The SFFaudio Podcast #498 – READALONG: The Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven

November 5, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #498 – Jesse, Scott Danielson, Paul Weimer, and Marissa VU talk about The Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven

Talked about on today’s show:
novella sorta, Odyssey, thinking back, telling about the books, the interesting things in the books, hard Fantasy, mana, the problems of depletion, the wheel spell, a skull, so fun, the whole spoiler phenomenon, spoiler people get uptight as they age, kids are little scientists, tell me more, they walk on clouds, unicorns were a thing, the explanation, in different cultures, is spoiler sensitivity cultural, the joy of getting there, Snotgirl, Jesse’s worst sin this year, treasuring the experience of discovery, extra jalapenos, “surprise me!”, in the early days of Paul’s life, Not Long Before The End, What Good Is A Glass Dagger?, The Wishing Game, The Burning City, The Burning Tower, same universe, ancient Los Angeles, the political messaging gets really ham-handed, the IRS is bad, later books are co-authored, the ideas vs. the execution, Scott’s view, so smart, preppin’ for a podcast, the magazine version, the art is so good, it felt like trying to extened a really good story premise, the similarities to Ringworld, a big dumb object in the sky (the Moon), we’re going to need a god, before they get to the god, the denouement, poor Wavyhill, immortality, screaming for thirty years, Protector, how idea heavy his stuff is, the little consequences, a cultural legacy, some people still believe in magic, he’s retconned our magic-free universe with a universe full of magic, he sees like other people do, true for all humanity, kinda sexist, the Moon is magic, when we achieve that as a species, worldsnake, amoeba used to be huge monsters, the Grey Ooze, the gelatinous cube, where Gary Gygax got the idea, the goo, vacuoles, translucent, holding the goo, one of the first words we all say as babies, a giant tardigrade, The First Fossil Hunters by Adrienne Mayor, a protoceratops fossil, gryphons, why we dig them up today, page 46, the size of houses, there that’s what I’m talking about, the children of the first god, the Crawling Chaos, fire vs. magic, so much work, good additions, fire is technology, elves are all gone because they are powered by magic and fire, Avengers: Infinity War, mixing in Doctor Strange, created at the point of creation of the universe, The Key To Time, a purpose, characters with different skills, the fire and the magic, a god in the form of Thor, different skill sets, a real issue, a dying earth story, we live in the dead Earth, the setup and the premises, Warlock vs. Wavyhill, a wolfwere, please tell me more, a wolf that’s really a man, magic dead zones, a snail dragon, some hidden stuff, Neuromancer, a ROM, Dixie Flatline, a book about hackers, hackers can do magic, cyberpunk role-playing game scene, the Magic: The Gathering cards, Larry Niven backwards, a Niven disc, the NetRunner collectible card game, very clever, he’s systematized magic where everything is possible, using limited resources, peak oil problem, what a big idea, The Magic May Return, Fred Saberhagen, Poul Anderson, Mildred Downey Broxon, Roger Zelazny, meteor bombardment, this is cute, emphasize the right words, page 8, chapter 2, an Asian infestation of vampires, “gone mythical”, the crater is old, Fistfall, at this point in the book, a