The Doctor and the Kid, by Mike Resnick
Posted December 22, 2011on:
The Doctor and The Kid by Mike Resnick (sequel to The Buntline Special)
Published Dec 2011
where I got it: received review copy from Pyr
why I read it: enjoyed The Buntline Special, the first book in the series.
A fun, easy read, The Doctor and The Kid should probably be categorized as Young Adult. There is some mild swearing, and references to sex, but there is nothing in this book your teen hasn’t read before. With a fairly simple plot and fun characters, it’s a good foil to all the heavy dense doorstopper melt-your-brain books that have been floating around lately.
It’s known, that I’ve a major weakness for tragic characters. And do they come any more tragic than Doc Holliday? Wracked with consumption, as unflinchingly honest as he was bitter, he knew death was right around the corner, so why fear anything in life?
Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid most certainly is not the true story of Doc Holliday, but it is a fun one. Advertised as a steampunk western, The Doctor and the Kid doesn’t have a lot of action in it, Doc simply hasn’t got that kind of energy. More a character study of Holliday and how he’s forced to realize that people don’t care that he’s classically educated or coughing up blood all the time – all they want to know is how many people he’s killed. He’s not at all the person people think he is, and that was my favorite aspect of this book.
Along with his on again off again lover Kate, Doc has made his way to Deadwood Colorado. He had his bank account have a lifetime appointment with a medical facility there. After a night of drinking and bad luck with cards, Doc is broke, and Kate is pissed. Doc needs money, and fast, and the best way to make fast money is to turn bounty hunter. Helped (maybe) by a Native American medicine man, and the inventions of Thomas Edison (keep an eye out for his mythbusters-esque mad scientist scene), Doc quickly realizes that while he’s just in it for the money, everyone else has so much more on the line.
The title does imply what you think it does, and it’s not long before Billy the Kid makes his appearance. A brash outspoken twenty one year old, the dinner conversations between Billy and Doc are wonderful. Billy is quite literally young and stupid, and Doc is desperately trying to talk some sense into this kid before he gets his head blown off. But Billy’s got some powerful protections on him, and if Edison can’t figure out how to counteract them, this could be Doc’s last gunfight. With the entrance of an additional bounty hunter whose got a very nontraditional way of going about the job, the stakes just got higher for the tragic Doc.
I very much enjoyed the first book, so it’s completely possibly that I set my expectations too high for this one. Yes, the book was quite fun to read, but it wasn’t without problems. Resnick starts out dropping names left and right of anyone who could have possible been in or around Deadwood for Doc to interact with: Oscar Wilde finds Holliday fascinating, while Susan B Anthony is disgusted by him. I was hoping both of those characters would show up again later, especially Wilde, but nope, it was just quick cameos to get my attention. The plot is all over the place, with some story lines left to hang, and others sloppily developed. While the dialog is dry and very, very funny, the characters could have used more development and storyline felt incredibly comic-booky. Usually, that’s a very bad thing, but Resnick seemed to make the comic book feel work. Light on the action and heavy on the dialog, your enjoyment of this book is 100% dependent on your expectations and how much you liked the first book. For a steampunk western, there is hardly any actual action, which might surprise some readers. No infodumps, simplified characterization, and other than a certain mad scientist scene, not much in the way of ground breaking originality. Once I started thinking to myself that this was more a YA book, I was able to enjoy it much more. After effects of reading include an unbearable need to watch Val Kilmer’s Tombstone.