The Doctor and the Roughrider by Mike Resnick
It’s August 19, 1884. The consumptive Doc Holliday is preparing to await his end in a sanatorium in Leadville, Colorado, when the medicine man Geronimo enlists him on a mission. The time the great chief has predicted has come, the one white man he’s willing to treat with has crossed the Mississippi and is heading to Tombstone - a young man named Theodore Roosevelt. The various tribes know that Geronimo is willing to end the spell that has kept the United States from expanding west of the Mississippi. In response, they have created a huge, monstrous, medicine man named War Bonnet, whose function is to kill Roosevelt and Geronimo and keep the United States east of the river forever. And War Bonnet has enlisted the master shootist John Wesley Hardin. So the battle lines are drawn: Roosevelt and Geronimo against the most powerful of the medicine men, a supernatural creature that seemingly nothing can harm; and Holliday against the man with more credited kills than any gunfighter in history. It does not promise to be a tranquil summer.
The Doctor and the Roughrider is the third installment in the “Weird West” tales, the first books being The Buntline Special and The Doctor and the Kid. My first encounter with this series was very much out of curiosity and looking back to the first book of the series I must say that the second and third books are moving towards a different approach and trend.
The Weird West tales are about an alternate early 1900’s where the U.S. border stops at the Mississippi line and several Indian medicine men are putting a stop to it, and it is up to Edison to find a solution to break through the magics of the medicine men. The main protagonist of the story is not Thomas Edison, but another famous character Doc Holliday and as in the first two books he again plays an important role.
As already mentioned, the story has progressed quite a time, it started in 1881 and now in the last book it's 1884. Some of the big historical events that have been retold are the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral in The Buntline Special featuring a zombified Johnny Ringo that is send out to kill Doc Holliday but is protected by magical power of one of the medicine men. In the second book we saw the appearance of the famous Billy the Kid who Doc Holliday has to kill in order to pay for his last days in the sanatorium where he wants to get some rest in his final days. But in these two books there is also another aspect and that is the threat of the Indians. Firstly there was Geronimo, who wants hinder and get rid of Edison and the rest. Soon however, things changed: Geronimo is now on the side of Holliday and they team up against the other Indian tribes. Now, in book three, everything that has been built-up comes to a final clash!
The Doctor and the Kid sees the introduction of one of the famous icons of U.S. history: Theodore Roosevelt. And like what Mike Resnick does with every character that you read about in his series is that he portrays them with a certain unique flair with humour and seriousness combined. This unique characterization makes them all very enjoyable. Roosevelt’s role in The Doctor and the Kid is to defeat - in co-operation with Geronimo - the last of the other medicine men in order to allow passage across the Mississippi. But this of course does not go without hassle for both them and Doc Holliday.
The opposing force does have a trump card that they are playing against Roosevelt and Geronimo. With Hook Nose gone, Geronimo is the most powerful individual medicine men around, so the opposing ones bundle their powers to create the War Bonnet, a strange and magical apparition with the singular purpose, which is to kill Roosevelt and Geronimo. War Bonnet is not affected by mundane firearms (Holliday tested this and failed) but not without its own flaws… But in order to defeat War Bonnet Roosevelt has to enlist the help of the famous inventors Edison and Buntline, and like in the first and second books leaves it up to them to find out a clever, creative and ingenious way to combat this problem!
I must mention that The Doctor and the Roughrider was just too short for me. With only 262 pages it felt that I was just into the story when it came to an ending. It is a great universe that I had hoped to explore a bit more in this book, especially with the building up of the story-line. Looking a bit at the lay-out I do think that the intention of the stories of Mike Resnick are more about providing an easy and entertaining read, and hereby especially focusing on the characters and how they interact with the world and each other instead of showing a flashy display of other events. This was shown in the ending, which was only one and a half pages in length. I was a bit disappointed in the end but overall I do still think that The Doctor and the Roughrider is a funny, witty and clever story. I also do not think that this will be the last tale, some problems were resolved along the way but one huge new one was introduced and I am eagerly waiting to see if Mike Resnick will pick up on this, I do hope he does. I for one cannot get enough of this series.
This The Doctor and the Roughrider book review was written by Jasper de Joode
All reviews for: A Weird West Tale
The Buntline Special
A Weird West Tale #1
The Doctor and the Kid
A Weird West Tale #2
The Doctor and the Roughrider
A Weird West Tale #3
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