mountain, a village, the moon, it’s not two wizards, we’ve got three…, the Three Magi!, what he was going for, that kind of retelling, happening in the background, the kind of book that will reward careful reading, I need to see a wizard, the opening with the raft and the collapse of Atlantis, why Atlantis sunk, I can solve that, tectonically unstable, the payoff, the centaur can’t survive without the magic, the image, climate change, images in the news, too real, Trail Of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, a post apocalyptic landscape where the magic has returned, the sixth world, Lucifer’s Hammer, Fist Of God, Inferno, Dante’s Inferno, the structure, he’s old, Planet Stories, The Dancers by Margaret St. Clair, Blue Hours Suspense audio drama series adaptation, waiting for the dawn, a new Eden, the premise, the belief of the dancers, the last uncontacted tribe was shown the error of their ways, who knows what hold the Moon up?, philosophy of science, uniformity, six weekends on the Moon, explanations for why our explanations don’t work, I’ve solved everything in hard Science Fiction, but you haven’t solved unicorns, Svetz, time travel stories, Moby-Dick, running into fantasy, into a fantastical past, a collection of short stories, Rainbow Mars, a seed from Yggdrasil, A Wolf In My Time Machine, manna in fantasy, manna’s from heaven, Maori culture, as a unit of magic, magic as sustenance, a shout out to Australia and New Zealand, emigrate to Australia, super-yummy, “try the moa, it’s great!”, the aborigines, the Dreamtime, this fits in with my explanation, Master Of The Maze by Avram Davidson, been not from, Maori cultural practices, reciprocal obligations, Jesse explains the potlatch, depleting your production, you have power, an economic cultural mixer, what commerce can do, nobody would be productive if they didn’t have money, the communication of debt, honor, they owe you and you own them, Washington State, banned, spiritual power, gods and spirits, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, that is magical in a certain sense, motivating without money, economics as debt not as currency, a theme in a lot of Niven’s work, solving ideas, 13,000 B.C., geography, Doggerland is still above the waves, exploring the changes, the unstated name is Robert E. Howard, his Hyborian age, Acheron, King Kull was an Atlantean, a philosopher king in a magic heavy universe, Kull The Conqueror (1997) movie is fairly faithful, Kevin Sorbo, The Good Place, funny dialogue, a good sense of humour, the relationship he has with women, typical, the right Niven characters together, Louis, Speaker, and Nessus, damn hard SF, character low, having motivation, the baddie, the worlds first necromancer, is Wayvhill the badguy?, a heist that goes wrong, very Joseph Campbell-y, dealing with the epic, The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock, Orolandes said, the skulls, “I wish…”, what was Clubfoot wishing for?, the last great sorcerer, a diminishment and a sadness, wishes don’t come true anymore, now I’m sad, thanks Paul, Antarctica, you wish upon a star, he’s not spelling it all out but he’s pointing to it, that’s the joy, Merlin, he ages backwards, they have these spells, Mirandees hair colour, from black to white, the vampire spell, good stuff, a very nice exercise, throwing Larry Niven into Hell, totally worthwhile, the original short was withdrawn for consideration for a Hugo, fantastic, Marissa is going mythical.

