"Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter" Book Review
Written by Edward M. Erdelac
2009, 278 Pages, Fiction
Book released on December 1st, 2009
You know what you don't see a lot of? Badass Jewish mystics. Outside of something like The Hebrew Hammer, there's just not a lot of stories featuring a Hasidic action star. Author Edward M. Erdelac has set out to change that with Merkabah Rider, a supernatural western starring a badass Jewish mystic.
I have to admit, when this book came to me, I thought it would be one of two things. It would either be a tongue-in-cheek comedy or it would be a boring preachy story. Fortunately, Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter is neither. The main character, known only as The Rider, is loyal to his faith and he's on a mission to track down his former mentor, Adon, who's responsible for the murder of his sect. His is a story of revenge, but also one of redemption as Rider is looking for a way to make up for all the evil that Adon has caused. Set in the wild west of the late 19th century, our hero makes his way through mining towns and dust bowls on his search.
Rider is decked out in various instruments designed to keep him safe and ward off evil. The most notable of these are his gun and spectacles. His firearm is a Volcanic pistol made of silver and gold. It's covered in enchanted carvings and can only be fired when the user is wearing a signet ring of Rider's design. Meanwhile his glasses have special etchings on them that allow him to see the true forms of people as well as their auras. This is incredibly valuable as many demons can manipulate humans from another plane of existence. The lenses help Rider see through these machinations.
Tales of a High Planes Drifter is actually a collection of four short stories, each about 70 pages in length. They follow Rider on his search for Adon as he's taken through an Arizona town where children have been disappearing, a mine ruled by a group of bandits and a ju ju man, a man possessed by demons on a quest for destruction, and a town where succubi control the men, producing demon offspring each night. The tales each feature very different enemies for Rider to go up against and each time he's forced to challenge himself as he must use various pieces of his arsenal to stop them. All the while, he keeps his faith close to his heart.
While I loved the idea and the supernatural elements of Merkabah Rider, it is not without its challenges. Unfortunately, the book suffers from the same troubles that many others from small publishers do and that's several grammatical mistakes or cases where an incorrect word is used (e.g. "him" instead of "he"). These are essentially things that Microsoft Word wouldn't catch, but a good editor — or at least an honest friend who can proof read — would pick up on. Tales of a High Planes Drifter also uses many Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic words, but without a translation in the story. I didn't find out until I had completed the book that Erdelac had included a glossary of these terms in the back. This is helpful, but still a bother to have to stop and look up a word when he could have given a brief description in the context of the story. Similarly, the second story, which takes Rider to Mexico is filled with many Spanish words in the same manner, but there's not a glossary to help you out in the translation. I can understand the use of terms in the area's native tongue, but cherry picking the words used like "guitarra" and "sombrero" feels out of place.
Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter is a great starting point for Erdelac's mystical cowboy. Each story builds on the last without relying on the events of the previous entry to continue. You can pick up any of these stories and read them without having read the others. Of course, it's much more beneficial if you read them all in their intended sequence. As a gentile, I was able to jump right into this book without any trouble, so it's definitely one that would interest any fan of the supernatural genre. Although I think it would be awesome if they gave this out in Hebrew schools.