Dragon America : Book One: Revolution
by Mike Resnick
Review by Cathy Green
Phobos Impact Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0972002693
Date: 25 September, 2005 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The premise behind the novel is that dragons are real and numerous species of them live in America -- from tiny birdlike insect eating dragons to the traditional legendary giant fire-breathing dragons, which in this case are lumbering across the plains states, or rather the territory where the plains states will be. The presence of dragons in America is explained via the humorous "historical Note" at the beginning of the book that explains that North America was never connected to either Russia or South America by land bridges, thus allowing dragons to flourish in America rather than merely mammals as in the rest of the world. This is done through the device of referencing an alternate history science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein called "Mammal America" in which the land bridges did exist.
The novel opens with frontiersman Daniel Boone in the Ohio wilderness looking for the Shawnee. Boone has been charged by General Washington with trying to convince the Shawnee to ally themselves with the Army of the revolution against the British. Washington hopes that if the Shawnee join, other Indian Nations would follow. Since Daniel Boone is also known as Sheltowee, adopted son of the great Shawnee Chief Blackfish, and had made numerous trips into Indian Country, he was the logical choice for such a mission. Unfortunately, what Washington did not know was that Blackfish was not favorably disposed towards Daniel and had banished him from Shawnee lands for repeatedly leading parties of settlers into Shawnee territory. Nevertheless, Daniel Boone felt obligated to undertake the mission and set out with his tiny pet dragon Banshee to find his adoptive father.
Eventually he runs into a party of Shawnee warriors and is escorted to see Blackfish. Daniel attempts to persuade Blackfish to send several thousand warriors to support Washington against the British, his task complicated by the fact that one of Blackfish's advisors is Simon Ginty, an American in the employ of the British (or a loyal British subject depending on your point of view). While awaiting Blackfish's decision, Daniel meets another non-Indian living with the Shawnee, an escaped slave named Pompey who speaks many languages and works for Blackfish as a translator. Blackfish cannot be convinced to send more than a couple hundred men to support Washington, but Blackfish's son Gray Eagle has an alternate proposal. Realizing that whichever tribe helps Washington will have most favored nation status after the war if Washington wins, Gray Eagle suggests that he lead Daniel Boone west to where the enormous fire-breathing dragons of legend are said to live. If they can capture the dragons and lead them against Cornwallis' army, surely Washington will win the war.
Given Daniel Boone's go for broke adventurous approach to life, he's willing to give Gray Eagle's proposal a try. So he and Gray Eagle and Pompey set off for points West. At this point, the book starts to read more like a traditional Tall Tale and the fun really begins. For instance, Daniel is forced to fight a Kiowa warrior named Tall Mountain for the obvious reason of his enormous size, who of course becomes a valuable ally once defeated. Eventually Daniel and his friends find the dragons, which turns out to be the easy part. The difficult part will be figuring out how to control the several ton fire-breathers and get them across the country to George Washington without getting killed or incinerating the country in the process. Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, Washington and his army are barely holding on, engaging in strategic retreat from Cornwallis' forces.
The novel is structured as four books -- Daniel Boone's book, George Washington's book, Pompey's book and Ephram Eakins' book. The structure serves the story well because it allows Resnick to cut back and forth easily between Daniel Boone's party and Washington's army. The narrative structure also allows for multiple viewpoints in a manner in which one character dominates a section or book) due to experience and knowledge. Since the other characters are then placed in a position of lesser knowledge the title character of the "book" is compelled to explain his reasoning to the other characters. As a result, many things that the viewer might like or need to have explained are explained, but in such a way that the viewer is not taken out of the story. For instance, in Daniel's book, Pompey is not a frontiersman and often questions Daniel Boone about the choices he makes for what direction to search in. In explaining to Pompey, Daniel is explaining to the reader. Through this device, hunting techniques, military strategy and dragon training are all explained to the reader.
Dragon America is a fun, light read, ideal for reading by the pool while enjoying those last few weekends of summer weather.