Odyssey, Summer 1976

Boris Vallejo cover for The Magic Goes Away

Skull Of Wavyhill

The Magic Goes Away - Chapter 8

Nevinyrral's Disk from Magic: The Gathering

NetRunner card NevinYrral

DC Comics - Larry Niven - The Magic Goes Away

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #410 – READALONG: Protector by Larry Niven

February 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #410 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss Protector by Larry Niven

Talked about on today’s show:
1973, Galaxy, June 1967, The Adults by Larry Niven, Phssthpok, the name of the ship, the cherubim, Lion, Ox, Human, and Eagle, baby angels, beaked, going deeper, the seraphim, Cherubism

Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other.

the end

For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.

how the aliens are described, aliens, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, previous encounters with Larry Niven, channeling all sorts of things, what did Maissa think?, a softer spot for Larry Niven, not sexist at all, Larry Niven’s best book, an abrupt ending, incomplete pieces, more Kobold, the artificial planetoid, Eden II, the first paperback release of Protector, a donut shaped planet with a tibit (Tim Horton’s), the belly button of the donut, donut holes, a monster or a fairy, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, by all the Lords of Kobol, clicks, Battlestar Galactica, going Old Testament, going Mormon, a masterful novel, The Ringworld Engineers as a reprise of Protector, Ringworld as the light fun novel, the ending is so good, the horror, genocide, fighting for humanity, Roy Truesdale, tricking the nurses, fake cities, WWII, inflatable tanks, a page break, it seems only reasonable to novelize this report, that was fun, check the duplicate Stonehenge, the final three paragraphs, just behind this laser pulse, “I love you”, the novel is wrong, the Beowulf Shaeffer stories, Betrayer Of Worlds, Protector has enough space battle to kill actual space battle novel (barring crappy space opera space battles), space seeds, biological bullshit, a highly motivated character, deeply reasoned, a quasi relative, the opposite of X-Wings and Tie fighters banking in outer space, we love it anyway, exactly the opposite, cool vs. functional, steel jacketed, magnetic field, the thinking behind the space battles wipes out everyone (writer’s) abilities to write any more, a galactic chess game vs. high-stakes poker, sub-light relativistic space battles, positional effects, Rules Of Engagement (or maybe Master of Orion ?, C.S. Forester, broadsides in space, a Frederick Pohl editorial from 1963, Spacewar! (literally mentioned in this book), Asteroids, a right turn in space, that’s why Larry Niven’s the best, playing with the laws of physics and he doesn’t cheat, the Hal Clement essay, honest poker, the panspermia aspect, World Of Ptavvs, the slavers, Homo habilis from the stars, dna based, the Slavers did it, the Sea Statue, a dissertation of free will, two divergent visions of Creation, when god stays or leaves, no progress, still animals, the image of the Eye and the Garden of Eden, the Eye In The Sky, I can see you – I can see through bushes, no art, Brennan can see, a sense of whimsy, a fun character, was Brennan a fake?, Truesdale’s protector, motivation, take me to you leader, so playful, he is their leader, amazing, paying fees, Oldavai, Crete, still in the breeding stage, a good book, bunches of questions and points, building the Ringworld, a different library, an expedition to Earth, an expedition to star X, their achilles’ heel, Ringworld Engineers is all echoes, we needed this book, Alice as in Alice In Wonderland, she left pregnant, play in the fields, but do not touch…, tell her about the Bluebeard myth (aka The Castle Of Murder), an egg, a chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg, you do not want to open that door, you do not want to eat of those Trees, the solution to the mystery of the novel, everyone has been kidnapped is a descendant of Brennan, farming and cultivating descendants, Brennan monster is playful in his play, Vandervecken, making a myth he can enjoy, consciousness before being changed, the vampires get consciousness in Ringworld Engineers, does it help you to have whimsy, the jury is out, a message of despair, the Pak is coming, the Kzinti, The Mote In God’s Eye, hard lessons, genocide, moties, motivation by need, Brennan painting his spacesuit, biding his time, a medieval castle, progeny, deep down the point is art is good, if you’re smart enough there is very little free choice, Teela Brown’s luck, the same subject, the root is perpetuated by a virus, colonizing the pak, what is smartness except efficiency, crossing a continent, struggling with money, why do people want it, what is money anyway?, money is food, keeping your food safe with food, why does Trump need more money, operating as a logical creature it is to make his progeny better off, it worked for Genghis, inheritance, straight out the genes, what motivates people, biological determinism, everyone needs motivation, stop eating, grasping after fake visions of punishment (or reward), a “death wish”, like Phssthpok I’ve made all human children my beneficiaries, the Public Domain PDF Page, a hip street, channeling Frank Sinatra, taking photographs, not sanguine, Larry Niven’s own financial circumstances, writing SF for a long period of time, Greg Bear, Halo novels, Blood Music don’t put money on the table, Niven’s work is playful, the reason for Niven’s renown, making the piece the best piece it can be, Gregory Benford, Bowl Of Heaven, collaborations, there are no spoilers,

Larry Niven proves a point here. Most other authors would be tempted to tell a story of this magnitude in a trilogy consisting of thousands of pages. Niven does it in a little over 200 pages. Granted, he keeps the featuring cast down to only a few individuals. But still…
-Dirk Grobbelaar

