Monday, July 30, 2018

The Bookwyrm's Review of Jurassic Jackaroo: Jaspers Junction by Roma Gray

Author: Roma Gray

Length: 251 Pages/ 4 hours, 43 Minutes (Audio)

Publisher: J. Ellington Ashton Press

Release Date:  July 27, 2017/ January 15, 2018

Narrator: Terry F. Self

I discovered this one on a Facebook audiobook promotions group offering Audible codes for honest reviews. I had a bunch of other books to finish, but the author was local, and the premise interested me, since I have always been fascinated by Native American superstition. I'm glad I took a chance on it, since I discovered a talented author and a fantastic narrator.

In the turn of the turn of the 19th century western US, a retired gunfighter who has more money than he can spend meets a Native man with an interesting story to tell. A story about his tribe, and a curse that brings death from an ancient monster to all that speak of it out loud. An ancient monster his tribe brought about with their shamans' magic and hubris. Right then, part of the roof collapses and the Native runs out of the room, leaving the gunslinger to wonder if what he said was true. Following the native out of the saloon, he finds him, just as he is being slaughtered by a creature of nightmare. Speaking to it, he finds he's not a target, since he hasn't spoken of the monster. This gives him an idea for some excitement in his life, something sorely lacking since he retired.

A bit in the past, we see a young native boy talking to his mother, confused why she is so sad. Turns out, she was supposed to pass her magic on to her children, and since she didn't, well, the tribe wants the magic back from her. They get it back too, in a horrific scene the young boy is forced to watch. Ten years later, a girl he had a crush on when he was younger is about to meet the same fate. Instead, he convinces her to run away with him to the white mans world, where hopefully, the tribe and it's evil wont be able to find them.

A year later, we find them working a ranch with an immigrant Australian couple who moved to the states to start a ranch. They are happy and accepted by all the local townsfolk and church members, and have begun to reconstruct their lives. Then, out of nowhere, the girl is captured by their tribes shamans, who have managed to track them down and need to get her back to complete the sacrifice. The boy and the rancher determine to take off after them and get her back. This leads to a series of misadventures as they try and get her back before they reach the tribe, but things don't quite go as planned.

Meanwhile, in Jasper's Junction, a ghost town the gunslinger had made as a prop, the Gunslinger has invited a bunch of gun fighters, warriors, thieves and assassin's to compete in a hunt in the town for items that, when found, will show their skill and get them into the game of riches the gunslinger has proposed.  All they have to do is find one of several FabergĂ© Eggs recently stolen from the Tsar of Russia's collection, and get them to the saloon. Of course, they have to make it through lethal traps, hired gunmen out to kill them as well as each other, since millions of dollars are on the line and they will all kill anyone in their way. This interesting group of characters is whittled away until only 5 are left, and the gunslinger gives his proposal: Be part of his safari to hunt a mythical monster which he wont give details about to avoid invoking the curse.

Meanwhile, in the mountains, the young native man and woman face their tribe as they are about to do the unspeakable to them. Suddenly, a commotion arises, and the ceremony is disrupted and chaos ensues. In this confusion, the young native man is given an offer of a chance to come out on top if he's willing to make a rather unpalatable deal. Seeing no other choice, he accepts, spinning the future onto its head, and leaving us to ponder where his story will go next.

For a fairly short book, the world building in this one is well done. You get a good feel for where the story takes place, especially Jasper's Junction, which feels like an old west version of the Marvel Comics villain Arcade's Murderworld, only competent in killing people. The characters are well executed, with their motivations and actions feeling natural and organic to who they are and what they have experienced. The villain, if you can call an ancient spirit monster a villain, is excellent, keeping hidden and only striking when the moment is right, and it's final appearance turns the whole story topsy-turvy. The whole thing feels like a combination of Grimdark weird west mixed with the inventions and adventures of Wild, Wild West. All we needed was Robert Conrad to make a cameo to make the whole thing perfect. 

Narration was handled by Terry F. Self, who did a fantastic job both bringing the characters to life and keeping the narration flowing. He avoided trop accents for the natives and foreign characters, taking a nuance approach. His change of tones, inflections and emphasis definitely differentiated each character, and he is definitely a reason to consider checking this book out.

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