A hired gun haunted by his past, a brilliant Sioux scientist educated at Exeter, a diabolical alchemist, and a town full of zombies battle in the “Weird West” where an otherworldly material called “ghost rock” fuels fantastical steampunk inventions. The novel is based on the role-playing game set in a shattered California that has been reshaped after the Great Quake of 1868 destroyed most of the state and left what remained a chaotic landscape of sea-flooded caverns.
Gunslinger Grey Torrence, and Thomas Looks Away, a Sioux scientist, ride together to search for the alchemist who is building a personal army and using ghost rock to build weapons of mass destruction. When they arrive in the small town of Paradise Falls, all hell breaks loose.
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers is one part alternative history, one part steampunk, and one part fantasy. Although I do like steampunk and always enjoy a good western, I’m not a fan of zombies and not just because they all too often prefer to dine on brains. In Maberry’s capable hands, however, the book is eminently readable. The repartee and growing friendship between Torrence and Looks Away was, for me, the best feature of the book, while Jenny, the main female character, seemed more like the token steely-eyed brave female character. While Maberry can certainly write and there are some great lines, the decision to throw in the kitchen sink detracts instead of adds to the story. The dinosaurs, saber-tooth tigers, and vampire witches certainly aren’t necessary. All in all, if you like a buddy story wrapped in a dark and sprawling yarn of fantastical proportions and can see past all the tropes, you’ll enjoy this book.