The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick

Rating 8.8/10
Full of action and witty dialogue.

The time is 1882. With the Gunfight at the O. K. Corral and the battle with the thing that used to be Johnny Ringo behind him (see The Buntline Special), the consumptive Doc Holliday makes his way to Deadwood, Colorado, with Kate Elder, where he plans to spend the rest of his brief life, finally moving into the luxurious facility that specializes in his disease.

But one night he gets a little too drunk - hardly a novelty for him - and loses everything he has at the gaming table. He realizes that he needs to replenish his bankroll, and quickly, so that he can live out his days in comfort under medical care. He considers his options and hits upon the one most likely to produce income in a hurry: he’ll use his skill as a shootist and turn bounty hunter.

The biggest reward is for the death of the young, twenty-year-old desperado known as Billy the Kid. It’s clear from the odds the Kid has faced and beaten, his miraculous escape from prison, and his friendship with the Indian tribes of New Mexico that he is protected by some powerful magic. Doc enlists the aid of both magic (Geronimo) and science (Thomas Edison), and goes out after his quarry. He will hunt the Kid down, and either kill him and claim the reward or die in the process and at least end his own suffering.

But as he is soon to find out, nothing is as easy as it looks.

After reading The Buntline Special I was very eager to pick up the second book of Mike Resnick’s Weird West Tales: The Doctor and the Kid. Though there was a strong well directed ending in the first book in the final paragraph there was a gathering between Geronimo and Hook Nose and I had a certain expectation for the second book that there would be a lot of problems for Edison and Buntline to face because Geronimo and Hook Nose teamed up. But actually The Doctor and the Kid does not continue in this way. The story picks up a year after the events at the O.K. Corral. The main character of the story is again Doc Holliday, but he has decided to settle down in Colorado with Kate Elder. Due to his favour of certain spirits he makes a huge mistake and now everything is going sour for him. And he turns more to his job on the side, besides being a dentist. Even though there was no picking up of the storyline directly after the events of the gathering of Geronimo and Hook Nose, Mike Resnick keep true to the Wild Weird West created in the first book and again provided with a very rich alternate history western meets steampunk mix.

I already got a good description of Doc Holliday in the first book but again you see him living up to his persona as being very nonchalant about certain expects and lying an emphasis on the smaller aspects of life. But now, with his friend Johnny Ringo permanently dead, he has moved to Colorado to count down his remaining days. Just as Doc Holliday thought that he was done with the medicine men he is still being stalked by prairie dogs, hawks and owls that turn into braves. And somehow manages to get himself into a deeper problem than ever… Losing all his and Kate’s saving’s he can only go for one last resort. In this latter part Billy the Kid plays an important part. Billy the Kid is just how I know him from several movies, being very cocky and a mister know-it-all. The first confrontation between Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid left me with a broad grin on my face. Doc Holliday quickly pulling the trigger... and when you least expect it Mike Resnick adds a nice twist in the storyline with the medicine men. Now Doc Holliday has to consult with Edison and Buntline to find a way to circumvent this. In this second book Edison and Buntline really take a seat in the back and you hardly see their point of views, too bad for me because I really liked how they were presented in the first book with their labs and there gadgets. However the steampunk influence is not to be missed as Buntline and Edison show more than once the solutions they came up with to combat, think of devices that causes implosions, deconstructions and nitro-glycerine powered rounds for Gatling guns.

There was for me a quite noticeable character introduced some chapters in that caused the character of Doc Holliday to change. Charlotte Branson. From the start you see that Doc Holliday is somewhat attracted to her, and in the end he goes in gun blazing, to exact revenge for her. Showing that he is a man of his word and has a certain compassionate side.

For the plotline, there was a steady pace building up the excitement. Somewhere near the end Doc Holliday pulls of a stunt and now he does not need to kill Billy the Kid anymore. I was pleased though that following this event there was nice twist that urged Doc Holliday to continue. Else all the commotion around Billy the Kid would not have paid off. Nearing the ending of the book the story really goes in to rapid, following up shoot out on shoot out, showing a great display of the gadgets that were designed by Edison and Buntline, force fields, electric guns you name it! But also very to my pleasure was the climactic battle between two medicine men that, with the added drawing on the adjacent page really made my day. I got a creative picture forming in my own mind with the medicine men throwing lightning and fire and summoned animals. Really cool, I do hope to see these kind of battle recurring in the books to come.

The Doctor and the Kid continues the alternate USA created in The Buntline Special very neatly. The alternate side of the Weird West Tales was more or less done in the first book but there are more characters introduced in the book, again showing a great feat of researching on the historic characters. Next to this the book is full of action, witty dialogue and humorous moments. With a reference placed in an earlier chapter saying that it is far from over for Doc Holliday, and with again a closed story. The third book The Doctor and the Roughrider can pick up anywhere, but it is definitely on my to read list.

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