Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey

SkyfarerSkyfarer

by Joseph Brassey
Series: Drifting Lands, #1

eARC, 352 pg.
Angry Robot Books, 2017

Read: August 11 – 14, 2017


I’ve read a few interesting mergers of SF and Fantasy this year — some that were just that, interesting, some that were good — a couple that were more than good. Thankfully, Brassey’s Skyfarer was in that latter camp. Even in those early chapters where I was still trying to figure out the world, remember which name lined up with what character, and get a handle on the plot, I had a sense that this was going to be one of those books I talked about very positively — and very often. That sense just only got stronger as the book went on.

I feel like could go on for pages about this book — but won’t let myself (so I can avoid the wrath of Angry Robot and you can actually get something out of reading it yourself — which you have to go do as soon as it comes out).

So you’ve got this group called the Eternal Order — a group committed to death, destruction, power, and plunder. When it comes to numbers, they can’t stand up to the civilizations around them, at least when they ally themselves against the Order. But when they (rarely, it seems) can come in with a quick strike against one people they can wreak much havoc. Which is exactly what they do here — they come in and demand that the rulers of Port Providence hand over the Axiom Diamond, or they will wipe them out — and it’s clear that Lord Azrael, the commander, isn’t being hyperbolic. The royal family responds with armed resistance, which has some measure of success, but is primarily fighting losing battles.

Into the midst of this looming genocide comes a wayward spacecraft, the Elysium. The Elysium is a small carrier with more weapons than one should expect (we’re initially told this, anyway). The crew has just welcomed an apprentice mage, fresh from the academy, to complete her studies with her mentor/professor. Aimee de Laurent has been pushing herself for years to excel, to be the best — if there’s a sacrifice to be made for her studies, she’s made it. All leading up to this day, where her professor, Harkon Bright has taken her as an apprentice on his exploration ship to complete her education. She joins a crew that’s been together for years and is eager to find her place within them.

When the Elysium arrives in the middle of this, it doesn’t take anything approaching calculus for them to figure out what this particular crew is going to do. There’s The Eternal Order on one side, civilians and the remnants of the military on the other. There’s a ravaged civilization on one side and the ravagers on the other. There’s a group trying to prevent The Eternal Order from getting something they want and there’s, well, The Eternal Order. So our band of adventurers tell the remnants of the royal family that they’ll hunt down the Axiom and protect it.

This isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea for a story — but man, it doesn’t matter. There’s a reason everyone and their brother has tried this — it’s a good story. Especially when it’s told well. And, I’m here to tell you that Joseph Brassey tells it really well. Not just because of his hybridization of SF and Fantasy, but because he can take a story that everyone’s taken a shot at and make it seem fresh, he can deliver the excitement, he can deliver the emotion. There is some horrible stuff depicted — either in the present or in flashbacks; there’s some pretty tragic stuff; and yet this is a fun read — the pacing, the tone, everything makes this feel like the adventure films and books that I grew up on. You want to read it — not just to find out what’s going to happen next, but because it’s written in such a way that you just want to be reading the book, like a having a glass of iced tea on a summer’s day.

The characters could uniformly use a little more fleshing out — which isn’t a weakness in the writing. Brassey pretty much points at the places where the reader will more details (especially when it comes to Aimee and Harkon), making us want more than he’s giving us. What we’re given, though, is enough to make you root for or against them, hope that they survive (or are subjected to painful and humiliating defeat), or simply enjoy the camaraderie. The good news is, that there’s more to learn about everyone — about their past and their present — and how those shape their future.

You’ve got magic — various schools of magic, too, each with its own understanding of what magic is and how it can be used; you’ve got swords and lasers (and similar kinds of weapons); you’ve got space ships running of magic (not just hyperspace drives that act like magic); objects and persons of prophecy; beings and intelligences that aren’t explicable — tell me why you wouldn’t want to read this? Especially when you throw in epic sword fights, magic duels, and spacecraft action all written by someone who writes like a seasoned pro. Sign me up for the sequel!

