Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Under-rated dragons 2 - The Dragon and the George

I'm planning to talk about various fantasy novels involving dragons. Next time my target is Dragonflight (and I know it is supposedly science fiction, but it is SF with a strong fantasy style). This time, though, my subject is the Dragon and the George, by Gordie Dickson.

First published in 1976, this took the well-known trope of the young man from our world who finds himself in a fantasy realm trying to rescue an imperilled heroine, and turned it on its head. This time, the hero was not trying to deal with the dragon – he is the dragon. The reasoning behind this is relatively thin (a mind transference project that went horribly wrong) but is simply the means to the author's end – setting up an extraordinary situation for the hero to cope with.

And cope he does. Jim Eckert is a reasonably competent hero who manages, after a few troubles, to cope with his new shape. He – as is traditional in this sort of story – picks up a rag-tag of companions, including the talking wolf, Aragh (probably the best character!), Danielle, the sexy archer-maid, an incompetent knight, and a couple of other dragons. Their main opponents are the Dark Powers, a rather bland and character-less ultimate evil that is out to change the balance of the natural order within the world.

Advising Jim – or Gorbash as his dragon-form is named – is an aged wizard, Carolinus, who wants to be Gandalf but comes across more as Rincewind. And the quest is to travel to the Loathly Tower to rescue Jim's imperilled girlfriend, Angie, another transferree from the real world.

Reading it now, the book doesn't seem as extraordinary as it was in 1976, but it is still a good, entertaining read. It has a broad strand of comedy flowing through it, and certainly doesn't need taking seriously. It also has a reasonably good plot though it fades a little in the finale. It isn't as lengthy as many fantasy tomes, and the characterisation isn't exceptional, but for a light-hearted fantasy with a slight air of self-mockery it works very well.

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