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Star Dragon
Mike Brotherton
Tor Books, 352 pages

Star Dragon
Mike Brotherton
Mike Brotherton went to the University of Texas at Austin to study astronomy. He received a Ph.D in 1996 and worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Kitt Peak National Observatory. He is now an assistant professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Wyoming. He attended the Clarion West Writer's Workshop in the summer of 1994. His wife, Leah R. Cutter, is also a SF writer. Her first novel, Paper Mage, is out from Roc.

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A review by Lisa DuMond

It happens. Just as you're starting to read a book another assignment comes in and back on the shelf it goes. Sometimes, the book had a bit of a rough start, so putting it aside is hardly a hardship. Every now and then though, that difficult book still calls seductively and you find yourself going back to the beginning and digging in again. Star Dragon has that siren song quality -- not easy going at first, but it sticks to your hand until you finish it.

Star Dragons provide their own siren call to the characters in this novel. Creatures of deep space, living in the chaos of the decaying dwarf nova system of SS Cygni. Riding and diving through the plasma and magnetic forces where nothing should be able to survive, the beasts offer mystery, immortality, and a purpose to a disparate crew willing to leave everything behind just for a chance.

Before the ship has even broken free of Earth's gravity, the clash of personalities is obvious and ominous. Fisher, Fang, and the others may find their mutual distrust far more difficult to overcome than the difficulties of capturing such a magnificent creature. Even Papa, the ship's AI, may not be immune to the forces that throw the scientists and crew together, even as they wrench them apart.

But, personalities, like physiology, are not static entities under the extraordinary conditions aboard the Karamojo. Some of those on the dragon hunt will morph through changes, internal and external, that will threaten the very survival of the group, not to mention object of their insane quest. Sanity, in fact, may become a more precious commodity than the Star Dragons they seek and even more elusive.

Time to carefully consider plans is in short supply, both in SS Cygni and back on Earth. Some five hundred years will have passed for their home before the Karamojo completes the journey. While they flash between the stars, the years are passing in a rush, taking everyone they knew and loved into the distant past. Will what they find and learn on their mission, will it be worth the enormous cost? What will they return to? The questions simmer just beneath the surface of every decision.

A Star Dragon. A magnificent, impossible creature like nothing in Earth's history. Is it worth any sacrifice? Perhaps, humanity will again be content to wipe out a species before uncovering its secrets. After all, surely the remains of a dragon will suffice to feed the corporate machine awaiting its prize. A piece of a mystery is enough to satisfy some, but nothing less than total confrontation is a wasted opportunity for others. Perhaps, there is more of the fiery dragon within us than we ever suspect.

What there is within us and within the passengers of the Karamojo is something worth taking a close look at, however hot the flames burn.

Copyright © 2003 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction, horror, dark realism, and humour. DARKERS, her first novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She is a contributing editor at SF Site and for BLACK GATE magazine. Lisa has also written for BOOKPAGE, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Science Fiction Weekly, and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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