REVIEW: There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo

REVIEW: There Will Be Dragons by John RingoThere Will Be Dragons (The Council Wars #1) by John Ringo
Published: Baen Books (2003), eBook, 752pg
Source: Freebie
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Fiction, Sci-fi

In the future there is no want, no war, no disease nor ill-timed death. The world is a paradise-and then, in a moment, it ends. The council that controls the Net falls out and goes to war. Everywhere people who have never known a moment of want or pain are left wondering how to survive. But scattered across the face of the earth are communities which have returned to the natural life of soil and small farm. In the village of Raven's Mill, Edmund Talbot, master smith and unassuming historian, finds that all the problems of the world are falling in his lap. Refugees are flooding in, bandits are roaming the woods, and his former lover and his only daughter struggle through the Fallen landscape. Enemies, new and old, gather like jackals around a wounded lion. But what the jackals do not know is that while old he may be, this lion is far from death. And hidden in the past is a mystery that has waited until this time to be revealed. You cross Edmund Talbot at your peril, for a smith is not "all" he once was... (from Goodreads)

This is one of those instances where a cover does not reflect what’s going on inside the actual book. Going by this horrible thing, you’d think There Will Be Dragons is a high fantasy swords-and-sorcerers affair with some scantily clad women traipsing throughout. But you’d be wrong. Yes, there are swords. And yes, there is some “fantasy” elements involved, except they’re not really fantasy and more super-technological science-y…things. And there’s really only one scantily clad woman running around (and she’s the lady on the cover, actually). And there are elements of high fantasy stuff in it, yeah. But mostly, There Will Be Dragons is a futuristic sci-fi novel with military leanings, and it’s really good!

Don’t get turned off by the size of There Will Be Dragons (700+ pages in paperback); there’s some good stuff in here. For instance, there’s characters with some depth, exciting battle scenes, and interesting futuristic world, AI computers, people that turn themselves into dragons and unicorns and a collection of nanites, teleportation, lion-sized housecats, mad scientists, and a utopia-turned-dystopia. Who doesn’t love those things?

There Will Be Dragons is pretty obviously a set-up for a series, but it doesn’t leave the reader hanging at the end. Not everything is answered, of course, but at the same time we’re not really left with a cliff hanger. I quite liked the plot itself– I like dystopias in general, and a utopia getting sucked back into a more dystopic setting is fantastic in itself. This utopia happens to get sucked back into a pre-industrial state. So, no phones, no teleporting, no changing into unicorns. Only a few people know how to actually survive in a world without world-wide trading systems, and those people are the people who frequent Renaissance faires. It’s quite fun and interesting, really.

There’s some pretty horrible stuff in the story, of course. Rape, violence (gore-y violence), concubines, and slavery are all in there, but I think it’s handled fairly tastefully and sensitively (that maybe isn’t done in some of his other books, according to some these reviews). Well, maybe not the violence– that tends to be rather typical fantasy-ish fight scenes and such, though with an emphasis on military precision rather than run amok, er, things. If that makes sense?

Also I couldn’t help but notice a few things that didn’t seem to be fully thought out as maybe they could have been. In the future, human life expectancy is about 500 years, though some people of course live longer. But still the age for legality purposes is 18, which just seems weird. Wouldn’t it be more like…somewhere around 110? (I did some math.) There’s some other little things like that that made me go “huh?” a bit, but didn’t really interrupt the flow of the story.

Wait, I’m wrong– it did throw me for a loop when the women started getting their periods and didn’t even know what it was or how to deal with it (they had apparently turned them off before?). Only the (female) doctor knew, and even then she was seriously weird about it (kept lamenting about TEH FEMALE CURSE OMG; it was quite annoying). It doesn’t even make sense for them to still have their periods, since all the babies born were being grown in test tube things anyway. It’s a few thousand years in the future; what about artificial eggs (and sperm, for that matter), or even cloning? None of that was addressed in the book, which was strange.

Also I have no idea why it’s called “There Will Be Dragons” when there aren’t any actual dragons in it. I think there’s maybe one and it only does a fly-by. Anyone know?

But anyway, I really enjoyed reading There Will Be Dragons, and I look forward to reading the next book (although I’m slightly worried). If you like utopias (or dystopias), history, military fiction, sci-fi/fantasy with lots of description à la Tolkien, and books where blokes have swords (and a few women do, too), then you’ll probably like There Will Be Dragons as well.

Read: June 2009

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo”

  1. I’m a fan of fantasy, but still, this book doesn’t sound like it’s up my ally (that is, once I’m old enough to read it). I do enjoy books “where blokes have swords”, though. 🙂

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