Note: This Blog post is the first of four that will look at R.S. Belcher’s books and the world-building that goes on in them. The order of these blogs will be Six-Gun Tarot (Golgotha #1), Brotherhood of the Wheel, Shotgun Arcana (Golgotha #2), and finally, Nightwise. The reason for this order is simple; I lent my copies of Shotgun Arcana and Nightwise to a friend so those blogs will come later. While I’m going to try to keep any exact information/spoilers to an absolute minimum (since everyone should read these books for themselves) there is the possibility that minor spoilers may emerge in these blog posts.
The next four books I’m going to review on this are the four books that are out by R.S. Belcher from Tor Publishing, specifically the four mentioned above. While I could write countless blogs on what I like about these books and why Belcher is quickly becoming my favorite author, the one that makes me most excited as a reader is the focus of the next four blogs.
Interspersed amongst all the great characters and brilliant plotting of his books, Belcher has demonstrated his strength as a world-builder. This can be seen in his locations, such as the setting of Golgotha in Six-Gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana, which in many ways begins to almost be a character in itself. However, his greatest strength/trick in this world-building is the use of small references to events/places/groups outside the action of main plotline.
While Six-Gun Tarot may be the book that utilizes this the least, it still does it to a fair extent. To quote my friend, “Six-Gun Tarot feels like you started watching horror television show three episodes from the season finale of the third season and just decided to go from there.” From the start, it’s made clear that the events that are occurring this book and its sequel, while having much higher stakes, are not unusual in their connection to the supernatural. These references to past events in Golgotha give Golgotha a feeling of realness as its grounded in its’ own history. Whether these are brief references to past events that happened in Golgotha or past jobs that Highfather and Mutt have ran together, they reference a back-story that in its suggestion of past events is both intriguing and makes the present events more weight as well. They also suggest that even once the events of the book you’re reading are finished, that there is more to come as just as one threat is finished, others will present themselves by the nature of what Golgotha and the world around it are.
Another type of reference that often gets dropped are those to secret societies and organizations and what goes on in them. Six-Gun Tarot features a few of these including possible pirates, assassins, cults that worship Lovecraft-esque creatures and various other groups. This makes the world not only a bigger place but through references to these societies creates histories that deepen the world outside of Golgotha. This skill is one that is used in a much greater extent in Brotherhood of the Wheel and Nightwise and thusly will be talked about more in those blog posts. Similarly to the previous type of reference, these also help encourage you to read future books to see which of these references of past events and outside groups will be relevant incoming installments. In this book alone, there are several comments that on first class are just off-hand references that are immensely important in Shotgun Arcana.
Ultimately, these references result in a depth and mystery that is rare to find in books. In some ways these books remind of the works of Steven Erickson (another master of dropping small hints and Easter eggs of a much larger world in his books) and their encouragement for re-reading to just catch all of the references themselves. This accompanied with the multitude of reasons such as brilliant plotting, well rounded characters, and fascinating settings is why R.S. Belcher is one of my favorite writers.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a compelling and immensely fascinating world. Next time we’ll talk about Brotherhood of the Wheel.
Thanks for reading!