Man, what a ride! That is the only way to describe the experience of reading Dragon Lords, by C. Dunbar. According to the publisher, Dragon Books, this is the first segment in a continuing series adapted from screenplays originally authored by Dunbar. But, like everything else about this book, I expect each sequel to be as different and unique as this initial installment was.
Undoubtedly, it is science fiction. But, it is also so much more. Dragon Lords is not for the faint hearted, nor is it for the young. It is graphic, both sexually as well as when it comes to the violence that is so much a part of this author’s vision of the future. But it is brilliant through and through!
What remains of the human population is fighting desperately to win a war against the Thelgoths, a mutant race that has taken over the majority of the planet, including Eliene, the former home of the Enchanters, a godlike group of seemingly all powerful, genetically manipulated immortals. Sadly, humanity has been reduced to mere millions, while the enemy numbers in the many billions. Countless years ago, the keys to the human genome were discovered, mapped and exploited, leading to various levels of psychic and paranormal abilities, and the Enchanters have in their possession the DNA mappings of the billions of humans who have already died. The hierarchy of power and leadership aside from the Enchanters seems to be the result of this wielding and the evolution therefrom. The Dragon Lords are the ultimate warriors, riding upon quasi mechanical beasts whose origin is never clearly explained in this episode. Almost immortal themselves, the Lords command tremendous power, and they interact with both the human warriors as well as the Enchanters directly. The earth is populated by Pure Line humans, and genetically developed humans of all different levels and bloodlines, all with various powers and abilities, as well as animals with higher intelligence levels. Conspiracies seem to abound throughout, though they are unfortunately often difficult to discern and clearly understand.
A sense of desperation greets when you read the first pages of this book and it never leaves you for a moment. Fear, concern, worry and anxiety are your companions as you work your way through the unmarked chapters of masterfully written prose. Though dark and abject, it is always compelling. Dunbar creates a mood not only by virtue of his descriptive abilities but also through his creative characterizations and astoundingly imaginative visions. You jump from one frenzied situation to another, as the degree of frustration, tragedy, betrayal and conspiracy grows and grows, yet all the while you are reminded of the human struggle, complete with examples of courage, sacrifice and honor.
Do not expect any happy endings from this author! His intentions were not to make the reader feel good. Though often shocking, it is clear that his design was not simply to shock either. This is entertainment with a dark message; amusement with a bitter aftertaste. The final pages leave you desperate for more, though I must admit I was a bit relieved when I finally did reach the end, it was so graphic and disturbing. It was at times like peeking through spread fingers at a scary movie; unable to take your eyes off of the screen, yet frightened and repulsed nonetheless.
My only criticisms are that I found it difficult to keep track of the characters, there were so many introduced in such a short novel. I failed to understand some of the relationships, and I suffered from continuing confusion with regard to a number of the plot twists, even after finishing the book. I am still uncertain as to who really was victorious and why, and the very final chapter which I have read and reread still baffles me. But, these are minor issues when compared to how powerful this book actually is. I am on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next installment, knowing that I will read it voraciously and vicariously, peering through cerebral fingers partially covering my mind’s eye all the while.
Reviewed by Gary Wassner
Author of the GemQuest series