I first visited The Skillet in Koehler’s The Ace of Spades. It’s a rough, tough, alternate Old West with a steampunk feel. Life is downright miserable for Jake Stryker, an indentured servant (slave) for the powerful, rich local family. His friend is an old Indian and they are surviving, but then a Bad Hand Man comes to town, to play a deadly game of poker with Jake’s friend. Jake, the son of a dead gambler, takes the matter into his own hands and his life changes forever. But is it better or worse?

The Bad Hand Man is just scary. Jake seems him as Death, as a nightmare come to life.

The creature must have been at least seven feel tall, a white skeleton wrapped in a black shroud of a duster lined in faded royal purple. Its long white hair glittered like metallic filaments in the greasy light of the oil lamps strung along the walls. Its desert-blasted eyes looked sick and yellow. Jake dropped his eyes and found himself staring the the titanium hilt of laser scalpel clamped to the creature’s belt as a wave of nausea nearly overcame him. (location 217)

But Jake knows what he needs to do, and waits for the Bad Hand Man to deal.

A short, quick adventure, Bad Hand Man stands on its own. You get a clear feel for how difficult Jake’s life has become, and you have the feeling that the choices he made were decided long ago, kind of like this scene was his destiny.

Overall, it was a creepy story, in a good way.

Purchase at Amazon.

3 out of 5 stars

Category: Western – Steampunk

Ebook: 40 KB
Published February 5, 2011

Book source: Purchased