October 18, 2017

Review: The Doctor & the Kid by Mike Resnick.

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The West has never been weirder… This week, we look at the Steampunk sequel to The Buntline Special with The Doctor & the Kid by Mike Resnick out from Pyr Books. Fans of this series will remember the high tech shoot-out at the OK Corral from the first book, complete with horseless stage coaches, robotic mistresses, and a bevy of high tech weaponry provided by none other than Thomas Alva Edison. Book Two follows the tale and the adventures of Doc Holiday beyond Tombstone as he searches for a climate that can ease his consumption. Interesting that they can build robotic women but not cure tuberculosis in this alternate world that never was…

Of course, science fiction going West is nothing new, as last year’s Cowboys & Aliens reviewed in this space demonstrates. In Mike Resnick’s alternate West world, the undead, Indian magic, and Edison’s tech all intermingle in a tale that’s more “Weird West” than “steam-punk” per se. Just what powers all those automatons and “horseless carriages?” Infamously, the real Edison failed to see the promise of alternating current and even spent considerable effort warning of the evils of its use (more on that in next week’s review!) Unfortunately, this created a gulf between him and his brilliant protégé Nikola Tesla. In The Buntline Special and The Doctor & the Kid, Edison has been dispatched westward to use his super-science to combat the Indian’s magic, which has thus far limited U.S. expansion to east of the Mississippi. What has actually caused this alternate timeline isn’t immediately clear, other than the suppositions that magic and ghouls are a reality in this Weird West universe. Hey, most Steampunk has a “Babbage machine” or two as catalysts in its premise, I’m just sayin’… now, if Telsa were to head West in Book Three…

But perhaps the whole point is to simply have fun with this series and not look for hidden intent. It is interesting to note that although the familiar characters of Doc Holiday and Billy the Kid are equipped with high technology, the same old motivations of greed and wanderlust ensue. The Doctor and the Kid climaxes with an epic confrontation between the two legends, as Doc Holiday must utilize all of the Indian magic and Edison wizardry at his disposal. The author does do a great job in intermingling real historical events with a sci-fi twist. Characters, villains, and even real planned contraptions and devices are all depicted as well as a handy set of historical appendices.  One does wonder just how those law-men of yore would have fared with high-tech weaponry in their hands. For those who like their H.G. Wells mixed in with a little Zane Grey, Mike Resnick’s’ continuing Weird West saga might be “just what the Doctor ordered”… perhaps after a shot or three of “Whiskey, neat!”

Next week, we’ll get back to that infamous rivalry of Tesla and Edison and more as we review a classic in scientific feuds with Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers by Michael White!

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  1. [...] universe. Fans of the saga and this space will remember our reviews of The Buntline Special, The Doctor and the Kid, and The Doctor and the Rough [...]

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