The Doctor and the Kid
In Mike Resnick’s last “Weird West” book The Buntline Special, Doc Holliday survived the battle at the OK Corral and “killed” an undead Johnny Ringo. Now the West’s most dangerous dentist wants only to live out his final days in comfort, in a special facility for terminal consumptives such as himself. But even in Resnick’s anachronistic version of 1882 America, there is no such thing as long-term care insurance. And so when Holliday blows his entire bankroll in one drunken night at the card tables, he has only one option to pay his bills; kill or capture outlaw Billy the Kid and collect the reward money. Strong Cheyenne ‘medicine’ protects the Kid, but Doc has two powerful allies of his own: one a Native sorcerer named Geronimo, the other the future ‘Wizard of Menlo Park’.
It’s hard to go wrong in a book featuring a cyborg Thomas Edison, but what could have been an intriguing collision of classic Western and science fantasy falls well short of its potential. Most of the trouble is in the characters. Only Holliday himself has a clear narrative voice, and a host of lifeless historical cameos bogs the story down. Resnick’s portrait of Susan B. Anthony is about as deep, and as successful, as the one on her ill-fated dollar coin. A worse travesty is Oscar Wilde: fawning, snarkless, and vaguely – gasp – American. Similarly, Edison’s advanced tech comes and goes without much real impact to the plot. The final showdown is a letdown, a passionless exchange of gunfire and electromagnetism that does not rise to the coolness of the concept.