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bear by san

March 2017

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lion in winter broken because you're bri

the dragons are going to fly tonight

book report # 57: Michael Swanwick, The Dragons of Babel (ARC)

This comes out in January, according to the title page, and man, are you guys jealous of me.

This is the long-awaited sequel to The Iron Dragon's Daughter, which I haven't read since it came out, and now really feel I must reread.

This is an award-quality novel, in my not so humble opinion, and reading it was really interesting because I wasn't sure of that until the very end. Because Swanwick has absolutely mastered something, in this book, that he's been working at for a long time. Which is to say, it's an apparent picaresque, a seemingly random series of events--at one point, I was shaking my head and going "Sure, this is lovely, and amusing, and the cool shit quotient here is incredibly high--but does any of this have a point?"

And in short? Yes, it does. It pays off in social commentary, character development, and a thematic argument that I'm going to be thinking about for a while. Also, it's a total pillorying of some of the standardest of standard fantasy tropes, the quest fantasy and the farmboy-makes-good tale, with a couple of codwhallops for good measure, and a little painful examination of class and political issues.

In addition, it's fun. And it's got a cryptic caper plot. Man, am I glad Undertow has a four-month lead on this sucker. And that's all I'm saying about that.

My only real complaint is: sometimes he loses me on the transitions--people appear and disappear in scenes , and sometimes I was like "Whoa, where did X leave the building?" and there's a lack of female characters, except in roles that center on the male protagonist: daughter, lover, mentor, etc. But since I know something about the end of The Iron Dragon's Daughter that I won't spoil here, and this book takes place in the same mileau, I'll just leave it as making perfect sense on a meta-level that everything and everyone in the book revolves around the protagonist in an odd iterative fashion, and sometimes things are a tad disjointed.

But yes, for those of you who know the spoiler, it's that same kind of patterning, though the outcome is completely different from that in the first book.

Also, there are short random appearances by characters with rather familiar names, including a sardonic swordfighting instructor. Whose identity I will not reveal here, because when I saw the name on the page, I blinked, read it twice, and then crowed aloud and fired off three delighted emails. *g*

Swanwick's Iron Dragons are still in the five best dragons anywhere, and my only wish is that they were in the book more in person, and less as a metaphor. (I also love Diane Duane's dragons in The Door into Shadow. I love good dragons, and dragons are so very rarely done well.)

I am going to be recommending this one to skzbrust and truepenny, especially as the plotting style reminds me very much of the sort of thing they do so well.

Also? jaylake? I thought you should know: Unca Mike has just totally raised the coolness bar on all of us.

In short, I wasn't sure I loved this book until I read the last page, and now I am sure. I love it a lot.

Comments

>This is the long-awaited sequel to The Iron Dragon's Daughter

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

::waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaants::
(Honestly, I'm kind of skeptical of the idea of an ID'sD sequel. That novel was perfect, and it was done. But my skepticism is outweighed by my conviction that Swanwick is bizarre enough to manage just about anything.)
I should clarify. It's not a direct sequel; it's a complete novel set in the same world.

And I think it's the same [spoiler], but he never comes right out and says it in this book.
I loves me a bar raising.

Never underestimate the power of competitive shaming...
Yes. This book just staggers from cool setpiece to cool setpiece. Blind subterranean horses! Tower of Babel! Centaurs! Witch secret police!
The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick

*adds to reading list*

That damn thing is getting really long. I'm glad the library is just a train ride away.
Unca Mike has just totally raised the coolness bar on all of us.

I always thought life in general was cooler for having him.
I'd never heard of the author or the book before. Yes, I live under a rock. But that's about to change as the first book is now on the Amazon wishlist.
Just wow.

Iron Dragon’s Daughter was one of the books that made me think about fantasy in completely new ways. It also made me fall back in love with the genre after so many “dice rolling in the background” books. Ok this goes at the head of the must have queue.

Pray tell what are the five best dragons?
Hey, I just told you two of them!
True.

Let me rephrase.

Oh wise and merciful Bear Lady, could you please enlighten use the humble geek masses on whom or what the other three best dragons are? *bats eyelashes* Pretty please with honey and berries and rhubarb on top?
You think I keep a ??list??
No, but I thought it would be fun to pick your brain and get your thoughts on that. Your latest post however seems just a tad more relevant now.
Oh, thank you! Well, sort of. I hadn't know of a sequel; now I'll be sure to get it immediately it comes out. However, that's not 'til January (unless someone ebays an ARC.) Thus, mixed feelings :)
OKay, so I just read the first few pages of Iron Dragon's Daughter on Amazon, and I think I read this book.

Is this the one where needle keeps showing up all over the place?

Or am I thinking of something else?
Yes.
Wow. I read this book a long, long time ago and don't really remember any of the plot, but certain things about it really stuck with me.

I will have to pick it up again. Thanks for the refresher.
Love the Emmylou reference.
We loooove Emmylou.
I had trouble getting into The Iron Dragon's Daughter, persisted, and by the end I *loved* it. (Same with Blindsight.)

Just shows ta go ya, ya never know.

I'm told (by someone who spoke with him at a con) that Swanwick kept a picture of Sid Vicious (unless it was Johnny Rotten) over his desk when writing Iron Dragon's Daughter so he wouldn't lose track of the tone.
Awesome story.
As I believe it was you who first had me read Iron Dragon's Daughter, I am certain you can guess just how jealous i am that you've read the new one and i cannot until January.

sigh
*cackles*

I am wicked. Truly.

I am wicked. Truly.

I knew THAT. I LIKE that about you. But, it's not helping me in this instance.
It's 2.15 am and I'm about to go to bed after far too much work. But this post has just made me very, very happy. I saw this was coming out in January (which was good news), but hearing that it is well up to Swanwick standard is excellent news. Thank you, o receiver of advance copies!

Now I just have to wait for Diane to get around to writing The Door Into Starlight...
Yeah, well.

Maybe this decade?