The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine No 1 by Andrew Vachss, Geof Barrow and Michael A. Black includes two novelettes that remind the reader of Pulp Fiction (the movie and the genre) and science fiction stories.
I'll say it right from the start; this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year so far. It's action-packed, it's funny and it doesn't take itself seriously. The two stories in this volume are quite different from each other, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the reader can't enjoy them just the same.
The first story tells what the Way of "No Way" is all about. It is here that we for the first time set eyes on the Shaolin Cowboy, a mercenary of sorts that wanders around an almost deserted land, where the only law is that of the outlaw. The Cowboy is not your usual mercenary though; he does have his own code of ethics, he always wears a Chicago Cubs baseball cap, and he travels on a mule that's too strong and in its own right has quite an attitude. The two of them definitely complement each other in more than one ways. They are not only partners in crime but they also have a silent understanding that never allows one to get into the other's way.
As we get to know the Cowboy better we come to realize that he's not only lethal but also kind. When the need arises he helps the weak and even goes out of his way to find them refuge. The villains though are a different story. They are evil, simple as that, but their characters and the way the author describes their looks is one of the reasons that I really enjoyed this story.
The boss, the big boss of the land actually, is a fat man that goes by the initials T.A. These mean Totally Awesome according to his followers, but what they really stand for is Toxic Amoeba. It is exactly this man that the Cowboy is traveling to meet through the desert, the Terror-tories, a journey that offers the reader a lot of action and some laughs. For instance at a point our hero sees a sign that says: You are now leaving the endless desert, and not before too long he finds another one that suggests: What, you didn't bring a dictionary? Look up "Endless," stupid.
Well, Cowboy is about to live the adventure of his life, an adventure that reminds the reader of the movies of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez, and during which anything can happen.
The second story in this volume Time Factor is written by Michael A. Black, and it more than less belongs to the Sci Fi genre. This is the story of Dr. Riley and another couple of men who are assigned a mission into the jungles of New Mexico. They have to find the members of an expeditionary force that went missing. However, in order to accomplish that, they first have to travel back in time, and the Cretaceus period, where the scenery is to say the least imposing.
What happens to them while there gives birth to too many questions into the mind of Dr. Riley, but the truth is that the answers he will not like; answers I will not provide, because when it comes to spoilers this is as good, or as bad, as it gets.
In this story too there's plenty of action and some great characters that are not so easy to forget. It is violent, but it's also funny in a way, especially when one of the heroes insists on doing his own thing, putting everyone else into trouble.
I really look forward to the second edition of The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine.