Deadlands: Ghostwalker by Jonathan Maberry

Confessions, I haven’t played the Deadlands RPG before nor did I have any clue as to what the game is about. So was a greenhorn thrust headlong into this fantastic world – a weird western landscape where the discovery of “ghost-rock” has accelerated technological innovations and at the same time, thinned the veil between worlds to allow for other-worldly ‘souls’ to invade the human realm. And man, did I love this pulpy adventure or what.

This unlikely juxtaposition of two to three different genres makes for a crackling hotbed of stories and ideas ripe for more. And Jonathan Maberry, the best-selling author of the Joe Ledger series, digs right in and comes up with pure gold in this opener to this franchise-based novels.

A highly entertaining story that is a mix of action, horror and comedy. This is not any high-brow literature but an all-out over-the-top mix of tropes done right, served as a heady concoction of blazing gun fights, zombies, necromancers, the untamed weird wild west at the turn of the nineteenth century mixed up with lovecraftian horrors – When I look back, this book has so many things crammed in to it that I cannot imagine how Jonathan pulled it all together. But he pulls it off and he does it in full elan – forcing us to love and cheer for these larger-than-life characters: The gunslinger with a haunted past, the red-indian sidekick who speaks too much for his own good and the distraught lady in town who attracts danger like blood in the water draws sharks and of course the indomitable villain who wants to conquer the world. It all somehow fits in.

The small desert town of Paradise Falls forms the center point of an epic conflict when Grey Torrance, a mercenary gun-hand unwittingly finds himself drawn into a fight for saving this town. Looks Away, a Sioux whose life Grey saves, is determined to ‘protect’ his friends in this town from the predatory dogs – Capitalists in search of ‘ghost-rock’ who want to wipe out the population there. This also happens to be where he last interacted with his ‘boss’, an eminent scientist named Percival Saint also prospecting for traces of ghost-rock in this town. Grey – a free radical with a haunted past, is also drawn to Jenny, the sassy strong willed girl who is determined not to give up her father’s dream, that is her hometown. The fight snowballs into something way beyond epic when Grey realized his adversaries are not simple merchants out to buy some real-estate – but vile necromancers capable of reviving not just dead bodies/corpses and subjugating them to his will but also command demon-souls from other worlds to do his bidding.

The guns never stop shooting, the zombies keep coming – and Jonathan throws in his own flavor of the lovecraftian horror mix that will have you flinching and gasping - to keep things on the boil and he never takes his foot off the pedal. Every chapter ends on a tense note, drawing us headlong into this pulpy adventure as we race towards a cataclysmic ending.

I loved it. The perfect book to spend your grey rainy afternoons imagining the purplish lightning and the bright blue explosions as the world goes to hell. I am kicking myself for not having read any more Jonathan Maberry books. It’s a treat for newcomers but am sure all the fans of the Deadlands are loving it, in equal measure – as Jonathan does full justice to the potential of this vast and highly innovative franchise.


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