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There Will Be Dragons
John Ringo
Baen, 526 pages


Clyde Caldwell
There Will Be Dragons
John Ringo
John Ringo had visited 23 countries and attended 14 schools by the time he graduated high school. This left him with an appreciation of the oneness of humanity and a permanent aversion to foreign food. He chose to study marine biology. Now he manages a quality control database.

John Ringo Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Hell's Faire

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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In the far flung future, the world is perfect. A huge super computer named Mother watches over everything, making sure that the Earth's balance remains unchanged. People use nannites to do everything for them. Want dinner? Say "Genie, dinner" and it's served. Babies are made in replicators, not in the human body. Disease, poverty, it has all gone. And people change themselves, They can give themselves any form they want. Of course, not everyone's content to leave well enough alone. Paul, part of the council, thinks that mankind has gotten soft, and needs the energy limited so that they get up and do things for themselves rather than depending on the nannites. Several of the council are with him, several are opposed, and the ensuing battle between the two factions drains the energy that runs everything else. Neither side can relent, for fear that the other faction will blast them and emerge victorious. What does this mean for everyone else? Utter disaster.

No longer do they have the nannites to serve them. They have to re-learn everything -- how to cook, how to build, how to weave. Fortunately, not everyone has given up the lost arts. Edmund Talbot is a blacksmith who is deeply into recreationalism. He is part of a huge Society for Creative Anachronism-like faction of medievalists who go compete in tournaments and live life medievally. His neighbor is a farmer, and since a lot of people know about this place through their fellow recreationalists, it becomes the converging point for a new town. At this point, the story becomes one mostly of survival. People, with little knowledge to go on (there's no school, everyone is connected to the internet by thought, something that has also been taken from them), pool what they know to try and make a life for themselves.

Since I really liked There Will Be Dragons, I'll get my concerns out of the way first. I mostly got into the story, except John Ringo does leave some plot holes that killed my suspension of disbelief a couple of times. I am pretty sure that you can't castrate an adult bull one day (that's how you make an oxen) and set him to plowing your fields the next. And I really don't think, no matter how much man power and how desperate these people are to build a life for themselves can, by the end of summer (I got the impression that their troubles started early spring) have a fortified town, tons of weapons, weaving looms, lots of clothes, etc. He really goes too fast. And if you want to argue manpower I might agree, but material still needs to be gathered and developed, and that in itself takes a lot of time, no matter how many people you have.

But one can live with that because There Will Be Dragons has a lot of other things going for it. At this point you might be looking at the cover art next to the review and saying, OK, so where does the sexily clad elf come in? That's Bast and she's a wood elf. Elves and Dragons, before the AI wars, were developed by humans. As one of the peace agreements in the AI war, it was agreed that humans would not in any measure try and make themselves into either of these two creatures. So, like the title says, there will be dragons. Bast is a lot of fun, and one of my favorite characters, even though she's not in the story a lot.

The technology is very cool. Even though today we're still "chasing the dime," looking to create the ultimate breakthrough in nano technology, the idea has inspired many writers. The idea that we'll be able to change our hair and eye color, or how our bodies look, is not new, nor is the idea of robotic helpers. But what I think of as an interesting angle is how purists can step in and try to use what he perceives as a human weakness and turn it into a bid for control over the human population. Paul is undeniably a fascist, who wants to control the people. But he really thinks he is doing it for their own good. He's not your common megalomaniac. Anyway, the topic sentence mentions technology, so I better get back to it. I enjoyed how Ringo used the nannites, making them into hyper-intelligent creatures that can interact with the humans they live with on a human level. And the AI's have really well rounded personalities. Carb, the AI that lives in Edmund's forge, was a favorite. And Ringo's ideas for spam for the new millennia are rather scary.

You also have a real empathy for the people when the technology is ripped away. Think about it for us. If everything went away tomorrow, how would you, or I (who likes to think that she understand a lot of the old arts fairly well) really be able to get along? Watching how people find their way makes for some interesting problems, such as Dineh's attempts at trying to continue to be a good doctor despite the fact that she no longer can practice using her computer, that make for really good reading.

There Will Be Dragons is definitely the first book in the series. We are introduced to a fairly decent group of characters who we'll be following through the series, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to them and how the war between the factions is resolved.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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