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Angry Robot Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…Russ Colchamiro

This is the longest, and strangest, “Book Tour” I’ve done — it’s actually three separate events, but it’s all been promoting the book, Love, Murder & Mayhem. There was the book blurb and review for the original tour stop, then a Book Blitz post, and now we get to ask a the editor, Russ Colchamiro a few questions. Sure, it’s been irregular, but I’ve enjoyed it. If for no other reason, than I get to keep talking about this really fun anthology.

Anyway, on with the questions…

I really enjoyed Love, Murder & Mayhem, best anthology I’ve read in quite a while. What was the genesis for this project — particularly the theme. How did you recruit this collection of contributors?
Thanks! Glad you had so much fun with it. I appreciate that.

While writing Genius de Milo, the second book in my Finders Keepers scifi backpacking comedy series, I introduced—briefly—the character of Angela Hardwicke. Though her portion takes place in the fictional setting of Eternity, she’s a private eye in that classic Sam Spade tradition. I bumped up her role considerably for the third and final book, Astropalooza, and knew that I wanted to spend a lot more time with her, with plans to write a spin-off series, which I’m actually working on now. But before I jumped into a full book, I wanted to write a short story with Hardwicke in the lead, to get a better sense of who she was, her rhythms, and the kinds of stories I wanted to tell.

So I started the Love, Murder & Mayhem anthology through my publishing group—Crazy 8 Press. Including the other six core Crazy 8 members, I reached out to other writer friends to contribute, with every story containing at least one act of love or romance, at least one murder, and lots of mayhem. I initially thought I’d get nothing but private stories—I did a get a few—but the anthology contains superhero and supervillain stories, off-world and space cruiser stories, as well as A.I., private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travel, an aliens/monsters mash-up and … one DuckBob!

My story is “The Case of My Old New Life and the One I Never Knew,” where Hardwicke investigates a case of arson in a rock n club she visited the night before to see her favorite band. It was a lot of fun to write.

If Hardwicke ever gets herself a novel, I’ll be first in line to read it! That’s great to hear.

I know there’s a bunch of information about Finders Keepers on your website to lure in readers — and it’s worked for me, I should add. But other than that, how would you best entice someone to give the series a shot?

Finders Keepers is one of those books that readers either seem to love or want nothing to do with it! LOL! But if you like to have fun … it’s loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand and is centered on a quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA. If you like Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore, Third Rock from the Sun, Harold & Kumar go to White Castle, Groundhog Day, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, it might be up your alley.

You can also check out this book trailer – http://russcolchamiro.com/books/finders-keepers/animated-trailer/

What is it about the Science Fiction that brings you back — or for that matter, what brought you to it in the first place? Is there a genre you particularly enjoy, but don’t think you could write?
Science fiction allows me to dream as big as I want. Nothing is off limits. Once you open up your worlds like that, your stories can go in directions that other genres simply can’t sustain. And it’s fun! As for other genres, I like a good political thriller now and then, but I’m not the guy to write one. I’ll definitely be writing more crime fiction, but I don’t have the bandwidth—or the desire—to get into geopolitical conspiracies. I’ll let other talented writers handle those!
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Ready Player One is a great book which I loved. I never could have written it—there’s so much detail in there with all of that great 80s nerd pop culture—but I’d be more than happy had it been mine! Breaking Bad for TV. Great show and the kind of writing and character arcs that are more my style. I’m leaning more in that direction anyway these days.
I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
LOL! I say up front that Finders Keepers is a bit raunchy (Genius de Milo and Astropalooza much less so), but I warn readers up front so that they know what they’re getting. In the middle of all the backpacking and cosmic lunacy, the characters—good natured but bumbling—are drinking beer, smoking some weed, having sex, and dropping some F bombs here and there. And yet I’ll still get a reader now and then who will say something like “The author says it’s a raunchy book, which I hate, but the premise sounded so cool that I read it anyway. I hated it! There’s sex and language and drinking and drugs and college humor. Why did he ruin it?”

Ugh. It’s like someone saying they hate horror, gore, and violence, watching The Chainsaw Massacre despite knowing the plot, and then complaining about the horror, gore, and violence! LOL! Eh. But what can you do? I don’t worry too much about it.

