Jonas R. Hollister is a Union soldier and Civil War veteran who has had quite enough of the Army after serving under George Armstrong Custer. However, it is not that man's vainglorious ways that destroy his career but a chance encounter with a pack of vampires. Unfortunately, even in the 19th century, claiming undead horrors killed your unit is enough to get you labeled a madman. Thankfully, sort of, the vampires keep killing and Ulysses S. Grant provides Jonas with a pardon as well as a mission to exterminate the undead in the Wild West.
This is both a profoundly silly and entertaining book without ever getting into camp. If I were to compare it to anything then I would say it is closest to a better version of Will Smith and Kevin Kline's Wild Wild West. John is recruited to join a task force of steampunk adventurers using modern 19th century technology to hunt down the undead. Doctor Van Helsing, John Pinkerton, a mixed race man who can talk to animals, and the protagonist that stubbornly clings to his atheism despite holy water burning vampires. Oh and they have a beautiful female vampire helping them because of course they do.
I was genuinely surprised we didn't see Quincy Morris in this book and am actually kind of disappointed we didn't. Seriously, once you have it established they're traveling on a super-train with far more advanced locomotive power than available in this time, you understand this book is about a vampire-hunting Western Justice League. Still, it's nice to see the government overreact by recruiting a bunch of super people and give them unlimited resources to fight monsters rather than ignore the problem until its ready to take over the world.
Opposing our antiheroes are the vampires who want to rule over our kind that don't get much characterization. Malachi is pretty one-note while his followers are closer to zombies than they are to actual people. This isn't bad because there's a Walking Dead siege of the undead in a nearly-deserted town that is one of my favorite parts of the book. Zombies and Westerns need to be combined more often than in just Deadlands. There's also a ruthless United States Senator and his chief henchman who are stock characters from the John Ford days of filmmaking. They're not very developed either but they don't have to be, just hateable.
I'm a little iffy about the romance between Jonas and Shaniah. It's developed fine but it's never quite clear what either sees in the other beyond being really hot. I also have trouble believing the only person who would have a problem with Jonas being with one of the things they're sworn to exterminate would be the mixed race member of the group. You'd think Van Helsing, of all people, would think it was an unhealthy romantic choice.
This is a book full of action, adventure, and fun. I would give it a higher ranking but for the fact that it really should have been a trilogy and knowing it's not continuing makes me sad given how the book ends with some shocking twists. I also feel like Chee, a multiracial man, is a bit of a magical Native stereotype as well as a Chinese one (since he can talk to animals as well as use kung fu!) but he's a likable character regardless. In short, this is definitely worth picking up.