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The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale
Mike Resnick
Pyr, 322 pages

Mike Resnick
Mike Resnick sold his first book in 1962 and went on to sell more than 200 novels, 300 short stories and 2,000 articles, almost all of them under pseudonyms. He turned to SF with the sale of The Soul Eater, his first under his own name. Since 1989, Mike has won Hugo Awards (for Kirinyaga; The Manamouki; Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge; The 43 Antarean Dynasties; Travels With My Cats) and a Nebula Award (for Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge).

Mike Resnick Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Stalking the Vampire
SF Site Review: Kilimanjaro
SF Site Review: Stalking the Vampire
SF Site Review: Stalking the Unicorn
SF Site Review: Starship: Pirate
SF Site Review: Starship: Mutiny
SF Site Review: Dragon America
SF Site Review: Men Writing Science Fiction As Women, Women Writing Science Fiction As Men and New Voices in Science Fiction
SF Site Review: A Hunger in the Soul

Past Feature Reviews
A review by D. Douglas Fratz

The Buntline Special Mike Resnick has long had a fascination of the 19th century American wild west and the tall tales often told about the frontier. In his Santiago novels, he took the tropes of the wild west to the far future with interplanetary space opera. In The Buntline Special, Resnick brings steampunk technology from Victorian England, along with fantasy tropes like zombies and vampires, to 1880s Arizona at the time of the OK Corral gun fight in a light-hearted mash-up that cannot help remind one of the Wild Wild West television show of the 60s. But Resnick also throws in vampires, zombies and Indian magic, along with many of the most famous real historical characters of that era.

In Resnick's alternative history, Geronimo and other Indian medicine men are using powerful magic to keep the United States and most settlers east of the Mississippi River. The U.S. government has sent scientific genius Thomas Alva Edison to Tombstone, Arizona, along with engineering genius (and dime-novelist) Ned Buntline, to develop inventions to counter the Indian magic. Protecting their lives are Wyatt Earp and his brothers Virgil and Morgan, along with Bat Masterton and famous gunslinger Doc Holliday, who must also defend against the horse-stealing Clancy gang and their cohorts. To add further color to the mix, former Holliday sweetheart Kate Elder is running a brothel featuring a mixture of real women, cyborgs and automatons, the latter thanks to the genius of Edison and Buntline, who have also invented horseless carriages, electric street lights, impervious brass, powerful handguns, and other fanciful devices.

Resnick has particular fun with Doc Holliday, who is by far the most interesting character in the novel, and his snarky relationship with Kate Elder. The other characters are mostly less clever variations of wild west archetypes, although it is amusing to see Masterton become a vampire bat, and Johnny Ringo, Holliday's shootist rival, is a zombie throughout.

I still like Mike Resnick best when he is in serious and thoughtful mode, as in his Kirinyaga stories, but his natural story-telling skills come through in fiction such as this, when his tongue is firmly planted in cheek. Fans of steampunk adventures and wild-west tall tales looking for light diversion are sure to be pleased by The Buntline Special.

Copyright © 2011 D. Douglas Fratz

D. Douglas Fratz has more than forty years experience as editor and publisher of literary review magazines in the science fiction and fantasy field, and author of commentary and critiques on science fiction and fantasy literature and media.

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