Among Others by Jo Walton, all his human characters blur together, Walton has a point, psychoanalyzing, SF isn’t a costume drama, John W. Campbell’s challenge: write me an alien that thinks as well as a man but unlike a man, Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, Arrival, the story and the movie, Understand by Ted Chiang, Limitless (2011), and the rightly cancelled Limitless TV series, like the Minority Report TV show, from the sub-conscious to uplift and unconscious and conscious, Flowers For Algernon, flourishing and protected, seeing the manipulation happening, Sherlock Holmes, seeing the pattern no one else can see, intelligence, politics and the failures of politics, intelligence vs. manipulation, a smart person doesn’t gamble unless they know it isn’t a gamble, a war longer than the quagmire of the Vietnam War, all of that struggle, that’s the opposite of intelligence, Niven is right about intelligence and options, Brennan is not as bound, the golf course, did Brennan ever play the golf course that he built?, this would be good, having thought those through, how we see Brenna when he interacts with his Adam and Eve, he runs, the next thing that needs to be done, the efficiency we gain as adults, pretending to play dolls, the exigencies of adulthood, being a smart adult, I put away childish things, playing with LEGO, an angle to attack, LEGO as a awards, appreciating the enjoyment of play, having consciousness of his childhood, creations for a purpose, sharing vs. hoarding, pondering deep things, the mother vs. the father, Brennan’s modified suit with the Mother and Child, a savior figure, he’s the Madonna, their garden, playthings for the children, the Sol system is Brennan’s garden, have you noticed you haven’t had war?, exterminating the Martians, The Organleggers, capital crimes, China, the horror of rationality, organ transplantation, the RNA sequence, wiping your whole mind, the premise of Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck, Rammer by Larry Niven, A World Out Of Time, greater than human intelligence, we were manipulated into it, The Draco Tavern, playful comedic pieces, here’s a problem of science and here’s my solution, jokes, a whole subgenre of bar stories, The Callahan books by Spider Robinson, Lord Dunsany’s The Jorkens Stories, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, chirality, thalidomide, an iceberg, Known Space, just one of Niven’s playgrounds, Hard Fantasy, The Magic Goes Away, as you use magic you deplete a natural resource, magic carpet, a dead spot, and back in these days amoeba were the size of whales, that’s how little magic is left, a Niven disc, a sense of sadness, set in the time of Atlantis, The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak, Niven as an efficient writer, jarring transitions, needing an editor, better than Clement, sex, a vitality, the weather is a little to clement in Clement’s world, Harry Stubbs, revisiting Protector, given Tree Of Life now Paul would… stop eating? wiping out half of humanity for reasons known only to him… in the New World Order, remaining human, being a mom, maternal feelings, a screaming red thing that came out of your body, are Protectors more like moms than dads?, genderless, oh sweetie, killing off all the creatures that threaten her children, warlike, a mother wouldn’t do that, is Niven right?, if you’re smart enough are their fewer and fewer courses of action?, the Teela monster, pretty sure Niven was never a mom, fierce viking grandparents, no free will, different motivation and different results, why does Brennan wait to convert Truesdale, poor Brennan, too much talking baby-talk, gender as an honorific, Protector Mom (please don’t write this as a sequel), something really original, a creation so original it is like a dragon or an elf, seeing the cat vs. monkey you’ve always wanted, the super-strong hominid vs. the intelligent tiger, Speaker vs. Teela, as Douglas Adams put it “Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.”, we got our own stuff going, the Traveller universe, most excellent.

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Ballantine Books (1973) Protector by Larry Niven

Protector by Larry Niven - illustration by H.R. Von Dongen

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #020

January 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #020 – Today Jesse and Scott talk with James Powell, a terrific Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Crime writer. He was first published in April 1966 and has approximately 140 published short stories in such magazines as Playboy and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. But most of his tales, including his most famous have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine! His tales are relentlessly logical, often hilarious, and swift. He is an absolute master of the short story. Powell is what’s known in the business as a “Pussycat writer” which means he doesn’t put sex and violence on the page, it all happens off-stage. Look for his latest tale, Clowntown Pajamas in the February 2009 issue of EQMM.

