April 25, 2004

Drakon, S. M. Stirling

More space-opera aristocrats, sforzando. These are designed to rule, by an alternate-history empire formed out of the American South slaveholders and South Africa. Homo drakensis are perfect physical machines with pheromones to reinforce their completely dominating natures; not sadistic natures, I was relieved to find, though violent. In their world they've replaced Homo sapiens with a literally subject species which is biologically happy to serve them. The remaining 'wild' humans have survived mostly by flight, and partly by technological superiority.

Me, I think that superiority is something between unconvincing and special pleading; the claim is that the gengineering destroyed some ineffable creativity in the Drakons, making them not really scientists. This is awfully convenient to the plot, as the Drakons win every other suit; it would be more likely that the Drakons secretly enjoy toying with the Homo sapiens and don't want technological superiority. Or maybe it's a subtle comment on the middle-class nature of technological revolutions. Very, very subtle, if so.

Other than that, I was interested by the ideological characterizations in our world, after the Tyger in the night is thrown here by accident. Of course she plans conquest; one wild human from her universe is here to stop her; a few humans in this world ally with or fight against her. Her most willing subjects are left-coast-leftist tropes; a Jane Fonda analogue tempted by eternal youth, and a Deep Ecology type convinced that saving the remains of Earth as a nature preserve is better than seeing Earth and humans lost together to technological poisons. (Both of the alternate-history, super-tech visitors assume that our Earth, as is, is helplessly doomed. It seems to me that the pure utilitarian argument for becoming a nature preserve would then deserve rather more consideration than it gets in the book.) There are some bribable business and gov't types who sell the goods and ask no questions; but I was rrrather hoping to meet a Bell Curve enthusiast and see what reaction s/he had to suddenly being down in the middle of the curve.

Maybe the rest of the series gets more complex, but it feels just as likely that the people-like-us conquer by some plot-gimmick trait. That would be so enormously irritating that I think I'll just stop here and imagine endings for myself.

ISBN: 0-671-87711-9

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