Between this series, Love, Murder & Mayhem, the various anthologies I’ve contributed to, and my space adventure Crossline, there’s plenty of options for readers to choose from. ☺

I want to thank Russ Colchamiro for taking time for this.

I was asked to add the promotional info about the book and editor to this, and sure, it’s been here already, but, hey — if this helps the book get some more eyeballs, why not?

About the Book:

Love science fiction stories that all include elements of Love, Murder & Mayhem?

Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!

With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ Colchamiro.

You’ll never look at Love, Murder & Mayhem the same way again—and that’s just the way we like it.

About the Editor:

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, Stephen OramFinders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.

As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Saul by Bradley Horner

SaulSaul

by Bradley Horner
Series: The Great Curve, #1
Kindle Edition, 182 pg.
2017
Read: July 13 – 14, 2017

It just wasn’t fair. This whole fucking situation was downright ironic. The last eighty years had been a non-stop panic about righting all of their ancestor’s wrongs, a comeback after the nearly complete catastrophic dieback right before the turn of the last century.

Hadn’t they’d re-seeded the plains and the oceans? They had tried to make amends, hadn’t they? And apparently, the Earth was just a tiny bit slow on the uptake if this an attempt to punish them, that no, they weren’t forgiven, and no amount of flowers would ever be accepted. It was like the Earth was out to destroy their gardens just because they’d destroyed hers.

It turns out, no matter what kind of political, economic, scientific, or social utopia you create, the natural world around you isn’t obligated to pay attention or cut you some slack.

Saul describes what Saul Rothe goes through in the 28 minutes where the Earth experiences an earthquake more widespread than anyone’s experienced, resulting in devastation I can’t describe. Saul’s basically wrapping up professorial duties for the day, chatting with his wife while she’s at work, checking on his daughter and preparing to go home when the quake hits. Basically, at this point, the infrastructure that humanity depends on fails, all of it.

Saul does everything he can to get to his daughter and ensure her safety, but just before he can, their apartment building collapses with her in it. Saul, who’s been coming from a tower far above throws himself down, following her, doing what he can to save her. Ignoring the wide-scale destruction and suffering all around him (maybe even adding too it unintentionally). To do so, he has to pull out every technological/future science trick he knows, invent a couple of new ones, violate standards, regulations, etc. By doing all this, he becomes a global celebrity and example to others — leading many to mount their own rescue attempts to save those around them from the calamity.

Clarke’s Third Law states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” We’ve all heard that a million times, and while reading this book, I realized how handy that is for SF writers (I’m sure I’m not the first to realize this). You just imagine a technology impossibly advanced, and you can use it like magic. That’s precisely what Horner does here — and it works out pretty well for him.

Saul does so many things that defy physics (well, as I understand them — apparently, Montgomery Scott was wrong, and you can change the laws of physics), especially time. I had so many notes along the lines of “too much talky-talk, and not enough rescuing here,” only to see that a couple of seconds had passed — part of the tech allows Saul and others to have long conversations about . . . . well, all sorts of things, while he falls, taking no time at all.

The world-building was amazing — it’s very easy to see, from the world he describes, the language he uses (much of which is defined in the very necessary glossary), to the technology, to . . . seriously, everything. There are very few SF novels with as fully-realized worldbuilding as Horner has pulled off here. That said, he could’ve done a better job communicating it all (or even a substantial portion of it all) to his readers. I’m not saying I need pages and pages, or even multiple paragraphs, detailing the history of why object X developed in this way. But a line or two here and there just to fill out our understandings would’ve been nice. Could I follow it enough to stick with the story? Yeah. Could I easily describe it to anyone else? No.

In the end, the SF story just wasn’t my cup of tea — I got it, well most of it, anyway — but I just didn’t like it. The Science was too abstract, too . . . “sufficiently advanced” for me to really enjoy. However, and this is the important part, the story about a father throwing everything he had at saving his daughter — not caring for his health, reputation, safety, future, or society as a whole’s health, future, safety — I absolutely liked. There are going to be scads of people that eat this up — and plenty of people that will muddle through the Science-y bits for the really good characters and story.

