The Buntline Special

The Buntline Special

The Buntline Special (click for larger)

Here’s a nice review of the first book in my current “Weird Western” series. — Mike

The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale by Mike Resnick
Cover Artist: Seamus Gallagher
Review by Drew Bittner,  SFRevu Review

Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline have transformed the town of Tombstone (Arizona territory) into a technological wonder, with electric lights and self-powered vehicles clad in impenetrable brass. Not everyone is thrilled with change, though, and so Wyatt Earp has to call for reinforcements. But in a world of steampunk inventions and weird Native American magic, can a humble six-shooter prevail? Or will someone need to take up — the Buntline Special?

Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special is a madcap mashup of steampunk, Old West dime novels, and alternate history, blended through a sly and witty perspective. In his version of Tombstone, Edison and Buntline are performing miracles–but Edison has already paid for it with his right arm (taken by an assassin’s bullet), and now he and Buntline live in fortified, booby-trapped bunkers.

Earp calls in Bat Masterson and his secret weapon, Doc Holliday. Holliday is the central figure of the tale, coming to Tombstone and seeing its marvels for himself, as well as learning the ropes of the town itself. The corrupt sheriff is on the payroll of the horse-stealing Clantons (who stand to lose their livelihood if Edison’s horseless carriages are mass produced); Earp’s brother Virgil is the marshal and the only counter to the sheriff. The Earps own a saloon, the Oriental, which gives them a base of operations and a stake in the town’s future.

That future is an uncertain thing. Arizona remains a territory because the Native Americans possess magic that holds the Union army at bay along the Mississippi River. White settlers are tolerated by Geronimo (who is a shaman as well as a mighty war chief) and Hook Nose in small numbers, but a full-on settling of the West has been thwarted. Edison and Buntline could change all that.

Holliday renews a stormy relationship with Kate Elder, proprietress of the town’s best bordello (featuring all-natural, cyborged, and all-mechanical whores) and makes himself known to the Clantons in a violent fashion. Since the Clantons are under the protection of the shaman Hook Nose, this invites retribution–and the dead gunslinger Johnny Ringo is reanimated to take on Holliday and kill Edison.

Suffice it to say that nothing goes according to plan, and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral takes a very different turn in this world. As Edison races to unlock the key to Hook Nose’s magic, Bat Masterson contends with a remarkable curse of his own while Holliday staves off his inevitable demise from tuberculosis with gallows humor and an unmatched skill with a gun. Problem is, even the best bullet won’t put down a zombie like Ringo–so he needs something more.

Will it be Edison’s fantastic technology that saves the day, or will Tombstone’s defenders go down with guns a-blazing?

Buntline Special is a terrific and very fast-paced read, full of engaging characters and outlandish situations. Holliday in particular is a great character, and I hope Resnick returns to him at some point; the groundwork is laid for a sequel or two, which we can all hope happens sooner rather than later.

Spending time in Resnick’s Tombstone is well worth any reader’s time.

Highly recommended.

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7 Responses to The Buntline Special

  1. Jaye says:

    Hi, Mike,

    I really enjoyed The Buntline Special. I am only sorry it took me so long to discover your wonderful stories. I posted an article about it on my blog.

    Off to glom!

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for the kind words. You might keep an eye out for THE DOCTOR AND THE KID, which comes out in December; and THE DOCTOR AND THE ROUGH RIDER, which I just contracted to write and will come out in late 2012.

  2. John Traylor says:

    At this past summer’s PulpFest I learned of this book at a panel about Steampunk. I then went out and read this and enjoyed it quite a lot.

  3. Just finished The Bumtline Special and have been Googling some of the background material. A fun read. But tell me, who put you up to the face-off between Docs Holliday and Passovoy?

    • Mike says:

      That’s not -Doctor- Bob Passavoy, but his son, Bob. What happened was that there was a charity auction at the 2009 Windycon, and Bob won the right to be killed in a Resnick novel. It’s happened a number of times in the past, with me and other writers. I can’t remember al 5 or 6 people I’ve put into stories as a result of fannish auctions, but I do remember one named Julie Balch. I had just sent eventual Hugo nominee “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s, and for some reason he brought it along to the Chicago Worldcon in 2000 to read. At that con, the newly-wed Julie’s husband paid some exorbiotant amount to have her written up in a Resnick story, and since there was a woman in the story I’d sold to Gardner, I asked him to bring it along when we had lunch together later in the con, and went through it and changed the character’s name everywhere she appeared. Got it done before dessert. 🙂

  4. Thibaut Lenain says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’m from France, and I’d like to know if there is a chance that your Weird West stories will be one day translate in french.

    Thanks a lot and have a good continuation to you and your work !


    • Mike says:

      I’ve sold a number of books to France, so it’s always possible that the “Weird Western” novels will sell there. My primary French publishers have been DeNoel, Flammarion, and Gallimard. If you know any of the editors, you might drop them a note and suggest they buy the books before some rival does. 🙂

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