Friday, April 11, 2008

Book review: The Dragon's Nine Sons

The Dragon’s Nine Sons by Chris Roberson

Solaris Books, 432 pages

It is rare that I go into a book or movie blind. I often know a great deal of the plot or stuff about the author and while we like to tell ourselves that doesn’t effect how we read the book, the reality is it effects how we judge the book. In this day in age it’s also likely for me to have met or hung around the author at a convention or on a message board. I try to build my TBR pile based on principles of brief recommendations and respect for the author. In the case of John Shirley’s Wetbones (my favorite modern horror novel) a lack of pre-knowledge was crucial in my enjoyment.

So it was strange that The Dragons Nine Sons found it on my TBR. Complete chance that I was at the library looking for HellBlazer comics and stopped to look at the Sci-Fi new arrivals. The book looked so new and the lay-out sleek, so I picked it up. So I started to read the back and discovered that it took place on mars during an epic battle between the Chinese and Aztec empires sometime in the future.

Yep, you read that right. As a Kungfu movie and Science fiction geek this alternate timeline novel seemed perfect for me. In the detailed and researched back history of this novel Europe was beaten to global travel and China had only one other superpower to deal with Mexica. You get a interesting timeline as a bonus feature in the back of the book, that alone is a interesting read.

I’m not sure this novel is for everyone, but I would have to give it a big thumbs up. I found myself deeply involved as the plot unfolded, it became clear to me that Roberson was paying loving tribute by re-casting the dirty dozen (or Eastern condors) in his universe. The novel could be simply dismissed as Dirty Dozen in space, but this is not fair. That could be said about battle beyond the stars and Seven Samurai and still I think that is a perfectly respectable way to re-tell the new myths.

Roberson keeps the action moving, and the pages fly by. It has a really cinematic feel which is funny because Hollywood would never touch something like this. The characters area dynamic mix of good and bad you would expect from this story. The best testament I can give this novel was as they reached the objective of the suicide Mission I found myself wishing the characters to get out of danger, you see I wanted them back for sequels.

Was it flawless? No. Some of the flashbacks transitioned so clunky that it reminded me of 80’s sitcoms when the actors stare up and rub their chins as the image squiggled into a past episode. Those flashbacks gave me a little eye rolling but I suppose an argument could be made that it added to the cinematic nature of the piece.

This was a fantastic work of epic science fiction with an original setting that could be mined for many novels, at this point I intended to follow them. If I were Roberson’s agent I would be mailing copies of these books to Chinese publishers and production companies. I could see this as movie directed by Ringo Lam staring Andy Lau, and Simon Yam. Damn I want to see that movie. I hope some day it happens.

For a list of tales in this universe check out this page:

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