Give this a shot folks, it’s worth the effort — and, while I always want to hear what you have to say about a book, I’m extra curious about what others think of this one. Let’s fill up the comment section.

—–

3.5 Stars

Pub Day Repost: Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

Gork, the Teenage DragonGork, the Teenage Dragon

by Gabe Hudson
eARC, 400 pg.
Knopf Publishing Group, 2017
Read: June 30 – July 3, 2017

Note: As I re-read this before it goes up, I thought I should stress something: this is a fun book and I think people will enjoy it. The problem is, it takes more words to describe the stuff I wasn’t crazy about than it does to describe the stuff I liked. I chuckled, I grinned, I was happy for Gork’s successes (happier for his best-friend Fribby’s successes — but they usually coincided) — as rare as they were. Don’t let the length of the “bleh” bits here distract you — Hudson just provoked some thoughts.

There were parts of this that were delightful, parts of it that were problematic, parts that were just okay. There were also too many parts, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Our protagonist and unlikely hero is Gork — a dragon with pretty strong feelings toward Tolkein and the author of Beowulf for the depiction of dragons — he’s sort of a wimp, his horns aren’t that big (pretty small, really), he’s not that fierce (but he wants to be), and he tends to faint at inopportune times and frequently. Nevertheless, he’s about to finish his last year at the War Academy and head off to terrorize and conquer a planet of his own, all he needs to do is get someone to agree to be his queen and they’ll head off. We meet him on the day he’s supposed to do just that. Now, think back to high school — does this seem like a guy who’s going to be getting a lot of dates? Not really — and when your high school is full of dragons intent on learning how to be the nastiest, fiercest, most terrifying conquerors any planet has ever seen, well — Gork’s odds are even worse.

Naturally, because this is a high school story, our puny geek has set his eyes on the most popular, gorgeous and dangerous girl in school. The question really isn’t “Will Gork and his band of friends be able to convince her to be is queen?” It’s, “Will Gork survive the day?” And oddsmakers around the school, put his chance at that at 1%.

This is clearly from the word “go” a comic novel — we’re supposed to laugh at the madness, mayhem and murdering — and it’s easy to do on the whole. It’s a crazy world Hudson’s created for these dragons to go around in, and most of the characters are amusing. I’m not convinced it works that well as a novel as a whole — as a series of goofy episodes that eventually lead to a big showdown with the nastiest dragon around, it’s all right. (I’m not sure that distinction makes sense to anyone).

I like the idea of spacefaring dragons, dragons that have fully embraced technologies that we can’t think of (or we have thought of, just haven’t done that much with yet) — robotics, nanobots, and more. Although the “mind-swap” device doesn’t really swap minds it . . . well, it’s hard to sum up, but it felt like it belonged more to a Hanna-Barbera show than a SF novel. Basically, this is a Science Fiction wonderland populated with dragons instead of highly developed humans, Grays, Vulcans or Wookies. Still, being that takes away some of the X-factor that makes people fascinated with dragons. Dragons are already pretty cool, you don’t need to give them gizmos and machines that go “ping” — if anything that detracts from them. Still…a dragon in a spaceship is a pretty cool visual.

There’s a moral code that the dragons here live by, or aspire to anyway. It glorifies treachery, destruction, brutality, and so on. Grades of F are to be aspired to, As are to be lamented. That sort of thing — but societies can’t exist like the way Hudson depicts, and honestly, his society doesn’t function the way he says it does (the fact that there are actual friendships depicted, not just uneasy alliances is proof enough against that). You can’t have characters shocked by betrayal in a world where there are classes on betrayal. It’s the moments of loyalty and help that should be shocking, and not trusted by anyone. But no one works that way in this book. This is not a problem unique to Hudson’s work, I’ve run into it before — usually, in works like this, where the twisted ethics are played for laughs and we’re not supposed to be getting as analytical about them as I am. So, ignore everything I just said.

There were just a couple too many zigs and zags to the plot — a few less challenges, a few less pages, and I think this would’ve worked a bit better. I’m not necessarily saying that I can point to something and say, “That right there — yeah, we didn’t need that,” it just dragged a bit here and there. I tend to be more patient than most of the target audience for this book, so I worry about their reaction.

