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The Doctor and the Rough Rider

Posted by Dan Smyth On Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sometimes it's difficult to keep up in the reviewing world. It seems like no matter how many books you read, there are always three more that show up for every one you get through. As such, there are times when I go to reach for that next book and my hand gravitates toward those that are the thinnest. I can't help myself. It's a choice of simple economics. This was one of those choices.

THE DOCTOR AND THE ROUGH RIDER is the third in the series of Weird West tales written by Mike Resnick and published by Pyr. For the most part, they revolve around “Doc” Holliday and his buddies in a Old Wild West that is a bit more “weird” than you remember. For Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline, two prominent geniuses of the wide world, spend their days and nights constructing inventions to make life better and easier than it would otherwise be out there amongst the dust and tumbleweeds. Running adjacent to that idea is that the American Indians hold sway over powerful magics that are significantly more influential than those of a more honest history. (For after all, fiction is really just a bunch of lies we tell ourselves, isn't it?)

In this volume, the barrier that the indian's magic has constructed to keep the United States from fulfilling their dream of Manifest Destiny and expanding all the way to the Pacific Ocean, has been given a chance to fail. Geronimo, the wisest and most powerful of the indian chieftans holding the barrier spell in place has seen the inevitability of the white man's expansionist dreams, and has decided to drop the spell in hopes of buying some mercy for his people on that future day. None of the other magic-wielding chiefs, however, are very excited about this decision. Thus they band their magics together to create a demonic beast that is so powerful that it will be able to destroy both Geronimo and the white man that he has chosen to deal with in this endeavor: Theodore Roosevelt.

The story revolves mostly around Theodore (Not Teddy) Roosevelt and his choices surrounding the deal with Geronimo. Roosevelt is a very strong-willed, influential, successful, go-get-em kind of man that has no qualms against riding off after this demonic indian beast and taking a swing at him. “Doc” Holiday also plays a role, although his part in it is decidedly smaller and less influential. He ends up being more of a gopher-boy for Geronimo than anything else, but fills the spaces between errands by shooting a few people, gambling a load, drinking more than his share of whiskey, and riding around in the sun.

Honestly, I really wanted to like this book more than I did the last one, and there were definitely portions of it that I did. In those, ROUGH RIDER reminded me of the first book in the series, The Buntline Special, that I liked so much. Unfortunately, so much of the fantastical elements were left completely out of this book. The world building was even more sparse than in the previous books, with only a few (I can almost say “few”, as in three, literally here) references to anything “weird” about the West this time around. It was completely lacking in that department. Instead, what we get is more conversation-driven plot, disappointing simplicity, and a push-button ending that left me feeling quite parched and in need of a stiff drink.

If you're looking for something to fill the time, that'll probably make you chuckle a handful of times, and that you won't have to think very hard at all about, this is probably the book for you. For me, ROUGH RIDER just wallows around in the realm of mediocrity though. I'd love to see someone else try their hand at this kind of setting. In fact...I seem to recall someone doing just that. Oh yeah, this book. I almost forgot about it, and I even remember liking it well-enough. Dang it all. Why haven't I read the sequel for that one yet? Now I'll have to go find it. One more book for the stacks. Although, after reading this one, I can tell you that The Rise of Ransom City will be taking a hefty step toward the top of my TBR stack—short book or no.

Recommended Age: 15+
Language: Strong and infrequent, but considerably more than the previous two books.
Violence: Some shootings, and one biological explosion
Sex: A few references to the seemingly-ubiquitous robotic whores

And your easy-access links to the lot of em:

The Buntline Special
The Doctor and the Kid
The Doctor and the Rough Rider


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