The Doctor and the Rough Rider: Pyr Books, December 2012, 304 pages, cover art and interior illustrations by J. Seamas Gallagher. Mike Resnick is the award winning author of over seventy novels and over two-hundred and fifty stories, and the editor of over forty anthologies. This is Resnick's third book in his ongoing A Weird West Tale series. The Doctor and the Rough Rider reached the second round by defeating werewolf horror book, Wolf Hunter by J.L. Benét.
In The Doctor and the Rough Rider, the United States, as a nation, has been prevented from expanding west to the Pacific by an Indian medicine men spell, although many miners, settlers, and farmers have been allowed past the Mississippi. Geronimo tells Doc Holliday that he wants to make peace and that he is willing to negotiate an end to the spell with one man: Theodore Roosevelt. But Geronimo knows that many Indians won't want the spell lifted and they will try to kill him and those who stand with him.
Bat Masterson goes to young Theodore Roosevelt's ranch in the Dakota Territory, on Holliday's request. Masterson asks Roosevelt to travel to Tombstone to deal with Geronimo. Roosevelt is excited to go and help fulfill America's destiny.
Doc Holliday arrives in Tombstone from Leadville. He chats with inventor Thomas Edison, who was sent to the West to try to break the Indian spell. Holliday asks Edison to produce something to help Geronimo and Roosevelt's cause.
Roosevelt and Holliday ride out into the desert to Geronimo's lodge for negotiations.
River Road: Tor books, November 2012, 332 pages, cover art by Cliff Nielsen. River Road is the second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series. River Road reached the second round by defeating paranormal romance, Guardians of Stone by Anita Clenney.
In River Road, we learned that after Hurricane Katrina, unbeknownst to almost everyone, historic undead and other preternaturals flooded into New Orleans. Drusilla Jaco, aka DJ, a Green Congress wizard, and her co-sentinel, the shapeshifter Alex Warin, are employed by The Elders to handle paranormal problems. Historical undead pirate Jean Lafitte, who finds DJ attractive, has asked DJ to negotiate a truce between two clans of feuding merpeople.
DJ, Alex and Jean Lafitte met up at DJ's small strip mall office. Lafitte tells them the restaurant in Plaquemines Parish where the merpeople clan representatives have agreed to meet. DJ drives the red Corvette which Lafitte arrived in, because Lafitte desperately needs driving lessons. Alex follows in DJ's SUV. When DJ realizes that Jean Lafitte, being a pirate, stole the Corvette, they abandon it. Alex drives all of them the remaining way to their rendezvous.
The mermen are Cajuns. First they met Lafitte's friend, the tattooed Rene Delachaise, and his twin brother Robert. The other merman, Denis Villere, who is older, arrives on motorcycle. After a couple hours of arguing while eating a seafood lunch, they come to a tentative agreement on clan territory borders, contingent on solving the untested water contamination problem.
The Battle: This match-up features a Wild West steampunk book going up against an urban fantasy book set in New Orleans.
The Doctor and the Rough Rider uses famous historical figures as characters. They banter and point out each other's exceptional talents. Doc Holliday calls Edison "our greatest genius". Theodore Roosevelt acts like a fanboy about meeting Geronimo, Doc Holliday, and Thomas Edison.
There are signs of upcoming conflict between those who want to end the barrier spell and those who don't.
Although several women have been mentioned (plus "metal harlots"), no female character has yet made an appearance in The Doctor and the Rough Rider.
In River Road, on the other hand, there's tension between the characters. Alex and Jean Lafitte hate each other, and DJ is caught in the middle. Lafitte humorously calls Alex, the shapeshifter, Monsieur Chien or Mr. Dog. The feuding merman dislike wizards, and DJ threatens them with her elven staff to break up a fight.
But I don't see any imminent threat to New Orleans, not yet anyway.
The protagonist of River Road, Drusilla Jaco or DJ, is female, and she's the only female character encountered. I like that DJ, as a wizard, is afraid of water.
After 50 pages, I found these dissimilar books to be an even match. For me, there was no clear winner. This battle easily could have gone either way. Both books were entertaining. What eventually decided this battle for me, was that I could relate a bit better to DJ, a modern woman, than to characters based on famous men from over a century ago.
THE WINNER: River Road by Suzanne Johnson
River Road advances to the semifinals where it will take on The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman.
To see the whole bracket, click here.