Speaking of target audience — I’m not sure what it is. The humor and emotional depth says MG to me, but the Gork’s fixation on mating and the things that attracts him to potential mates (he’s pretty shallow, I should warn you) are more YA. I’m not sure it matters all that much, it’s just one of those things that ran through the back of my mind during the slow parts.

I got a bit ramble-y there, sorry about that. I clearly am not sure what to make of this book — I enjoyed it, and I bet many will, too. But it has it’s problems — my best advice is, don’t think about it — just enjoy the antics. Gork’s a good guy and is fun to hang out with.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

3 Stars

Book Blitz: Love, Murder & Mayhem

~ Book Blitz ~
Love, Murder & Mayhem
 


About the Book
Love science fiction stories that all include
elements of Love, Murder & Mayhem?

 
Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!
 
With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark
and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah
Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert
Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron
Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ
Colchamiro.

 
You’ll never look at Love,
Murder & Mayhem
 the
same way again—and that’s just the way we like it.
 
 
About the Editor
Russ Colchamiro is the author of
the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking
comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor
of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his
wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself.
Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the
Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is
now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.
As a matter of full disclosure,
readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of
white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being
sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus,
for sure, but much quicker.
 
 
 

 

Dark and Stars by J.B. Rockwell

Dark and StarsDark and Stars

by J.B. Rockwell
Series: Serengeti, Book 2
Kindle Edition, 406 pg.
Severed Press, 2016
Read: July 6 – 7, 2017

I could’ve done a better job of keeping track of details, but I really thought that Serengeti was on her own a longer than we’re told here. My issues aside, the important thing is that her time alone is over — her sister ships have found her and have brought her to a spaceport for repairs.

She is soon reunited with a crew, and informed about the state of the Alliance Fleet — which is worse than you might think. Following the devastating defeat in Serengeti, the Fleet turned in on itself, spending the intervening years in-fighting, neglecting its mission and the people it’s supposed to protect.

Serengeti‘s recovery has provided the motivation for some to come up with a real solution to the problems within the Fleet. The primary movers here are the ship AIs, with only a little help from the captains/crew. I’d have liked to see more action from humans that aren’t part of Serengeti‘s crew — but, honestly — I barely thought of that until after I was done with the book. Anyway, these ships have a plan that’ll take care of the problems within the Fleet and enable them all to return to what they’re supposed to be doing.

If they can just pull it off.

Next to McGuire’s Aeslin mice, I’m not sure there’s a cuter or more delightful character than Oona, the robot that was created in the last book. Not only is she adorable, she’s very, very clever. Sign me up for a novel about her. The rest of the characters — AI or human — are well-drawn, engaging, and — typically — fun. The Fleet’s admiral and the spokesman for the stealth ships are just dynamite. Maybe, just maybe, we could’ve gotten a little deeper with some of those not aligned with our friends — but the story didn’t require that.

The action is solid, the more imaginative SF aspects are told in a manner that you just buy, with little regard for plausibility or anything (I don’t know, maybe the technologies depicted are plausible). Rockwell takes the solid foundation she laid down in Serengeti and builds on it with a strong adventure story. While I enjoyed all of Serengeti, the most likeable parts were early on, when her crew was still on board. This book gives us that from start to stop (well, with a quick break), with plenty of action and intrigue. There’s still the heart, the great characters — but add in the excitement, camaraderie and intrigue, and this one tops its predecessor.

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for this post — I really appreciate it, but I made up my own mind about it.

—–

3.5 Stars

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

Gork, the Teenage DragonGork, the Teenage Dragon

by Gabe Hudson

eARC, 400 pg.
Knopf Publishing Group, 2017

Read: June 30 – July 3, 2017


Note: As I re-read this before it goes up, I thought I should stress something: this is a fun book and I think people will enjoy it. The problem is, it takes more words to describe the stuff I wasn’t crazy about than it does to describe the stuff I liked. I chuckled, I grinned, I was happy for Gork’s successes (happier for his best-friend Fribby’s successes — but they usually coincided) — as rare as they were. Don’t let the length of the “bleh” bits here distract you — Hudson just provoked some thoughts.

