Friday, March 10, 2017
David J West - First Impressions
Jesse Lucas wrote a great review of his Fangs of the Dragon, and then he started cropping up all over the place in my Twitter feed, and even participated in the Three for Three review day, so I figured he was worth a shot, and boy is he!
I grabbed a copy of The Mad Song off the Amazon shelf, because short fiction makes for a safer time investment if the 'seems like a good guy' persona hides a 'garbage writer' talent. Three stories into The Mad Song, I can safely report such is not the case. It's too early for a detailed discussion of the David J. West oeuvre, but the early returns are positive.
Warning klaxons started going off during the opening section of the first story I read out of this collection. The now-obligatory scene of a female warrior proving her mettle and proving to be more serious and competent than the rest of the men in the special forces strike force raised my shields. We've seen this one a thousand times. When she betrays the lead, and then he accepts her offer to double-cross her employers, I was on the edge of placing this one in the circular file. Then she gets triple crossed and goes down like a chump, and that told me that it was time to stop trying to be the smartest guy in the room and just let Mr. West lead me along the swirling waters of his imagination.
He doesn't push all of my buttons. There's a big one labeled, "Virtue" that's not getting much use. In the three stories I've read, one protagonist is blackmailed into serving one bad guy against another, one just wants to survive a hazardous trip, and the third...well, she wants to save her kid sister from a plague/curse. That's one out of three. Not bad. The two male heroes remind me a lot of Glen Cook's protagonist - you know the one, grizzled, cynical old man soldier just going along to get along - and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, I'd like to see more heroes doing the right thing because that's what heroes do, and less leading men stuck in a bad situation.
That's a relatively minor nitpick, though, because West writes action that is breathtaking. West's stories rip along at hypersonic speed, with just a few pauses in the action to reset the dominoes and provide a little context for the next action sequence. His set-pieces are imaginative, and writing pops off the page. Reading West is like watching a pinball game - there's a lot of flash and chrome and noise and fury, and you're never quite sure where things are going next.
So if you're in the mood for some short fiction that is unashamedly action packed, you would be well served to pick up one of his books.