Talked about on today’s show:
A Cozy For The Jack-O-Lanterns, A Dirge For Clowntown, Clowntown Pajamas, Monaco, France, Crippen & Landru, The Friends Of Hector Jouvet |READ IT|, Peter Sellers, A Murder Coming, the review in which I first mention A Dirge For Clowntown rules for what Powell calls “Elf Economics”, The Theft Of The Valuable Bird, Midnight Pumpkins (Cinderella as Hard Fantasy), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock style stories, Clowntown Pajamas, the hidden but clear rules of clown and mine behavior, Toronto, 1940s, QUESTION: Who does James Powell read? ANSWER: Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, J.R.R. Tolkien, and lately Michael Swanwick‘s The Edge Of The World, as wells as A Passage To India, E.M. Forster, Bouchercon, Frederic Dannay, Santa’s Way, The Tamerlane Crutch (a takeoff on the Maltese Falcon and A Christmas Carol), Lawrence Block, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, The Quest For Creeping Charlie, 1950s, George Orwell, Winter Hiatus, Iced: The New Noir Anthology of Cold, Hard Fiction edited by Peter Sellers, The Dawn Of Captain Sunset (a superhero champion of the elderly), round robin style short stories, The Best Fantasy Stories Of The Year: 1989 edited by Orson Scott Card and Martin H. Greenberg (ISBN: 1556561431), the difficulty of writing a Science Fiction Mystery story, John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, of A Dirge For Clowntown Scott says: “[it is] one of the finest mysteries I’ve ever read set in a different world,” Dercum Audio, Durkin Hayes, The Book Of Lies, Brad Meltzer, A Murder Coming edited by Peter Sellers (ISBN: 0886466377), calling all publishers: COLLECT JAMES POWELL!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #008

October 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #008 – here there be podcasts – we’ve adorned ourselves in too much gold, now we can’t move! So join us on our 8th show, where we’re always etymologically correct.

Scott: Oh ya right. I just forgot something man. Uh, before we dock, I think we ought to discuss the bonus situation.

Jesse: Right.

Scott: We think… we think we deserve full shares.

Jesse: Right.

Scott: Pass the cornbread.

Topics discussed include:
42Blips.com, METAtropolis, Jay Lake, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Karl Schroeder, Mr. Spaceship, Philip K. Dick, Stefan Rudnicki, Wonder Audio, Anne McCaffrey, The Ship Who Sang, Michael Hogan, Battlestar Galactica, 18th Century Spain, Cascadia (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and sometimes Idaho), Detroit, “Turking”, The Turk (the chess playing automaton), alternative economy, Kandyse McClure, infodump, shared world, Brandon Sanderson, hard fantasy, Elantris, Larry Niven, The Magic Goes Away, manna, unicorns, dragons, Dungeons & Dragons, Mistborn, Robert Jordan, The Wheel Of Time, Writing Excuses Podcast, Howard Tayler, SchlockMercenary.com, Dan Wells, The Dark Knight, Aural Noir, The New Adventures Of Mike Hammer, Stacy Keach, Mike Hammer, Full Cast Audio, Red Planet, Robert A. Heinlein, Bruce Coville, Mars, Heinlein’s Future History sequence, the Red Planet TV miniseries, Princess Academy, Shannon Hale, Blackstone Audio, The Collected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume 1, and Volume 2, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, David Farland, Runelords, Collected Public Domain Works Of H.P. Lovecraft, LibriVox.org, October, Ray Bradbury, “Autumn ennui”, AUTHOR PAGES, LEIGH BRACKETT, FREDERIC BROWN, JAMES PATRICK KELLY, BBC7, RadioArchive.cc, Beam Me Up Podcast, MACK REYNOLDS, Robert Sheckley, Religulous, Constantine’s Sword, The Ultimate Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction: The Definitive illustrated Guide edited by David Pringle, space opera, planetary romance, Julie D., Forgotten Classics podcast, The Wonder Stick, time travel, alien intrusions, metal powers, Slan, The Demolished Man, comedic SF, aliens, artificial intelligence, “cosmic collisions”, Deep Impact, cyborgs, dinosaurs, the dying Earth, Gene Wolfe, elixir of life, immortality, Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, genetic engineering, nuclear war, overpopulation, parallel worlds, robots, androids, Joanna Russ, Ben Bova, space travel, suspended animation, teleportation, transcendence = the Singularity ?, Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke, religion, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Monica Hughes, Crisis On Conshelf Ten, Hard SF, cyberpunk, psychology, New Wave, lost races, military SF, science fantasy, shared worlds, steampunk.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

