The Doctor and the Kid: A Weird West Tale
by Mike Resnick
Cover Artist: Seamus Gallagher
Review by Mel Jacob
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616145378
Date: 20 December 2011 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website /
Noted science fiction writer Mike Resnick takes the reader on a wild West ride with Doc Holliday, inventor Thomas Edison, and Ned Buntline in his steampunk western The Doctor and the Kid. Set in the old west of the 1880s, it starts in Leadville, Colorado, goes to Tombstone, Arizona, and on to Lincoln, New Mexico. When Doc loses all his money, he decides to become a bounty hunter and go after Billy the Kid because of the ten thousand dollar reward for killing him. However, he learns a Southern Cheyenne medicine man protects the Kid and ordinary bullets can't kill him.
Doc needs the reward money and Geronimo offers him protection against the Kid if he destroys a train station built atop an old burial ground. Geronimo tried guns, weapons, and explosives without effect on the station. Doc, in desperate need of funds, agrees. He enlists the aid of his friends Tom Edison and Ned Buntline. Medicine men's magic has prevented U.S. expansion beyond the Mississippi River, and the U.S. government has contracted with Edison to provide a means of overcoming it so he is eager to help.
Various animals serve as disguises for Geronimo's messengers. Doc never knows when a bird, wolf, or a prairie dog will transform into an Apache brave. Geronimo has not given any reason why the Cheyenne medicine man is protecting the Kid. Doc hopes that if they are able to destroy the station, they will have a way void the spell on the Kid.
When Doc first meets the Kid, he doesn't recognize him although astute readers will guess the man's identity. They become friends and Doc almost regrets his plan to kill him. At one point, the Kid draws on Doc, but thanks to Geronimo's protection, the bullets do no damage. The same is true for Doc's attempt to return fire.
Doc meets a charming widow, Charlotte Branson, and has thoughts of a future with her despite his terminal condition. Then he learns some surprising news about the widow and her livelihood. He tries to convince her to change professions.
The Doctor and the Kid offers alternate history, steampunk inventions, paranormal phenomena, and the Old West. The warm relationships between Doc, Edison, Buntline, and Charlotte make a change from the usual portrayals of Doc, Edison, and Buntline. The appendices offer interesting reading.
Resnick is a well-respected author and will be the Guest of Honor at the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago, Illinois. He has garnered many awards and written many science fiction novels and short stories. The ending implies a sequel, and Pyr will issue The Doctor and the Rough Rider. Resnick's fan will be sure to look for it. Those who haven't yet read The Buntline Special, the first of Resnick's Weird West Tales, will find it too of interest.