Permit me be perfectly straight with you. I spent the last decade or so of my reading life consuming books about Buddhism and religion with the occasional popular fantasy novel thrown in. With that said, it should be no surprise that I consider myself a complete newbie to the wider world of weird fiction- a character flaw that I am working to rectify.
I recently acquired The Mission, a weird western by T. E. Grau published by Dunhams Manor Press. I’m sad that it was a limited run because this is a fucking excellent little book. If you didn’t get your hands on it, light a candle and mourn your loss.
OK, that is quite enough mourning. Let’s get to it!
The Mission is the tale of a rag-tag group of soldiers on the trail of a pair of Native-American fugitives. A chance encounter in a town that shouldn’t exist sets in motion a chain of events that shatters the sanity of our protagonists.
This not the West of 1950’s cinema with its bright blue skies and crimson mesas. From the first paragraph, Grau drags the reader into an ugly world. A world in which humanity’s self-inflicted horrors walk hand in hand with the ancient secrets lurking in the frontier.
Grau’s pacing is frenetic, evoking the sense of urgency felt by the narrator and his companions. Like any good story, The Mission made me feel less like a reader and more like a powerless observer carried along inside the narrator’s head. It is not until the characters arrive at the titular mission that we really catch our breath. Grau gives us a brief moment of wonder and discovery, but it is a moment colored by the fact that the light at the end of the tunnel is just the reflection of the Reaper’s scythe.
I’m going to give this one a 5 of 5.