Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just Reviewed Lee and Miller’s “Dragon Ship” at SBR

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Folks, it’s really tough for me to write a negative review, especially when I truly enjoy the writers in question.  Yet when a book comes in that I find lacking, regardless of who writes it, I have to give my honest assessment.

Such is the case with my review for Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s DRAGON SHIP over at Shiny Book Review tonight.  I praised the writers, said I enjoyed the way they told the story for the most part — but I just didn’t get behind two conscious author’s decisions that the pair of authors made.  And because of that, I just couldn’t like or recommend this book even though I have liked and/or appreciated what Lee and Miller have written in every other case.  (Yes, even the dark fantasy duology comprised by DUIANFEY and LONGEYE.  There I knew going in that there would be some aspects of the story that would disturb me due to the genre, and was not put off.)

The two plot twists that really bothered me were these — making Captain Theo Waitley irresistible to anyone of either sex (including AIs) really wasn’t necessary.  And putting a male lover, a female lover, and a male AI lover on the same ship with Theo being basically oblivious to all of them, much less the trouble they could get into if they ever fully realize that Theo’s not truly in love with any of them, doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

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Warning — major spoilers ahead.  You have been warned.

Now, back to our original post.

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The whole idea of Bechimo the ship wanting to fully unite with a human (or in this case, half-Liaden) captain, to the point that Theo ends up being nearly forced to submit to a procedure that will give Bechimo full access to her thoughts, her soul, and her very being, also is deeply disturbing.  That Bechimo, the person, wants to unite with someone on a deep level is not disturbing, of course — most people of any types want this, if they’re honest.  But that he’d actually want his lover the captain to submit to such an invasive procedure and not realize that it’s akin to mental and soul-rape is also incredibly disturbing.

And Bechimo the person being obviously naïve despite his many centuries of life and roaming the galaxy does not even begin to excuse this.

So, we’re left with a young woman, Theo, who’s basically married in all the ways that count to Bechimo the person at the end of DRAGON SHIP.  But she still has both her male lover and her female lover serving aboard the ship.  Theo’s not worried about them, or anything else, and seems to be floating in the way most newlyweds do — excepting one thing: she never, ever consented to this level of invasion in her personal life, because she couldn’t have possibly understood this is what Bechimo (the ship) meant by “needing to be served by a full Captain.”

All of that really bothers me, to the point that I could not in good conscience recommend DRAGON SHIP even though the writing is as stellar as ever.

As to the other problematic plot point, bringing a long-dead character back to life — or even attempting to do so — is really difficult for any author or authors to pull off.  It can be done, sure.  (Stephen R. Donaldson has done just that with his character Thomas Covenant, and of course the original Star Trek brought back Spock.)  But it has to be done carefully, and with planning.

Otherwise, it just doesn’t work.

That’s why even the thought of bringing back Aelliana Caylon, by far my most favorite of all the wonderful characters Lee and Miller have ever written, bothers me so much.  (Even though she’s been around as a ghost for years, and even though she obviously takes an interest in what’s going on all around her, bringing her back in a new shell — a new body — does not seem right.)

Those two conscious author’s decisions are why I don’t like DRAGON SHIP and am most unlikely to ever re-read it.   And it’s why I delayed writing my review until I had a full handle on exactly why I didn’t like this book despite my admiration for the writing pair of Lee and Miller and for their creation the Liaden Universe in particular.

Hopefully, I’ve done a good job in conveying the pluses of this book (the writing, the writers, the skill they take in their craft, etc.) and the minuses — the plot and the two author’s decisions that completely perplex — in a way that show I didn’t intend to bash the writer or their creation.

I just didn’t like it, that’s all.

And before anyone else says it — yes, I realize that someday, someone’s going to dislike my books, too.  (Maybe many someones, though I hope more of these “someones” will like my writing and my books than not.)  I just hope that they’ll be polite about it when they criticize, as I can handle that.

Whereas outright rudeness is much tougher to swallow, which is why I tried hard to avoid that in tonight’s review.

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