Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review: Dragon and Thief

Book One of Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback adventures, Dragon and Thief is an exciting but somewhat bizarre science fiction story. If you can get past the initial weirdness, the series as a whole is very exciting and entertaining. The main characters are Jack, a fourteen-year-old human boy, and Draycos, a dragonlike alien who prefers to be thought of as ‘a poet-warrior of the K’da.’ It’s a bit difficult to explain about Draycos, but I’ll do my best. Most of the time he looks like a shiny gold dragon about the size of a small tiger, as the book puts it. However, that's only when he's in three-dimensional form. He can also become two-dimensional (and still be alive). To illustrate this concept, please imagine that you have a tattoo (if you don't already have one). Now imagine that that tattoo can move around on the surface of your skin. This is sort of what Draycos does when he becomes two-dimensional and "rides" Jack's skin. As a K'da, Draycos is three-dimensional for most of the time, but he needs a symbiont host in order to recharge. If he goes without becoming two-dimensional on his host's skin for over six hours, he'll die. The K'da aren't parasites, though-- they take nothing from their hosts (except maybe their privacy, as Jack points out in the earlier pages of the book), and give protection and companionship in return.

Sounds weird, yes, but the book does a far better job explaining that whole concept than I just did. However, that whole two-dimensional thing frequently comes in handy whenever Jack needs to hide the fact that he's got a small dragon with him. On Jack's skin, Draycos just looks like a full-body dragon tattoo, and anyone who sees him (and hasn't heard of the alien species K'da) thinks that's just what Draycos is. That's a good thing, as there are alien bad guys called the Valahgua who want to destroy the K'da and the Shontine (the other K'da hosts), who are coming to the Orion Arm to find a new home. The trouble is, an unknown ally to the Valahgua has already nearly eliminated the K'da/Shontine advance team (that's what Draycos survived), and knows the rest of the refugee fleet is coming.

Together, Draycos and Jack make a good team. Jack has a rather checkered past, thanks to his uncle, Virgil Morgan-- the best safecracker in the black-market business. Uncle Virgil frequently used Jack as a distraction for anyone who might stop Virgil in his work, and was apparently trying to train Jack to follow in his footsteps. Since his uncle's death, Jack has been trying to reform, but eleven years of habit are hard to break-- especially since before he died, Virgil Morgan programmed Jack's ship, the Essenay, with a computerized personality of himself. Luckily, Draycos is around now, and begins teaching Jack about ethics and doing what's right, even when there's no reward involved. Jack thinks it's a waste of time-- at least at first.

When some unidentified bad guys kidnap Jack in order to find Virgil Morgan--since Jack didn't exactly print an obituary-- it's up to Jack to perform one last safecracking job in order to clear himself for a crime he didn't even commit...

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