Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Publisher: William Morrow (April 12, 2005)
Dragon and Slave: The Third Dragonback Adventure
Publisher: Starscape (June 1, 2005)
Dragon and Slave is the latest addition to Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback series. It’s a young adult science fiction series that follows the adventures of Jack Morgan, a young thief/con man, and Draycos, the lone K’da survivor of an expeditionary force that Jack encounters at the beginning of the series. The K’da are symbiotic beings that require a host to survive, and Draycos ends up teaming up with Jack because, well, there’s no one else available; ever since then, Jack and Draycos have been trying to figure out who ambushed Draycos’s people, and how to stop them from ambushing the main refugee fleet that’s coming towards human space. They are aided by Uncle Virge, an artificial intelligence created by Jack’s deceased Uncle Virgil, who somehow uploaded himself into their ship’s computer core. Uncle Virge is also an unrepentant con man, thief, and general ne’er do well, who feels that Draycos’s poet-warrior philosophies are lunacy at best, and certainly not the sort of thing that Jack needs in his life. Naturally, Draycos disagrees.
In Dragon and Slave, Jack and Draycos’s quest for information takes them into the slave compound of the Chookoock family, which they believe is connected to the plot against Draycos’s people. Jack gets a taste of slavery, and discovers that there are things a lot worse than being a solider.
This is good, fun, fast-paced space opera. Jack’s plan to get information from the Chookoock compound is an act of lunacy that is rivaled only by the sort of plans concocted by the average gaming group; there’s plenty of action, intrigue, danger, and narrow escapes. It’s a good time all around.
The relationship between Jack and Draycos continues to develop in an interesting way; it’s nice that they both seem to be rubbing off on each other, rather than Draycos simply transforming Jack into a good and noble warrior. Draycos’s interaction with Uncle Virge is interesting as well, though Virge doesn’t really get very much “screen time” compared to the other two.
Not much, really. The writing is a bit simplistic, but that’s to be expected—the book is aimed at a younger audience.
My only real complaint is that Zahn seems to have a very fleshed out universe behind these books, and we really only get the barest hints of what it’s like. This isn’t entirely a bad thing—it gives the series the nice, pulpy sort of flavor that makes it so much fun. But all the same, I wouldn’t mind getting just a few more details; Robert E. Howard’s writing is about as tight and pulpy as you can get, and he still gets some great world-building/explaining done in his stories.
The Brummga: they’re basically space orcs. Did we really need space orcs? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with space orcs, I guess, but they aren’t even INTERESTING space orcs. Which is kind of sad, because I know Zahn can make some really interesting aliens when he puts his mind to it. Oh well. They aren’t awful, just…space orcs.
If you’re searching for deep, thoughtful, provocative science fiction, read something else. But if you like space opera, pulpy sci-fi, and a general good time, this is definitely worth the read.