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Through Wyoming Eyes, by Ken Rand
Genre: Mixed Genre Collection
Publisher: Yard Dog Press
Published: 2006
Review Posted: 9/21/2006
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Through Wyoming Eyes, by Ken Rand

Book Review by Benjamin Boulden

Have you read this book?

Through Wyoming Eyes is a collection of five short stories, vividly set in the open spaces of Wyoming, written by Ken Rand. In his introduction Rand explains that Wyoming is his adopted home-while he is unable to live there, his "heart is in Wyoming." The stories explore the people and the terrain of the high plains, and the author's love is visible in his simple and visual descriptions. They are told with a wry sense of humor and Rand never takes them too seriously.

The stories are unique to Ken Rand. They are a mixture of western, horror and science fiction. They read more as tall tales than short stories: the characters that inhabit his worlds are more fantastical than real. They are not super-heroes, but they have the feel and texture of a Johnny Appleseed, or Paul Bunyan rather than anyone you have ever known or met.

The collection opens with the story "Bridge O'Doom," which chronicles the strange events of a Wyoming rancher who discovers a sort of black hole on his land. It turns into a media circus, and then a pop-culture event. The rancher watches as thousands of people journey to his land as a pilgrimage, looking for their own Shangri La, for their own escape into a better place, a better future. It is a quiet story that made me yearn for the older Twilight Zone-like science fiction of the past.

"Calamity Djinn" is the story of a stout and strong frontier woman who is planning to marry Butch Parker. The only problem is she hasn't informed him of her plans. This is a fantastical story of love, destiny and just damn poor luck.

"The Clockwork Sheriff," is a genre bending golem story. An aging gunfighter is called to a small town to help clean out the bad men and ruffians. Only when he arrives, two weeks late, he finds a replacement has beat him there. This story has the feel of a classic robot story, but with the added texture and setting of a true western.

"Through These Eyes,' is the weakest of the stories contained in Through Wyoming Eyes. It is short--less than two pages--and builds itself on two viewpoints: a doctor and a shaman. Its insights are strange and delightful, but I would have loved to see it fleshed out and built into a stronger, more poignant story.

"Mr. Gibber Saves the Day," is a Lucky Nickel Saloon story that tells the tallest tale of the collection. The saloon's mortgage is due the next day, and Mick can't pay it with the IOUs stuffed in the till. This leads the Lucky Nickel's regulars on several ill-begotten wagers to save their favorite haunt. In the end it comes down to a stranger in town--a reporter and his companion--to save the Lucky Nickel. This is an inventive and thrilling story that left me wanting more.

Through Wyoming Eyes is a collection that will appeal to a genre-bending audience. If you have wondered how a golem would fare in the Wild West, or what a window to a strange dimension would look like on an old ranch then this collection is for you. The stories are well told, clever and climax with less answers than questions. Ken Rand is the thinking man's writer, and these stories will live with you much longer than they take to read. My only complaint is the there should have been another story or two between the covers.
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