December 16, 2017

Review: The Doctor and the Dinosaurs by Mike Resnick


On sale December 10th!

The West just gets weirder and weirder…

This week, we’re taking a look at a Wild West tale that never was, with The Doctor and the Dinosaurs by Mike Resnick, out this month from Pyr Books. This is tale represents book four in Resnick’s alt-history steampunk 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 Rider

The Doctor and the Dinosaurs sees the return to action of a down-and-out Doc Holiday, as well as the return of a steampunk Teddy Roosevelt and the magical but enigmatic Geronimo. Though fantastic, many of the tales herein loosely parallel real life events, such as the Cope-Marsh “Bone Feud” between two rival paleontologists and much more. In The Doctor and the Dinosaurs, however, the Jurassic beasts of yore are real and threaten to range wild across the North American west in an epic showdown where magic and science converge.

As Resnick himself notes in one of the several appendices for the book, Roosevelt’s real life read like that of an action-heroes’, as a child who refused to give in to an asthma diagnosis and went on to become a chronic over-achiever.  Like Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison – also a recurring character in Resnick’s Weird West universe – it’s great to see Roosevelt get some steampunk airtime via fictionalization.

The Doctor and the Dinosaurs sends Doc Holiday and Roosevelt out to the wilds of Wyoming to explore the fantastic finds and the magic goings-on being reported there. Remember, in Resnick’s Weird West universe, the magic of the Apache medicine men has managed to (thus far) contain the expansion of the United States to the east of the Mississippi, while the super-science of Thomas Edison has been sent west to combat it.

The real life Bone Wars sketched out in the novel ranged from 1877 to 1892, as paleontologists scoured the western United States for fossils. The rivalry between Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope often reached a fevered pitch, with each resorting to such underhanded — and decidedly unscientific methods — including blackmail, bribery and the destruction of bone samples. This is a debasement of science for sure, but is also provides excellent dramatic fodder for a steampunk action drama.

Ya gotta love Doc Holiday as well, a classic tragic figure struck with tuberculosis and a dentist turned card-playing shootist. More educated than most western gunslingers, the Doc is another larger than life character along with Roosevelt that simply refused to let his life circumstances define him.

Where else does Resnick have to take his Weird West saga? Well, another curious true tale involving Tom Edison includes a flock of chickens, the hunt for Vulcan and a total solar eclipse which occurred right around the same time… hey, just throwing that out there…

Read The Doctor and the Dinosaurs for some fast-paced steampunk western action that parallels a fascinating stretch of U.S. history. And be sure to raise a glass of whiskey as we await book five!

 

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