The Doctor and the Dinosaurs

The Doctor and the Dinosaurs by Mike Resnick, Weird West Tales #4

The time is April, 1885. Doc Holliday lies in bed in a sanitarium in Leadville, Colorado, expecting never to leave his room again. But the medicine man and great chief Geronimo needs him for one last adventure. Renegade Comanche medicine men object to the newly-signed treaty with Theodore Roosevelt. They are venting their displeasure on two white men who are desecrating tribal territory in Wyoming. Geronimo must protect the men or renege on his agreement with Roosevelt. He offers Doc one year of restored health in exchange for taking on this mission.

Welcome to the birth of American paleontology, spearheaded by two brilliant men, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, two men whose genius is only exceeded by their hatred for each other's guts.

Now, with the aid of Theodore Roosevelt, Cole Younger, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday must save Cope and Marsh not only from the Comanches, not only from living, breathing dinosaurs, but from each other. And that won't be easy.

The Doctor and the Dinosaurs is already the 4th story set in the Weird West Universe of Mike Resnick. When I discovered this first book, The Buntline Special,  I knew it was a story for me, and so far Mike Resnick has made each addition just a great to read as the last one. Set in an alternate USA in the 1880’s the Weird West Tales follow the adventures of mainly the infamous Doc Holliday and several other key players in the US history such as Thomas Edison, Billy the Kid and Theodore Roosevelt. When I finished the third book in the series, The Doctor and the Roughrider I had no clue as to what the fourth book would entail. In the first three books the story centered around historical events and pushing one important things, the Mississippi boundary stop, the Indians with help of their medicine men halted a stop, that the US couldn’t cross. Ned Buntline and Thomas Edison were called into action to find the solution. However this was mostly done and dealt with. As for the fourth book, I will admit, I did a dance, when I read the title of the book and saw the cover art! DINOSAURS! I raised my hopes up high, I was really really looking forward to reading what Mike Resnick could do with these extinct creatures.

The story of The Doctor and the Dinosaurs picks up in 1885 and Doc Holliday has been in the sanitarium for a while now and is counting down his last days, it seems that the consumption has finally takes the toll on the dentist turned shootist. However, coming totally as a surprise to Doc is the interference of Geronimo, the medicine men that had helped Doc a few times earlier. Doc is now tasked with stopping two other white men from desecrating an ancient burial ground. Now you might say, Doc is just minutes or even seconds from dying how can he possibly help? Well Geronimo still has a lot of tricks up his sleeves and restores Doc’s health, well sort a.  With his health back, Doc Holliday sets out, although with a huge reluctance, to Wyoming and try to stop Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh from desecrating the burial site even further.

Several characters that have made introduction in the earlier books of the series like Ned Buntline, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt all play again an important role in The Doctor and the Dinosaurs. But there are plenty of other iconic figures that make an appearance like Cole Younger and Buffalo Bill. I am going to be honest, I don’t really know a lot about these characters in how they originally were, so I cant relay anything as to how they act in Mike Resnick’s stories and how they originally were. But what I can say is that they, each and every character is great to read about, even though we have seen a lot of characters come and go already, the characters do stay pretty interesting and with the witty and snappy banter between the lot, they and the storyline are kept fresh and interesting. The one character that keeps on putting a smile on my face is Doc Holliday, he is fast on his feet, smart and knows his stuff. I particularly like his nonchalance towards almost everything in life. And of course when people ask if he is the infamous Doc Holliday he answers with a simple “probably”.

Ok now for the best part of the book. Dinosaurs! I did have a few reservations as to how this theme would be implemented, we all know Jurassic Park, but The Doctor and the Dinosaurs isn’t set in the future but the past. So how is this theme used? This really goes down to the beginning with dig sites and excavations, well then you might say: what is there to fear, it’s just bones... well on the first it might seem so, but if you have seen the full force of the medicine men in the earlier books, it’s a small feat for them to do something with these bones! With this threat around the corner, Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline are again called to action in produce something to fend these guys off. And they again pull off to create something wacky and utterly cool, normal bullets just won’t do. On the whole I was very pleased with how the dinosaur theme was used, it was cool and inventive and was spot on in the premise of the storyline. This takes together with the setting and the characters produced another blast to read.

If you haven’t read any of the Weird West Tales, you are really missing out on something. They aren’t your average steampunk stories, Mike Resnick really aims to show something different and combines steampunk with an rich alternate universe were almost everything seems to be possible, but luckily there are still boundaries to keep everything in check. The stories of all the Weird West Tales have dealt with a lot of exposition of the world but also show a great focus on the characters, the historical, ones. The Doctor and the Dinosaurs  and all the other stories aren’t heavy to digest, they are light and highly, highly enjoyable reads. It’s really something new. And it seems that for the fans of this series, the fun isn’t over yet (!) as Geronimo still has his eyes set on Doc Holliday. Bring on the next one!

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