October 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon
By Naomi Novik; Read by David Thorn
5 CDs – 6.5 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780739354131
Themes: / Fantasy / Hard Fantasy / Alternate History / Dragons / 19th Century / War / Britain / France /

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

Abridged! And here I thought we were beyond abridged audiobooks. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever see another abridged audiobook on a bookstore bookshelf again, let alone find myself listening to one. After all is said and done though, His Majesty’s Dragon wasn’t badly abridged, there were no jarring transitions, even if it felt as if large parts of the story were missing. Narrator David Thorn and his English accent gave Temeraire and the other dragons a kind of menacing innocence, full of a promise of danger and odd loyalty.

The world of His Majesty’s Dragon posits an alternate history where dragons, once the sole province of kings and emperors across Europe and Asia, are now a weapon delivery platform of choice for the military during the Napoleonic Wars. Will Laurence, a promising young sea Captain of the Royal Navy, captures a French ship carrying a precious bounty, an unhatched dragon egg. Unfortunately, what little the ship’s surgeon knows about dragon eggs is that this one will hatch soon. Too soon, in fact, for if the dragon within is to be of any use it must be harnessed immediately upon hatching to a sailor with whom it will have a lifelong bond.

Much of the action of the novel takes place in the training grounds of Britain’s “Aerial Corps.” The writing is professional and amicable, the characters are interesting and I get the sense this story will definitely appeal to the Harry Potter crowd, especially those who like a little romance in their fantasy. One of the standouts, character-wise, is a female dragon captain, who though battle hardened and physically scarred, packs an emotional wallop in the few scenes she graces. As this is the first book in a series it leaves a lot open at its conclusion, and perhaps my disappointment with the lack of integration within the larger pattern off history will be addressed by the subsequent books.

About that disappointment: History fans, like me, will probably be disappointed with the lack of historical detail. There’s good stuff, but not enough of it. Worse though, Novik’s world isn’t fully thought through. The changes she’s made to her historical setting don’t include any wide-ranging hard consequences. For instance, just having another sentient species on Earth would have had tremendous religious, societal and political ramifications to our history. But if individual members of that sentient species are as powerful as a Lancaster bomber you’d expect even more. These necessary changes are absent, or if not entirely omitted they are at least checkmated by dragons on opposing armies. Sure there attitudinal changes, mostly disdain, coming from the aspects of society that don’t interact with dragons on a daily basis, but this feels like the “muggle” solution, a cheat, like was done in the Harry Potter books. And that doesn’t fit the alternate history with one minor change vibe Novik was going for. Dragons, like the armor plated, jool-loving, fire-breathing creatures Novik uses, would have to impact culture from bow to stern. Just think how many cultures have mythical dragons in their history, now make them real! Simply put, there was work to be done and that work wasn’t done in His Majesty’s Dragon. Admittedly, the threads of the significant changes Novik has woven into her image are good. Attitudes toward women have changed within the Aerial Corps, and this is the most fascinating aspect of the book for me. But the dragon aspect of history feels as if they was just plopped atop an already existing rich tapestry of history, the threads attaching it to real history don’t go deep enough, and ultimately, this may be a case where the history and the fantasy are incompatible. But perhaps this is only an issue in the abridged version? If so I’d definitely be up for more in the Temeraire series – in which case I’d really need to get my mitts on the unabridged editions for subsequent books.

Posted by Jesse Willis