To start with, this was not what I expected. The name Seth MacFarlane brings to mind surreal, boundary-breaking, explicit, black humour. It’s the stuff you know you really shouldn’t laugh at, but you can’t help when you do.
I was expecting something really funny, and extremely inappropriate. Instead, I got a comic love story set in the wild west, kinda Cohen brothersesque. And… I liked it.
The story centres on Albert Stark, a cowardly and decidedly unhappy sheep farmer who has just been dumped by his girlfriend, and Anna, a beautiful, smart and self-assured woman – with a merciless gunslinger for a husband. Anna befriends Albert after a moment of uncharacteristic heroism where he rescues her from a bar brawl, and in a desperate attempt to win back the love of his life, Albert challenges his ex-girlfriend’s new beau to a duel- one that he can’t possibly win, without Anna’s help.
This is a story about a man who was born in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Everything in the west disagrees with him, and his general ineptitude and distaste for the brutality of the west makes him all the more endearing. The characters are well-rounded and likeable- in particular Anna, who is just the right mix of sweetness and fortitude.
A word of warning though, do not go into this book expecting Family Guy in the wild west, which would be great, Seth- if you’ve got time, but this is its own kind of great. A Million Ways to Die in the West is very funny, with the patented black, deadpan humour and cynicism MacFarlane is known for, but there’s more here than comedy for comedy’s sake. Get in before the film comes out, you won’t be disappointed.
Review by Elizabeth Earl