Top positive review
Savage violence and unfathomable abominations.
Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2020
The wild west, gunslingers, cosmic horrors, elder gods, god killers, and buckets upon buckets of blood all wrapped up into one package, um, yes please! Dust by Chris Miller is the third entry in the Splatter Western series from Death’s Head Press. Once again Justin T. Coons absolutely kills it with the cover art. The covers alone for this series need to win some kind of award. I have only read this entry and book one in the series, The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young (and yes I know I skipped over book two Hunger on the Chisholm Trail by M. Ennenbach but I am getting to it soon) but I feel like these books were written just for me. The old wild west setting infused with the mystical and magical, the weird and otherworldly, and copious amounts of Tarantino-esque violence just makes my black little heart sing with joy. Death’s Head Press can keep pumping these bad boys out and I’ll keep devouring them as fast as I can.
In Dust we follow god killer James Dee on his quest to find a mythical town in the heart of East Texas by the same name, Dust. There is an evil lurking just beyond the veil in Dust, building its army and awaiting the time to break through and unleash destruction and chaos upon the world. James’ mission is to stop this from coming to fruition. He has traveled for many years, and across many worlds to get here and nothing is going to stand in his way. Not his nemesis Gear Dreary, or the elders themselves.
Chris Miller brings some classic western tropes and cliches to this tale that for me adds to the pulpy over the top wink wink, nod nod, factor of the whole thing. There are just some things you come to expect to see in a western and I was fine with that. We are introduced to some colorful characters during our journey. Some standouts for me were Denarius King (a former slave who becomes James’ sidekick), Bonham (a cold and calculating killing machine), and Agatha Dupree (our mysterious and wise old crone). Denarius is probably the most well rounded and developed character in the story and had more of the heartfelt moments. We get to learn some but not a lot about James Dee’s past and where he comes from. I was very intrigued with his backstory and would have liked to have learned more about him, his past, and his prior dealings with god killing.
As with The Magpie Coffin nearly every page is dripping with bloody violence. Chris Miller writes some epic cinematic moments of blood and gore that played out in John Woo style slow motion in my mind while reading them. I could easily see this adapted to film or television. The action scenes were intensely brutal, visceral, fast paced, and not for the faint of heart. I also really enjoyed the depictions of the cosmic horrors skittering around the town of Dust. They were uniquely horrific, twisted, and grotesque.
There are some references to Hunger on the Chisholm Trail and the events that occurred in book two giving the series some loose connections that I hope only continue to deepen as the series moves forward. We also get at least one fun author easter egg that I won’t spoil, see if you can spot it. Speaking of other authors it is evident that Chris Miller was heavily inspired by Stephen King and his Dark Tower universe specially. It won’t get into specifics but I loved all of the little tidbits that paid homage to King.
The plot was simple and straightforward yet wildly entertaining and I felt more of a threat coming from the vile human characters than the cosmic horrors themselves, though this is just personal feelings as I tend to find the human horrors scarier than any cosmic force that I may or may not be able to comprehend. My only real nitpick with the story was some of the dialogue, mainly when Denarius was talking and saying "please, suh" and "yes, suh". I understand the author was going for authenticity with the story being set in 1879 but I felt it was overused here.
Riddled with savage violence and unfathomable abominations, Dust by Chris Miller seamlessly blends cosmic horror with the gritty wild west for one entertaining ride that will leave you dripping with gore by journeys end. Score another win for Death's Head Press and their Splatter Western series. I cannot wait to see what else they have in store for the rest of this series.