The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Books
Tags: , ,

Urban defines ‘steampunk’ as:
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.

  1. Monica says:

    Well said! You are so good at this- honesty without cruelty. It’s a skill my friend.

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