There were parts of this that were delightful, parts of it that were problematic, parts that were just okay. There were also too many parts, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Our protagonist and unlikely hero is Gork — a dragon with pretty strong feelings toward Tolkein and the author of Beowulf for the depiction of dragons — he’s sort of a wimp, his horns aren’t that big (pretty small, really), he’s not that fierce (but he wants to be), and he tends to faint at inopportune times and frequently. Nevertheless, he’s about to finish his last year at the War Academy and head off to terrorize and conquer a planet of his own, all he needs to do is get someone to agree to be his queen and they’ll head off. We meet him on the day he’s supposed to do just that. Now, think back to high school — does this seem like a guy who’s going to be getting a lot of dates? Not really — and when your high school is full of dragons intent on learning how to be the nastiest, fiercest, most terrifying conquerors any planet has ever seen, well — Gork’s odds are even worse.

Naturally, because this is a high school story, our puny geek has set his eyes on the most popular, gorgeous and dangerous girl in school. The question really isn’t “Will Gork and his band of friends be able to convince her to be is queen?” It’s, “Will Gork survive the day?” And oddsmakers around the school, put his chance at that at 1%.

This is clearly from the word “go” a comic novel — we’re supposed to laugh at the madness, mayhem and murdering — and it’s easy to do on the whole. It’s a crazy world Hudson’s created for these dragons to go around in, and most of the characters are amusing. I’m not convinced it works that well as a novel as a whole — as a series of goofy episodes that eventually lead to a big showdown with the nastiest dragon around, it’s all right. (I’m not sure that distinction makes sense to anyone).

I like the idea of spacefaring dragons, dragons that have fully embraced technologies that we can’t think of (or we have thought of, just haven’t done that much with yet) — robotics, nanobots, and more. Although the “mind-swap” device doesn’t really swap minds it . . . well, it’s hard to sum up, but it felt like it belonged more to a Hanna-Barbera show than a SF novel. Basically, this is a Science Fiction wonderland populated with dragons instead of highly developed humans, Grays, Vulcans or Wookies. Still, being that takes away some of the X-factor that makes people fascinated with dragons. Dragons are already pretty cool, you don’t need to give them gizmos and machines that go “ping” — if anything that detracts from them. Still…a dragon in a spaceship is a pretty cool visual.

There’s a moral code that the dragons here live by, or aspire to anyway. It glorifies treachery, destruction, brutality, and so on. Grades of F are to be aspired to, As are to be lamented. That sort of thing — but societies can’t exist like the way Hudson depicts, and honestly, his society doesn’t function the way he says it does (the fact that there are actual friendships depicted, not just uneasy alliances is proof enough against that). You can’t have characters shocked by betrayal in a world where there are classes on betrayal. It’s the moments of loyalty and help that should be shocking, and not trusted by anyone. But no one works that way in this book. This is not a problem unique to Hudson’s work, I’ve run into it before — usually, in works like this, where the twisted ethics are played for laughs and we’re not supposed to be getting as analytical about them as I am. So, ignore everything I just said.

There were just a couple too many zigs and zags to the plot — a few less challenges, a few less pages, and I think this would’ve worked a bit better. I’m not necessarily saying that I can point to something and say, “That right there — yeah, we didn’t need that,” it just dragged a bit here and there. I tend to be more patient than most of the target audience for this book, so I worry about their reaction.

Speaking of target audience — I’m not sure what it is. The humor and emotional depth says MG to me, but the Gork’s fixation on mating and the things that attracts him to potential mates (he’s pretty shallow, I should warn you) are more YA. I’m not sure it matters all that much, it’s just one of those things that ran through the back of my mind during the slow parts.

I got a bit ramble-y there, sorry about that. I clearly am not sure what to make of this book — I enjoyed it, and I bet many will, too. But it has it’s problems — my best advice is, don’t think about it — just enjoy the antics. Gork’s a good guy and is fun to hang out with.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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3 Stars