Those Poor, Poor Bastards by Tim Marquitz, Kenny Soward and Joe Martin (Book Review)

In the short time that it has been operating, Ragnarok Publications has been doing some great work by all accounts. Their kaiju anthology that was released early this year, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters was an awesome piece of kaiju fiction that covered all different sorts of genres and styles and what not, and the men behind the publisher have been going full at it for a good long while now. A few months ago Tim Marquitz, Joe Martin and Kenny Soward launched a new series for Ragnarok, called Dead West, and it was promoted quite heavily as a new spin on an old and popular genre.

Those Poor, Poor Bastards is set in the American Mid-West during the mid-1800s and it features zombies and holy magic and the American Frontier and everything else that goes with all of that. Having read some of Tim’s fiction previously, I was expecting the story to be quite bold and brash, with some rough humour thrown in for good measure, and I wasn’t disappointed in that at all. Tim collaborates on this with his Ragnarok co-publisher Joe Martin and with author Kenny Soward, with the three of them turning out quite an interesting zombie western that unfortunately does have a few flaws.

Those Poor, Poor BastardsThe story is basically that of half-Injun Nina and her father as they get caught up in a zombie plague somewhere in the American Midwest in the mid-1800s. Their resulting adventure sees them meeting all sorts of people as they make friends and enemies alike in their bid for survival and the ending is both interesting and a bit disappointing, largely because this is such a short story. I could definitely have done with a much longer story personally, because I liked the entire build-up and the suspense of the moment with respect to why the zombie plague happened at this particular time and to these particular people. Nina and her father are basically caught up in the events that happen and their story is most definitely intriguing, to say the least.

To get off the negatives first, I’d say that I could have done with a bit less swearing and the… rough talk. Nina is often described in less-than-gentle terms and there is a lot of swearing in this novel, to the point that it often detracted from the story itself. Whenever that happens, my enjoyment of a story is always lessened, for something essential is taken away from the moment. Knowing that Tim is one of the writers, I expected something like this of course, but even then it was a bit much.

And I had some issues with the portrayal of Nina and a couple of the other female characters in this story, for they always seemed to be reactionary or too willing to give denigrating comments a miss just because. That didn’t sit well with me, no matter what the era itself was like and all.

However, when you focus on the positives, there’s a lot to talk about for sure. Such as the fact that between the three of them, these writer shave crafted a really engaging story of the zombie plague sweeping up the American Midwest in its wake. The characters’ flight of terror from the zombies chasing them, the brutal scenes of horror, the full-on emotion of the whole thing, that’s where the novel really excels.

And more than that, it really gives you characters to either root for or to wish that they’d die by crashing into a super-speed train. There’s a really wonderful mix of characters in Those Poor, Poor Bastards, really validating the title in a lot of ways. Sometimes the story can be a bit too fast-paced but I didn’t mind it, for the page-count is a bit on the low-side and there are indeed a lot of characters to get through. Had the writers slowed down the story to properly give each character some form of development, then the story would indeed have suffered, so there’s a good balance of things here.

From what I understand, the authors have published at least one more Dead West story, and after reading Those Poor, Poor Bastards I am definitely of a mind to check them all out, for I did enjoy this one and want to read more. Ragnarok Publications has done some great things of late and Dead West looks set to be another feather in its cap, so I wish all the authors the best.

Rating: 8/10

More Ragnarok Publications: Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters.

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Posted on July 17, 2014, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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