Book Review: Dead Man’s Hand by John Joseph Adams (Editor)


Dead Man’s Hand by John Joseph Adams (Editor), et al – Available Here

Anthologies are hard to review. It’s the same as short story collections, except worse. Instead of a single author prying their mind open at different points you have an editor playing god with dozens of other minds and apparently something coherent is supposed to be accomplished by the time the trees are slaughtered and the pages bound. Unfortunately, genre is a weak and vague way to try and tie everything together and for a majority of writers that means starting a story with 188?, Someplace Westish.

Really? The West wasn’t just the west. It’s a mindset, a minefield of expectations and realities meeting myth and creature in the genre west. Throw in some weird. Fine. Some cerebral hemorrhage of a thought. Giants, dinosaurs, little tiny pixies that turn pollen into gold when exposed to great cold, whatever it takes. That’s weird. A start at the least. A proper weird is unexpected, are or misappropriation of expectation, tradition, and taste.

And there is some of that here…but not enough.

There are 23 stories in the totality of this collection. I created a document giving them a score to try and figure out where the weight lands on the scale from ‘Why bother?’ to ‘Why would I leave?’

The Good: 11
The Bad: 12

This is not a great split. If this were a pass-fail grade it would have failed, but fortunately, it’s not. Most had some small thing that made it not terrible, but unremarkable. A piece of fluff congealed in the name of collection, paycheck, or good intentions.

I’d give you the complete rundown of which are good and which are bad, but having read the bad, I’m not willing to let you suffer less because I was dumb enough to read all of them. Suffice it to say that the best of the best are near the back and the unexemplary seem confident in their ability to suck and entertain you just enough to prevent you from rage quitting the volume entirely.

So don’t take this as a positive or a negative review. Think of it as a challenge, something like those of the great migratory miners of centuries past. Go forth and mine the pages of the anthology for the ideas and the stories that make you smile. They are likely there and if they are not then I am simply a kooky prospector with a voice bigger than his brain.

Regardless of where your reading takes you, may you find gold.

“There are too many stories here. Many with excellent one liners. I refuse to play favorites.” – Jacob Kohl, Right Here, Right Now

About Tietsu

Someday the words that fill my brain will fill cheap paperback books. Until then, I will collect them here.
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