The Dragon’s Nine Sons by Chris Roberson

Published by Solaris

February 2008

ISBN 978-1-84416-604-6

330 Pages


Chris Roberson has been crafting stories in imagined Celestial Empire for much of his publishing career – novels, novellas, and short stories. With The Dragon’s Nine Sons, he brings the conflict between the two largest nations in his world, Mexica and China, to Mars (the Fire Star) in galaxy.  Roberson’s novel is many things wrapped under one cover; on the surface it seems like a typical space adventure reminiscent of the golden age of SF, but as you look deeper into the novel also has elements of alternate history and a heist story. Roberson himself has supposedly compared this novel to The Dirty Dozen in space.


The novel takes its name from an old Chinese legend and indeed, the nation of China in Roberson’s Celestial Empire is legendary.  At one point in its history, the nation was the single ruling power on Earth. While this divergent history is interesting and has many storytelling possibilities, Roberson uses it as a backdrop to tell the story of a motley crew of undesirables brought together to destroy a Mexica base on a asteroid orbiting the Fire Star.  For in many recent space battles between the Middle Kingdom and Mexica, the Mexica space fleet has been appearing en masse seemingly out of nowhere.


The Middle Kingdom has come into possession of a Mexica ship they will use to infiltrate the Mexica base, hoping to sneak into the asteroid disguised.  As Roberson introduced the members of the crew/team charged with destroying the Mexica base, I was reminded of Dan Simmons’s Hyperion (itself modeled on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales); each societal reject recruited for the Dragon’s mission had a back-story of mistakes that got them aboard the ship.  This familiar storytelling device allows some ease of getting immersed in Roberson’s alternate history.


The Dragon’s Nine Sons is a fast-paced story, set in future of a world similar to our own.  The characters are well-crafted and in such a relatively short story, Roberson effectively fills in the right amount of details for the characters as well as the other elements of the story.  The rich history of the world is only hinted at and Roberson provides a timeline of the Middle Kingdom as an appendix which illustrates the depth of divergent history in the Celestial Empire universe. Though this novel has some distinct differences from Paragaea, Roberson retains the same storytelling sensibilities and qualities.  Part heist, part redemption story, part adventure The Dragon’s Nine Sons is a solid and entertaining novel.



© 2008 Rob H. Bedford



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