bookrev: The Dragon’s Nine Sons by Chris Roberson
This is the third book I’ve read authored by Chris Roberson, and, although each of the three was quite different (Paragaea was Edgar Rice Burroughs-ish; Here, There and Everywhere was excellent time travel), all three were enjoyable and well-written. Mr. Roberson’s diverse capabilities (he also has penned young adult and graphic novels) do not drop in quality as he moves about the sci-fi/fantasy genre-verse.
The Dragon’s Nine Sons is The Dirty Dozen minus three set in space, in a future where the Chinese (called The Middle Kingdom) and Central American (called Mexica) cultures have proven the dominate world powers, mutually hostile and have taken the conflict off-planet, to a mostly terraformed Mars (called FireStar) plus the surrounding space and asteroids. A group of nine Middle Kingdom military convicts are given the suicide mission of blowing up a strategic Mexica base hidden inside an asteroid as an alternative to execution.
The story, told from the perspective of the two leaders of the mission (Yao and Zhuan), begins with Zhuan disobeying and order, the team being assembled and drilled, the trip to the asteroid (i.e., the convicts thrown together), and the attack on the asteroid. Well written, with good characterizations (though some of the nine tend to blend together) and a well-paced story.
Although this is only one story in Chris’ many writings about his Celestial Empire world (and there is a very detailed history of the Celestial Empire in Mr. Roberson’s ever-present Author’s Note), very little is seen of the Mexica culture, other than the stereotypical Aztec-ish sacrificial memes (blood sacrifices, ships that require blood, more blood than a vampire novel, etc.). I would have enjoyed the view from the other side, with less stereotyping.
The Nine Sons are:
- Bannerman Yao: the soldier, always following orders, who followed one too many allowing civilians to be killed; he questions why, defies order to stop questioning, and becomes a convict;
- Captain Zhuan: as Captain of his own ship, Zhuan refuses an order to ram a Mexica ship; he is then offered execution, or the Captaincy of the Dragon;
- Fukuda: expert in demolitions, and they are trying to blow up an asteroid;
- Dea: expert marksman, so good he shot his girlfriend’s brother, and was offered a ride on the Dragon;
- Syuxtun: a Muslim of The Middle Kingdom, familiar with the Mexic language; refused to communicate orders that would have resulted in the destruction of the same ship Zhuan refused to ram, and he ended up as the Dragon’s translator and communications officer;
- Cai; smuggler of drugs, prankster;
- Nguyen: the big strong silent type, calm except around women with blood on them; one murder too many, and he was offered a position on the Dragon;
- Ang: gambler, theif and navigator;
- Paik: the ninth one, whom I frankly don’t remember…kinda of like on any scifi show where they have someone with the role of “crewman” who you know is there just so he can be the first one killed off!