Yes, it’s time for another weird western, two of them in fact, as I work my way through the backlog of reviews.
Riley and Givens are familiar names to this blog since they appear in several of the publications put out by Riley’s Science Fiction Trails. This book, however, is published by David Lee Summers’ Hadrosaur Productions, and his own fiction has shown up in Science Fiction Trails publications.
Review: Legends of the Dragon Cowboys, 2017.
As you can tell by the cover, this book hearkens back to the days of Ace Doubles.
It doesn’t exactly give you two novels. Both of them have an episodic feel to them though David B. Riley’s The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung seems to be all new while Laura Givens Chin Song Ping and the Long, Long Night is mostly reprints assembled around a frame.
Both books have Chinese immigrants, men on the make, in the American Old West.
I’ve long thought that weird westerns could do more with the Chinese. Even though I prefer the science fiction variety of the weird western, I’d like to see it use more Chinese mythology and history even it that means a fantasy weird western.
Ling Fung is kind of a Shaolin monk (obvious shades of the old tv show Kung Fu) and kind of a Jesuit though he didn’t complete training with either before a death sentence by the Chinese Emperor forced him to flee to America. There Riley puts him in the same fictional universe as his Miles O’Malley books, and Ling possibly solves the problem of Ah Puch, Mayan God of Death, for good.
He also learns the practicalities of bounty hunting (it’s not the gross, it’s the net), runs across a cannibal and a yeti, investigates the mystery as to whom is buying all the .40 caliber Purdy ammunition, and gets enough guns and knives from people trying to kill him to stock his own store with them.
To be honest, this one was a trifle disappointing. It’s genial enough and gave me a smile several times, but it just wasn’t as funny as the O’Malley books.
Givens, however, was even better than hoped since I’ve liked her Ping stories. He’s a hopeless romantic and lover of women, an acrobat, and a conman.
Givens gives us a frame of Ping’s grandson Tommy and five other American GIS facing death in France in World War Two. (For reasons not entirely clear, they are going to be killed by either their fellow Americans or their German captors.) To pass the night, Tommy tells stories of his grandfather.
“Chin Song Ping and the Fists of Steel” is a delightful bit of Chinoiserie steampunkery with the graceful and sentient automaton Iron Tiger, a Chinese creation of silk, bamboo, brass, and steel; in an exhibition match against the American Goliath, a steam-powered hulk with a carnival chicken as its control system. Of course, things go wrong.
The love of Ping’s life, Louise, gets embroiled in a succession struggle to be the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans in “Ching Song Ping and the Mojo Uprising”. Louise, which turns out to be important later, is the granddaughter of the legendary Marie Laveau and has some magic powers of her own.
Teddy Roosevelt gets plenty of on-stage time in “Chin Song Ping and the Dragon Merchants”. It purports to be the real story behind the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Said story involves vicious Tongs, and the Chinese Emperor thinking an American market for dragon meat is the solution to his fiscal woes. Oh, and Ping looking for a very special wedding dress.
And Givens wraps the frame up with a surprise and keeps us fond of the exuberant, clever, and adaptable Ping who is always up to a new challenge – especially for the sake of love.
Recommended for weird western fans, especially if you like your stories with more humor than menace or just want something Chinese.