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James Maxey
Solaris, 555 pages
James Maxey
James Maxey lives in Chapel Hill, NC. After graduating from the Odyssey Fantasy Writers' Workshop and Orson Scott Card's Writer's Boot Camp, James broke into the publishing world in 2002 when he won a Phobos Award for his short story, "Empire of Dreams and Miracles." Phobos Books later published James' debut novel, the cult-classic superhero tale Nobody Gets the Girl. His short stories have since appeared in Asimov's and numerous anthologies. His Bitterwood, which precedes Dragonforce, was published in 2007.

Publisher's Website
Author's blog
Author Interview
Article about Jame sMaxey
Bitterwood blog
Reviews of Dragonforge: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Dragonforge follows the events outlined in Bitterwood, though sufficient background is given for Dragonforge to stand alone. Some time in the far future, after the presumed collapse of human society, sentient dragons, who reproduce through a strict system of eugenics, rule the world and humans are largely slaves. But Albekizan, the evil dragon tyrant is killed during a human rebellion and his son, the heir to the dragon throne wishes to enact policies of human/dragon cooperation. However a number of forces including the heir's own brush with power, an insane and murderous uncle, and a mad human prophet bent on annihilating the dragon race are derailing this project. Meanwhile women technology-users endowed with ancient nanotechnology fight it out for the freedom/control of the entire world.

Notwithstanding the numerous plot lines, James Maxey writes a coherent and engaging story, weaving numerous subplots and multidimensional characters in an interesting and compelling manner. Characters are not static, shifting their allegiances and associates, growing into or out of prejudices and behaviours, thus avoiding a purely good-evil dichotomy. However, while I was entertained and the plot was compelling and well structured, the story left me feeling underwhelmed in a number of ways.

My biggest problem with Dragonforge is that the dragons are basically humans in dragon suits, their emotions, actions, societal structure, thought patterns, personal failures and successes are indistinguishable from those of humans. Sure they can fly and are more powerful than puny humans, but in every other way they ARE human -- a bit more of Cthulhu-like incomprehensibility and alienness to their behaviour would have made them more interesting.

Furthermore, while the axiom that sufficiently advanced technology would appear no different than magic may be true, I didn't see what the point was of explaining that the 'magic' employed derived from ancient nanotechnology -- perhaps it adds the element of science fiction to what is otherwise a fantasy novel, perhaps expanding the genre(s), but to what purpose? Perhaps further books in the series will elucidate this. Along these lines, one of the two nanotechnology users deciding the fate of the world -- seemingly completely independently of anything the dragons or rebellious humans are up to -- is a particularly unpleasant, curmudgeonly, ugly and very 20th-century-like cigarette-smoking 'goddess' -- a character very much at odds with the 'feel' of the rest of the plot line, almost anachronistic. Sure, the Ayesha-like (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) radiantly beautiful and all-powerful goddess has been done to death, but the character of Jazz just grated on my nerves more than anything else.

While Maxey has forged an interesting and complex novel of a world shared by dragons and humans, the inclusion of seemingly disparate elements and the anthropomorphism of the dragons mitigated by enjoyment of an otherwise entertaining piece of fiction.

Copyright © 2008 by Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist whose interests lie predominantly in both English and French pre-1950 imaginative fiction. Besides reviews and articles at SFSite and in fanzines such as Argentus, Pulpdom and WARP, he has published peer-reviewed articles in fields ranging from folklore to water resource management. He is the creator and co-curator of The Ape-Man, His Kith and Kin a website exploring thematic precursors of Tarzan of the Apes, as well as works having possibly served as Edgar Rice Burroughs' documentary sources. The close to 100 e-texts include a number of first time translations from the French by himself and others. Georges is also the creator and curator of a website dedicated to William Murray Graydon (1864-1946), a prolific American-born author of boys' adventures. The website houses biographical, and bibliographical materials, as well as a score of novels, and over 100 short stories.

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