The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale Paperback – 15 Dec 2010
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Mike Resnick is a journeyman in a world of apprentices, one who knows his craft. His name on a book guarantees a solid story and believable characters, constructed with imagination and grace. Most important of all, it guarantees entertainment. --Raymond E. Feist
About the Author
Mike Resnick has won an impressive five Hugos and has been nominated for thirty more. The author of the Starship series, the John Justin Mallory series, and the Weird West Tales, he has sold sixty-nine novels and more than two hundred fifty short stories and has edited forty anthologies. His Kirinyaga series, with sixty-seven major and minor awards and nominations to date, is the most honored series of stories in the history of science fiction. Visit him online at www.mikeresnick.com.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Don't get me wrong, things do happen but I hardly consider one sentence descriptions to be action scenes. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral? Half a page. The climactic showdown that's been promised for the entire book? Half a page. The ending? A 1 page cliffhanger that sets it up for a sequel.
The rest of the book consists of getting breakfast and chatting in saloons and a wh@re house. Characters go talk to another character for a page, then back to the saloon. They wake up, get breakfast, go visit a character, then back to the saloon. Oh, Bat Masterson is, get this, turned into a bat! So there's plenty of dialogue about how to keep him caged up at night. It's 300 pages of this. I'm not even exaggerating, nothing happens except talk, talk, talk, solve the problem in a paragraph. There's no exciting or engaging solutions to any problems in this book, they're just there and then they're not.
I'm only giving this 3 stars because the dialogue and characterisations are very well written. Other than that I found it to be an absolute sleeping pill. Don't be fooled by the book description and go in expecting an action novel because it's not. I like Mr. Resnick's work but this book just felt completely lazy and phoned in. He had some good ideas that could have been alot of fun but didn't quite seem to know what to do with them. Seek out Ivory or Dragon America instead if you want a good Mike Resnick novel.
The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale succeeds with the steampunk, but it never cowboy'd up to the culture. I think it had the potential to be great, but there were too many misses along the way. For instance, the dialog was disappointingly bland. I wanted to hear the Old West come alive in the poetry and cadence of the language, but everyone's speech was far too contemporary for a historical setting. I kept trying to insert an accent, but it wouldn't stick. Just a little bit of Mark Twain's voice would have given the whole story a flavor of authenticity. The only exchanges with any spark occurred between Doc Holliday and his sometime lady-love, Big Nose Kate:
He was suddenly overcome by a paroxysm of coughing, and sat down again. She brought him a handkerchief, and he handed it back to her a few minutes later when he was done.
"That's more blood than usual," she noted, staring at it.
"I don't know what you expect me to do about it. Cough out the window, maybe."
She stared at him for a long moment. "I don't know which to do," she said at last, "nurse you or kick you in the balls."
"Do I get a vote?" he asked. (241)
I was excited to see this Wild West dream team of gunfighters assembled, but the reason behind it was too vague to drum up any further enthusiasm. We learn that the U.S. Government wants to expand across the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, and they believe that Thomas Edison is their single best asset for overcoming the magic-wielding Native Americans. The Earps, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday are to protect Edison and his partner, Ned Buntline at all costs. This leads to the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but unfortunately the setup was so generic that it didn't give me much of a mystery to chew on in between.
The steampunk elements brought a glow to my brass-plated heart, and here is where The Buntline Special shined. The descriptions and illustrations were the stuff of steamies' dreams, and I happily plunged into the mechanized world of horseless carriges, gatling revolvers, and, er, metal "working girls." It was all well done, and by far, my favorite part of the story.
Steampunk fans will enjoy the ride, but the west was left in the dust, and I mourn its absence. This could have been amazing if The Buntline Special had truly joined The Weird with The Old West.
At the end there's an unneeded history lesson that consumes way too much space than could have been better used to expand the story.
For a 300+ page book, The Buntline Special felt pretty slight. The characters, outside of Doc Holiday, didn't feel particularly developed. It's hard to emotionally invest in characters you don't get to know. And if I'm not invested in the characters, I'm also not invested in their conflicts. And if I'm not invested in the conflicts, there's not a lot for me to care about.
Even worse, the "weird" elements just felt layered on top of a fairly lackluster standard Western. None of the fantasy elements were necessary. Electric powered stagecoaches? Robot prostitutes? Zombie gunmen? All window dressing. A character gets transformed into a giant bat, and absolutely nothing is done with it. If the fantastical elements of a story aren't going to be important, then they shouldn't be there at all.
So, overall, a wasted opportunity.
A subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan "What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner." It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.
In Mike Resnick's novel The Buntline Special, steampunk goes West. I was extremely excited about this adventure. Steampunk has been around for a couple decades, but it is a relatively new favorite sub-genre of mine. Wild West, however, I have loved since I was a youngen' watching old Gunsmoke reruns. So I thought "SWEET! This is gonna be awesome!" But it was just 'meh.
Over the years there have been many retellings of the Earp brothers, Doc Holiday, the Gunfight at the OK Corral, and life in Tombstone. Mike used much of this preestablished and common knowledge to jump directly into the well known characters and setting. Why spend pages reinventing the wheel?
Adding (or attempting to add) spice to another dime novel covering the famous Tombsone showdown is the introduction of Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline; inventors of electric street lamps, electric stage coaches, impenetrable brass, robotic prosthetics, and actually entire robotic women for Kate's brothel. Steampunk, well done, is a seamless fusion; but in this instance I felt it was all so forced. While suspending belief is part of loving fiction, there is no structured and organized science behind these inventions...like a forcefield that can sense who is friend and who is foe. Throw in a few Native American medicine men casting curses, a vampire Bat Masterson, a zombie Johnny Ringo, and shape-shifting Apache braves and the story gets quite muddled.
After a lot of drinking, eating, gambling, more drinking, bickering, threats, technobable, there really wasn't a whole lot of pow...which is what we really want from a Western, right?
My first impression of Mike Resnick is not high, but he has several more novels that may develop better.