The most important thing to remember with any Watt O’Hugh novel is that time is not linear; in Watt’s case, it’s not even sequential most of the time. It’s been several years since I read the first two installments in Watt’s adventures as reluctant Western hero, time roamer, and member of the movement against the Sidonians, so re-entry into his quirky, time-defying story was a bit like participating in a polar bear swim: slightly terrifying, a little disconcerting, but ultimately refreshing and memorable.
In Chinese mythology, people who die violently but from actions outside of their control get sent to a level of the underworld that roughly translates as “the Hell of the Innocent Dead.” Guess where our lucky hero spends most of his adventure this time around? An unfortunate encounter with a sand crab sends Watt to a variation of purgatory, where the only way to possibly escape is by remembering your lingering humanity. The air stinks, the water reeks, and food tastes like a mixture of the most revolting flavors, but if Watt or his new-found companions let go of basics like meals, sleep, and bathing, they could descend to a lower level and never return to the world of the living/ascend. Adding to Watt’s confusion is that the war with Sidonia has managed to follow him into death, and now he’s a general of sorts in an otherworldly army to defeat the sinister Utopia once and for all.
Watt O’Hugh and the Innocent Dead, much like the previous two books in the series, is not mind candy. I had to read a few chapters, digest the information, and sit on it for a few days before I began to see the bigger picture. It’s easy to dismiss the protagonist as a blowhard cowboy who gets himself into the darndest situations, but much to his horror, Watt matters to the fate of the world/universe/cosmos. He’s not irreplaceable (No one is really.), but life is better for everyone if he stays somewhat alive.
There is no good way to distill Watt O’Hugh’s adventures into an elevator pitch, since each new story is an experience rather than a linear narrative. In my previous review of the first two novels, I said that much of Watt’s adventures happen to him rather than him being a catalyst for the plot, and in book three, I have to say that the readers are in much the same boat. Strap in and relish the oddities of Watt’s life and how everything somehow fits together in a meaningful way. Old fans will love the return to this unique, quirky world, and new readers will find that while Watt O’Hugh and the Innocent Dead is roughly a sci-fi Western, the tale defies genre and cannot be shoehorned into a single literary category.
4 Incredible Personality Transformations out of 5
Creative Team: Steven S. Drachman (author)
Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books
Click here to purchase.