Short Story Review: “Ghost Wind” by Alan Dean Foster

Title: “Ghost Wind”
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Format: Short Story
Pages: about 11, but in a small page format
Published: in the January/February 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
Reason for Beginning: Western fantasy!
Reason for Finishing: Funny and epic Western fantasy!
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Gargantuan mountain man, Mad Amos Malone, defends a small town (and its resolutely un-superstitious citizens) from a particularly dangerous wind.
Story Re-readability: It’d be pleasant to reread, but I don’t feel the need to.
Author Re-readability: I’d like to read more stories about Mad Amos Malone!
Recommendation: Yes, especially if you like Westerns with a touch of comedy and epicness.

Key Thoughts

This is a Western comedy of mythic stature, and it’s very fun. The story is compact, focused, and bursting with lively details. Amos Malone is a Paul Bunyan-esque mountain man, with a great horse of matching proportions, who, though sick, rouses himself to defend the small town he is visiting. The inhabitants, used to wind, know nothing about the danger they are in, so Malone explains. When a wind dies, what does it do? he asks them. Why, it fades, they answer. Not always, he says. Sometimes, part of the wind is left behind, trapped between this world and the next. These spirit breezes become angry and frustrated at their inability to move on, and sometimes join together into a great and angry Ghost Wind. Historically it has been the job of mystics, shamans, and priests to pacify them, but now, only Malone is capable to protecting the town.

Foster’s prose is warm with personality, with the right kind of semi-archaic rough poetry that we associate with a good Western story. It manages to accentuate the humor while allowing us to take the drama reasonably seriously. There is a folk tale feel, mixed with a few slightly more realistic touches. The few twists are delightful and I dare not spoil them. You’re better off enjoying them yourself!

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