I think this review is a novelty on this blog. For the first time I review a self-published e-book.
In July 2011 I received a mail from author David Mark Brown. He kindly asked if I would like to read and review Fistful of Reefer which is the first book in his Reeferpunk universe. I never heard of Reeferpunk before. Fortunately David Mark Brown provided me with additional information which finally convinced me to give Fistful of Reefer a try.
Before I go into details I would like to give you the authors definition of Reeferpunk as an appetizer.
"Reeferpunk is a dieselpunk, spaghetti-Western, refried alternate-history of what could have become of the southern half of North America if cheap oil never got cheap, and instead brilliant minds devised an early cellulosic ethanol from the wondrous cannabis plant." [Source]
Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store.
In case of Fistful of Reefer it is a little bit different because it is available as an electronic copy. Therefore the reader depends on the information at an online book store Here we go:
Fistful of Reefer (Kindle edition, 553kb, July 2011)
[Amazon ASIN: B005DUB4X4]
by David Mark Brown.
[Amazon ASIN: B005DUB4X4]
by David Mark Brown.
Fistful of Reefer is a dieselpunk, weird Western pulp featuring goats, guns and the camaraderie of outcasts. Set along the Texas border during the waining years of the Mexican revolution, Fistful focuses on a group of unlikely heros and their unlikely foe as they stumble upon the fringes of a cabal bent on world domination. Fistful lives between No country for Old Men and the Three Amigos.
David Mark Brown's debut novel is the first in the Reeferpunk series -- a spaghetti-Western, refried alternate history that explores the ramifications of an industrial revolution sans cheap oil.
Marijuana was the plan, liberty the dream, revolution the result. Viva this!
The year is 1918. Chancho Villarreal and his Native American friends, Muddy and Nena, live a quiet life on their goat ranch and marijuana farm north of Del Rio, Texas. But when ghosts from Chancho's revolutionary past combine with local panic over stories of the demon El Chupacabra, the three friends inadvertently draw the attention of Texas Ranger, T.J. McCutchen.
McCutchen has made it his personal crusade to prevent the little known intoxicant, marijuana, from corrupting his borderlands, despite the dark secret that he depends on its medicinal properties to control his seizures. When he discovers the remains of the marijuana field his worst fears are confirmed — the drug is being grown in Texas soil.
To stay ahead of McCutchen's brutal brand of justice Chancho, Muddy and Nena, are forced to pack up all their worldly possessions, including their marijuana harvest and herd of goats. What follows is an action-packed ride across the wilds of a weird-west, dieselpunk Texas haunted by rumors of El Chupacabras behind every bush." [Source]
After reading the information above I asked myself if it is necessary to write a review of Fistful of Reefer because the text delivers a lot of information. In the end I thought the book deserves some explanatory words.
The cover did not give me a real hint except that marijuana and some folklore will be important for the story. But the use of key words like spaghetti-Western and alternate-history aroused certain pictures in me. And to be honest I was not sure if that was what I wanted to read.
But prejudice is not reviewers best friend. I decided to read the book without any expectations except I wanted to have a good and entertaining time.
Burden under all the action, the thoughtful passages, funny elements and crazy stuff it is friendship and the value of friendship which is the dominating theme. And it blossoms in the nearly heartbreaking moments which you find throughout the whole book.
Even friendship is a very traditional theme the presentation is done in a refreshing way where stoned goats are only the tip of the iceberg.
But one should not forget the side theme principles. I do not want to give away too much but I promise that you will easily detect the stickler for principles who acts strongly following the rule "that which must not, can not be".
Finally it is also a book about racism. David Mark Brown found a way to combine friendship with racism in an unagitated an not overly didactic style. That means you will recognize racism if you are willing to.
As you could read in the synopsis Fistful of Reefer is set in an alternate version of Mexican and American history around 1918. From my point of view it is well executed. recreates the sense of western and adds a mystery touch. David Mark Brown knows the landscape very well and use it perfectly for his purposes. You feel like standing in the middle of the scenery.
The author shows his talent in the extraordinary well crafted action scenes.
The flash-flood scene is outstanding. Don't drown while reading!
Story and setting build an inextricably unit.
I have one complain on a high level. I expected more dieselpunk elements.
I think it is superfluous to repeat the synopsis. I would like to add that the story contains some real unexpected twists and turns. Most of the time the reader does not know more than the main characters which is a detail I like. After a while you think you will know what will happen next. But I assure you David Mark Brown is always good for a surprise. Did I mention the goats?
There are four main characters which represent the themes described above.
All of them are well developed characters which appear intense, dynamic and alive. They have personality and you take part in their development.
There is McCutchen, an aging Texas Ranger who smokes ..... sorry I can't tell you more
There is a trio of friends who try to make their living:
- Muddy, an African American
- Nena, a strong Native American woman
- Chancho, a Mexican with a revolutionary past
Along the story we meet a lot of interesting people who get as much attention as necessary to propel the story forward. Beside the human beings we have the ghost of Chupracabra and there are goats. Did I mention goats? And there are plants ....
The style is flowing which leads you easily from page to page. The author has a good timing with arrangement of the different elements like action, depictions, explanations, dialogue. Partially the story is highly emotional which fits perfectly to the main them. And then there is humor. Be prepared to laugh out loud. Did I mention the goats?
All in all the story is told light-footed and intoxicating at times with a sparkle in the eye and at times with tears in the eyes either from laughter or from sadness.
Fistful of Reefer has been a surprising read. It delivers loveable characters easy to connect with (no, in this case I do not mean the goats), great action scenes, funny elements and unexpected twists and turns. This good mix of dieselpunk, western and alternate history lets time fly by.
If you are looking for an unconventional, entertaining read with meat and you would like to get "stoned" by reading then ask your local dealer (of reading material) for a Fistful of Reefer!!!
I look forward to read what will happen next in the Reeferpunk Universe.