Mike Resnick has written a highly entertaining Steampunk Western in The Buntline Special. I loved how characters that we know were placed in an alternate version of the American West and how the author incorporated paranormal elements into the story giving it additional depth and some humor.
The story begins in the prologue, which is an announcement in the Tombstone Epitaph, it is the one year anniversary of Tombstone becoming the first city in American and the world to be illuminated by artificial electricity courtesy of its resident geniuses Thomas Alva Edison and Ned Buntline. But this isn’t the America that we know today, it’s an American where the border ends at the Eastern shores of the Mississippi River, the magic of the most powerful Medicine Men has kept the white man from crossing the river.
The U.S. government has decided to hire Edison to break the magic of Woo-Ka-Nay (Hook-Nose) and Goyathlay (Geronimo) – but they don’t intend to let Edison and the government win. Each leader takes a different path to thwarting their plan, Geronimo hires horse thieves Ike Clanton and his “Cowboy” gang to kill Edison- the government brings in Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp to deal with the gun threat. They also bring in William “Bat” Masterson and have Wyatt send for John Henry Holliday (Doc Holliday) to help keep Edison alive. Meanwhile, Hook-Nose, realizing that gunfighters are now involved, brings Johnny Ringo, the only man capable of taking on “Doc Holliday”, to town- only is he a man or something else?
There are on-going relationships in the story that develop, Thomas Edison is the genius behind electricity but it’s Ned Buntline who takes his plans and turns them into actual physical inventions with his special brass plating- he can even make mechanical women. This brings me to the leading women of the story, Kate Elder (Big Nose Kate), the woman who loved “Doc” even though he was dying from consumption and who was a strong character in her own right, and the actress Josie Marcus, the first Jewish person in Tombstone and Wyatt’s newest interest.
The author did a fantastic job with character development and did a good job of keeping a large number of characters involved, moving the plot at a brisk pace, and at the same time giving depth to the different threads in the storyline. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the sections dealing with “Doc” and “Johnny Ringo” (once human now what?) were simply inspired.
The end of the story is well done and very interesting. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Resnick’s work. For a tale of the Wild West like you’ve never seen before, give The Buntline Special a ride.
Welcome to a West like you've never seen before. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western tale, and the West will never be the same.