Thursday, November 24, 2011
Dragons of Light: Review
Dragons of Light by Orson Scott Card (ed) is a collection of short stories with (surprise) a theme running to dragons. Thirteen authors bring us stories, legends, folk tales and rumors of dragons and their doings from Ireland to a Native American settlement; from somewhere very like ancient Asia to the deep South. Thirteen illustrators are also on hand to give the authors' visions visual life.
"The Ice Dragon" by George R. R. Martin is a story about a young girl who was born during one of the coldest winters in her land. The bitter weather was said to have killed her mother and to have made her a winter child. The cold did not affect her and it even seemed that coldness had become her nature. Because of her unusual gifts, she is able to make friends with a rare ice dragon. Her family is unaware of her friend and, when their king's enemies come to pillage their land--using traditional fire-breathing dragons--it is Adara and her ice dragon who save her family...at a great loss. A lovely story about friendship and sacrifice.
"The George Business" by Roger Zelazny: Just in the last year I have started reading Zelazny again. I'm wondering why I ever quit. He writes so well and with great humor. This little gem tells the story of how a knight named George and a dragon strike a little business deal....The first two attempts don't quite work out as planned. And then they have an idea that should make both of them happy.
"One Winter in Eden" by Michael Bishop. This one doesn't do a darn thing for me. Basic story line: there's this teacher in the deep south who has a dragon hidden inside him. Well, okay. Isn't that nifty? Do we know why? Nope. Does it matter one iota for the story, really? Not that I can see. The teacher has recently arrived at the school. He's taken the place of one of the few black teachers who have worked there. He's an outsider. There's another black teacher who is now considered an outsider too. Did the hidden dragon have anything to do with any of this? Can't say that it did. When the dragon popped out at the end (sorry if that spoils it for you), did that seem to be important? No, not so much. I mean the dragon could have burned the evil school board members to a crisp or eaten them up or something....but nope. Nothing. Nada. The end.
"A Drama of Dragons" by Craig Shaw Gardner. This is another humorous story. It's about a wizard who can't really practice his magic anymore because he's under a curse that causes him to sneeze uncontrollably every time something magical is in the area. Dragons are magical. A dragon shows up and threatens a local duke and the wizard needs to ward off the dragon. In a nifty twist, the dragon helps the wizard....or does he? Nicely done.
"Silken Dragon" by Steven Edward McDonald. A well-told tale that has the feel of a folk tale or fable. There is skulduggery afoot as a thief plans to steal the kingdom's treasure. He doesn't much believe in the rumors that the treasures are guarded by the curse of the silken dragon. Nor in the ability of a woman warrior to help stop him. By the end of the story both the dragon and the warrior show him that a little faith in what he didn't understand just might have been a good thing....
"Eagle-Worm" by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. A Native American tale in which the eagle-worm (dragon, thunderbird, lizard of fire) serves as a totem animal for a young Native American woman. She is sent on a quest to confront the dragon and to test and see if she is worthy to be the next Tribal Mother. The dragon has more to reveal than she knows. Well-told.
"The Dragon of Dunloon" by Arthur Dembling. A young man comes to Dunloon to record local music and gets more than he bargained for. The citizens begin telling him tales of dragons and soon a sea dragon is spotted off the coast. But when the young man looks, all he sees is a boat. The citizens seem very sincere...are they all crazy? Are they all plotting an enormous leg pull? Or can they really see something he can't?
"If I Die Before I Wake" by Greg Bear. About a dragon that seems to represent growing up. I think. Or maybe not growing up. Not sure. This one didn't do much for me either.
"As Above, So Below" by John M. Ford. "Here there be dragons." Or least there were. A very short story about the day the dragons disappeared.
"Cockfight" by Jane Yolen. A young bondsman steals a dragon and trains it for the cockfights....in an effort to gain his freedom. Another good shorter short story.
"From Bach to Broccoli" by Richard Kearns. A cautionary tale about building and expansion taking over all the places where dragons may roam.
"Dragon Touched" by Dave Smeds. A great magician sets off on a journey to kill two powerful dragons. But what will happen if one of the dragons joins minds with him?
This is a fairly good collection of stories most are good (save for those I have indicated) and some are terrific. My favorites: "The Ice Dragon," "The George Business," "A Drama of Dragons," and "Cockfight." This is another plant for the Victory Garden and my November entry for the Read Your Own Library Challenge. As I mentioned last month, this one has been hanging out on the TBR shelves since July 1999. My best friend gave it to me for my birthday. I tried to read it then, but I just wasn't as into science fiction as I once was. It's nice to finally sit down and read these stories that she loved so much. Having sat on my shelf so long, it also qualifies for the Off the Shelf Challenge. Three and a half stars for the entire collection.
Next up for December's edition of the Read Your Own Library Challenge will be That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. This is the final book in his space trilogy series and has been hanging out on the TBR pile for more years than I can count. It also will help towards several of the 2011 Challenges that I still have pending, so it's all good!