Once more, Pyr has sent us an array of new novels in their Steampunk line-up, and once again Mike Resnick makes one of them worth reading. Last time around it was his Weird West reiteration of the Gunfight at the OK Corral in The Buntline Special. This time around it is the sequel, The Doctor and the Kid.
As before, The Doctor and the Kid blends Resnick's alternate history with real personalities, resulting in a world that is fundamentally different but historical events that are not. In this volume, Doc Holliday is preparing for death in Leadville, Colorado when he inadvertently loses his nest-egg in a poker game. It was this wad of cash - lost while trying to impress a visiting Oscar Wilde - that was going to pay for Holliday's internment in a sanitarium until his death of tuberculosis in 1887. He concocts a dangerous get-rich-quick scheme: to collect the bounty on one Billy the Kid.
The variation is that this story takes place in the same universe where Native American shamen have used magic to keep the United States on the eastern shore of the Mississippi. It seems that the infamous Hook Nose is protecting the Kid for reasons known only to himself. Geronimo offers assistance to Doc Holliday in exchange for demolishing a railway station on his sacred burial grounds that also seems to be protected by a shaman. This task leads Holliday to call once again upon Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline, the scientists attempting to counteract Native magic. Geronimo has also protected Holliday, making it impossible for either he or the Kid to kill the other, thus giving two of the Wild West's best gunfighters the chance to develop a grudging friendship that they never had in life... that we know of.
However, like the Gunfight at the OK Corral, history more or less unfolds as it should through the pages of The Doctor and the Kid. Yet this is very obviously a second part of a trilogy in the classic pattern. The first part, whether we're talking about The Buntline Special, Star Wars or The Matrix, stands quite alone on its own strengths. Once the success of that first part is proven, a second chapter ending off on a cliffhanger is provided. The Doctor and the Kid - whose main flaw is too often feeding us lines about how Oscar Wilde or the Gunfight will be remembered in the future - is primarily making arrangements for paydays in later novels.