiers who pray to a dark entity. He never quite knows the price for doing so. This story was a dark brutal one touching upon themes of gang culture, poverty and African child soldier initiation. One of the darkest stories that I have ever read, Ed Erdelac shows us through J’s eyes the darkness that is strewn throughout. I liked how he humanized J-Hoss by his love for his cousin, his remembrance of his Seminole ancestry and his efforts at trying to walk the straight walk. It’s a brutal read without much of a happy ending. I think the author meant to explore a lot in this story and mentions a few of these things on his blog.  An absolute stunner of a story that will wallop you in the gut and leave you in shambles which I believe is precisely what the author was aiming for.

With each of these stories, the author showcases a widespread look into humanity and I happened to enjoy his take on the adventure, zombie, pulpy & horror genres. Within each story, the characterization is something that shines through strongly. Be it with Jan's firm resolve or Sinbad's alacrity, Dog's stubbornness and J-Hoss' desire for revenge. All of them have sympathetic sides and because of the structure of these stories we only get a glimpse into their situation. But even a glimpse like such is stark enough to leave a mark and these stories will leave you thinking.

CONCLUSION: With this collection we get a magnificent glimpse at Edward’s talent as he bring various characters and genres alive and presents us with different facets of humanity & inhumanity. I for one was completely enthralled at the breadth of scope presented within. If you want to see why many consider Ed Erdelac to be a gifted storyteller, just grab a copy of this collection & like me you’ll be a believer.


CTPhipps said...

This is an amazing book and I absolutely loved this review. You really captured a lot of what made me enjoy this.


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