I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.
With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
This is not Louis L’Amour nor is it Zane Grey. Traditional Westerns have good guys and bad guys and you can tell them apart by hat colour. This is not one of those Westerns; things are not so cut and dried with The Sisters Brothers. It’s as if Charlie and Eli Sisters are two halves of one person. Charlie is a drinker, a killer, everything you would imagine in a bad guy, but he still has a brother who cares about him. Eli is the more sensitive of the two—he is concerned with what others think, wants to get out of the sordid business he is involved in, he cares about animals and people, plus he worries about his weight. No wonder their boss wants Charlie to dump him!
The Sisters Brothers examines the family bond—how far are we willing to go to humour or protect our family members? The brother relationship is tested repeatedly, each one knowing how to push the other’s buttons. Charlie has been protecting Eli since before Eli could walk. Eli’s temper can be harnessed to protect Charlie in return. Charlie is a typical older sibling—he makes decisions and expects Eli to follow.
This reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s movie, Unforgiven, which Wikipedia calls “a dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and how complicated truths are distorted into simplistic myths about the Old West.” Not your granddad’s Western.