Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook

The Dragon Never Sleeps
Published by Night Shade Books
Author: Glen Cook

Glen Cook is best known to fantasy fans for his grim and gritty series the Black Company. This book shares some of those elements but being a one-off science fiction piece, brings its own flavor to the reader.

The story takes place in a far off future where technology is advanced but also haphazard in that it doesn't seem evenly distributed nor even in all areas. Some things, like cloning, for example, are known but are not held by many even in this far off future.

Aging is still a thing even if slowed. But those aboard the 'Guardships' as they are known, have their minds and memories copied and benefit from being almost timeless. Those of the noble house use of cloning is odder. They allow 'Others' to be made of a 'Prime, ' but if that 'Prime' is killed, then the 'Others' are often put to death. There is an element of criminality to an 'Other' trying to pretend to be the 'Prime.'

Regarding mastery of the flesh, though, humanity has 'Artifacts.' These are 'not people' but are made by people. One of those we are introduced to is Midnight, a fairy style human whose purpose is to pleasure men and strangely enough, acts as a bit of conscious to those with far more weighty matters on their minds.

The Guardships themselves are fantastical ships that serve until destroyed. During that time frame, they can even grow sentience.

The navigation of vast distances is covered by 'The Web.' It's an ancient artifact so old that no one knows where it came from, but it continues to be discovered by more and more races.

Humanity is old here. They are a 'primary' race if not the primary race. Their mastery over much of the setting is rarely directly challenged in any meaningful way thanks to the Guardships. There are hints; however, that humanity is far from its prime. Humanity is spread so far that there are holes in its bureaucracy that will never be filled as long as they only use humans.

And Humanity was never alone. There are others races like the Hu. One of the brilliant war masterminds of the Hu, known initially to readers as 'The Turtle' is one such individual. His race scattered by their defeat at the hands of humans so long ago that the Turtle's emergency into larger schemes is seen as a noteworthy thing by those who man the Guardships.

Others are not as detailed as the Hu, who are not that detailed, to begin with. There are numerous bits we glance at but never get any deeper details.

Glen's writing style here is crisp and to the point. Chapters can range from a paragraph to a few pages but rarely longer. The cast of characters is so huge that you may find yourself flipping back and forth to determine which group of characters is acting at the time.

The groups also move among each other. The Hu Turtle, for example, starts off in a bad part of town but by the end, has encountered all the major players. The author doesn't mind skipping chunks of time either. When you're dealing with long-lived races and others who can clone themselves or are effectively immortal, the scale of how far reaching the action is, is not measured in days, or weeks, but in years.

One gets the feeling reading it that Glen could easily have expanded the setting with more details but as it stands, it's a solid one book entry in Glen's writing.