Merkabah Rider: Tales of High Planes Drifter by Edward M. Erdelac (2009) : ISBN 9781615720606 (Damnation Books) and Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name (2010) : ISBN 9781615721900 (Damnation Books)
I love me some weird west. From the supernatural tales of Joe R. Lansdale and Robert E. Howard, or even the Deadlands RPG, to science fiction stories like Cowboys and Aliens (both the graphic novel and the upcoming film), The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr. and the original Wild Wild West, I love it all. Now I have another work to add to this collection. Edward Erdelac‘s Merkabah Rider series is a highly entertaining foray into one of my favorite subgenres.
So far two books comprise the adventures of The Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter and The Mensch With No Name. Both are composed of novellas (“episodes”) that work as stand-alone adventure tales but are also strung together into an overarching story of Lovecraftian horror. The Merkabah Rider, who has forsaken his name in order to deprive his enemies of power over him, is a Judaic mystic and traveler between the planes. He travels alone, the last of his Order, the sole survivor of the slaughter wrought by Adon, his former mentor. As the Rider and his faithful onager make their way across a desolate West in search of Adon, they encounter all manner of demons, godlings, and supernatural beasts. They also encounter greedy scoundrels and bloodthirsty outlaws, as well as ordinary folks who must face the darkness with only their faith and their courage. As the stories progress, the Rider becomes more beat down, more despondent, and more confused. His resolve is tested constantly by several faith-shaking revelations as he grows closer to his prey and discovers how deep Adon’s treachery has gone. He learns more and more of an “Hour of Incursion” in which the world will be torn apart by ancient forces of darkness beyond even the Rider’s vast knowledge.
The first book, Tales of a High Planes Drifter, introduces the Rider and his quest. While the prose sometimes takes on a decidedly purple tint and slows down in some passages, the stories build in suspense and in readability until, by the end of The Nightjar Women, you are completely engrossed in the story and in the character. It is in the second volume, The Mensch With No Name, that Erdelac really hits his stride. The stories here are stronger, as is the characterization of the Rider. The fun that he’s having with the series really comes through on the page.
It is also clear that Erdelac has steeped himself in mythology, history, and other works in the genre. The stories drip with esoteric lore from all over the world, with an obvious emphasis on Judaic mysticism and Biblical apocrypha. As the stories progress we see the emergence of Lovecraft’s celebrated Mythos but used in new and very creative ways. Further, the Rider encounters figures from history (such as Doc Holiday and Dave Mather), from the works of Howard (Kelly the Conjure-Man), and references to the “spaghetti westerns” from which Erdelac borrows so much of his esthetic. Erdelac is skilled at ensuring that all of the references and outside knowledge do not threaten to pull the reader out of the story and instead manages to give his tales a resonance and a depth that really engage the reader. He also helps by including an incredibly useful glossary of terms at the back of each volume.
The Merkabah Rider series is a fine addition to my Weird West library. I’m looking forward to the release of the next set of adventures Have Glyph Will Travel.