Just finished reading Mike Resnick’s “The Buntline Special.” I had first come across Mike Resnick a couple of years ago by way of the Escape Pod podcast of short fiction stories. Mike’s “Robots Don’t Cry” was so good I had to play it a second time for my family on a trip up north. Resnick is one of the most prolific and decorated SciFi writers.
So… I came into The Buntline Special with high expectations which, unfortunately, for me went unmet. At its core, The Buntline Special is an alternate history retelling of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral with steampunk and weird west, please pardon the expression, “chrome” liberally applied. The basic thread of the story is enhanced with supporting cast members Tom Edison and Ned Buntline – the inventor and implementor of the steampunk goodies. Geronimo and indian braves provided the Weird in Weird West.
The biggest problem I had was that both the steampunk and weird west elements were really not that intrinsic to the story. I am not trying to be a purist here, but if you are going to have steampunk elements in the story, make them part of the plot and not just window dressing. The weird west parts provided some interesting opportunities that mostly went unexplored. I think the problem here is the constraints placed by historical accounts or the author’s desire to try his hand at explaining what may have actually happened with a steampunk weird west spin to make it more interesting. One thing he did accomplish was to increase my interest in the event and its participants as much as Band of Brothers raised my interest and appreciation of WWII.
What I really did like about the book was Resnick’s use of dialog. On the scale of narrative to dialog driven, this one is hard over on dialog. I have a lot of respect for what he was able to accomplish with only a couple sentences of scene setting followed by extensive dialog. I know how hard dialog is for me so I have a lot of respect for what he was able to accomplish between the quote marks. I also think he struck a good balance with the western elements, enough to create the atmosphere but not too overdone that it was difficult to read.
Bottom line for me… It was a well researched, well implemented re-telling of the gunfight at O.K. Corral that suffered from sticking too close to the historical accounts. I enjoyed it, but wished it was better. Looking forward to his next book “The Doctor and the Kid.”
Steampunk Library page has been updated.