Review: The Doctor and the Dinosaurs
Mike Resnick has had a pretty good deal going here with these Weird West tales. Short books released once a year and bought like clockwork by Pyr. From what I understand, he’s moved on from this series to another Science Fiction-based one now, but still has the team from Pyr standing at the front of the queue for the next story he pumps out. In a way, I’m glad to see Resnick move on from this series; it hasn’t been my favorite, to say the least. And yet there’s a part of me that wishes that since this was possibly the last tale torn from the might-have-been lifebook of the man Doc Holliday, that it had gone out with more of a bang.
THE DOCTOR AND THE DINOSAURS continues the tale of the dentist-gunslinger, Doc Holliday, on his adventures through the Weird West, an alternate version of United States history that is more traditionally termed “Wild”. Thus far we’ve seen the lack of a fight at the O.K. Corral, an argument with Billy the Kid, and a tango with the Rough Rider. What else could be in Doc’s future but a chance to go up against the king of the beasts?
Even though the title sounds as if the story will have a unique premise, the problem is much the same as we’ve seen before in these Weird West tales. Many American Indian medicine men are mad with Geronimo for his willingness to work with the white man and let them expand west across the continent. More so now because Geronimo has signed a treaty that will bring many more of the pale men into Indian territory. This time it is the Comanche that are upset by two groups of paleontologists that are desecrating Indian burial sites in their search for ancient bones. Even worse, the two scientists are near mortal enemies from their history with one another and will each stop at nothing to see the other humiliated by defeat. Thus the Comanche have designs on resurrecting the dead dinos and letting them run amok for a while, tearing and gnashing the white man so that he will go back home, in the east.
The setup doesn’t sound so bad given like that, but it’s the execution of the thing that kills it. All of this setup we learn from Geronimo in chapter one as he enlists a much-resistant and terminally ill Doc Holliday. Clocking in at only 253 pages, you’d think that the story would start out low and fast. Instead, it languishes about for the first half of the book (yes, that’s around 125 of those precious few pages available…) getting to the point where stuff can actually begin to happen. Doc travels to Wyoming. He meets up with his buddies. He meets up with the Commanche. He meets up with the paleontologists. Sheesh. Talk about your year-long setup. The difficulty of it all is that it’s completely redundant. Ever wonder what a prologue is for? It’s for situations like this. PRECISELY, for situations like this. Geronimo talks to Holliday in a prologue. Chapter one starts out with Holliday walking into the camp of the paleontologists with his buddies Edison and Buntline, whom you KNOW are going to make a showing in the tale (as they always do). Bang! Folks, we have ignition! Low and fast just like it should be. But it is not to be. Alas.
The second half of the book proceeds much like the resolutions of the other books: Edison and Buntline have a special doodad (another gun) that saves the day. Hoorah. Not much to be said about it. The ending, such as it was, was a complete bummer. A horrible let-down that completely nullified the point of the story, leaving me a befuddled, quivering heap of goo on the pavement.
I wasn’t a terrible fan of the books in this series. They were decent in most ways. I’m sure there were those that enjoyed them. (Why else would Pyr continue to buy them, after all?) This book was a definite step below the rest in the series, though. A tough one to get through, and definitely a tough one to see an end by. Oh well. On to the next it shall be.
Recommended Age: 14+
Language: Mediocre amount of low-level profanity, and a few stronger zingers
Violence: A little gory once the raptors finally show, but there’s so little time with them that there’s not much to be had
Sex: A few references to robotic, metal whores