Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some Dragons Create Hell -- Others Make it Bearable

Dragon Lady –by Gary Alexander

320 pages, 443 KB
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
5 Stars

Any book that sends me to the dictionary, either hard copy or online, or better yet, the encyclopedia, is bound to become a favorite of mine. And Dragon Lady did just that. I was sure Ton Son Nhat was the wrong spelling, that it should have been Ton Son Nhut. Guess what? I learned something!

This novel is by a Viet Nam Vet, and the flashbacks take place back when it was still two words, Viet Nam. The first thing Mr. Alexander did that I enjoyed, was have the narrator living (is that the right word for a dead man?) in The Land Beyond vs. The Land of the Living. Our narrator, Joe, is wonderful as he looks back on his life in Saigon, and his love, the Dragon Lady, the beautiful Mai.

In the first place, I'm not one hundred percent sure Joe is a fictional character (though how he writes from They Land Beyond is, well, beyond me) as I'm sure I met him when I was in the WAC. Or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.  Or was that me? Well, never mind.

Joe, and his pal Ziggy, were wonderful, and though I might not want to invite them home for dinner, I'd probably love to know them. Joe is sarcastic, a screw off who actually gets more done than Radar O'Reilly (M*A*S*H) and has a great time doing it. He loves Terry and the Pirates, and his mother faithfully sends him the Sunday funnies every week so he can read about Terry and the real Dragon Lady.

And then he meets Mai, and falls head over heels in love with his own Dragon Lady. But who is Mai? Which story she tells is true?

This is a war story more on the lines of Catch-22 than All's Quiet on the Western Front. If you're a 'Nam vet, or know one, and want to know what it was like behind the lines, so to speak, read this book. Lots of humor (back to M*A*S*H and Catch 22) and not a lot of violence and bloodshed.

Joe and Ziggy were guys I liked, and pulled for, and I'm still sure I knew them. I think they were at Smiley Barracks, Karlsruhe when I was stationed there. Or was it Fort McClellan? Or, maybe....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Between --by Kerry Schafer

Fiction, Fantasy
295 pages (mass paperback)
Footnotes / Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
4 Stars

This is a debut novel, and I believe this writer has a great future ahead of her. She took on an ambitious subject and turned it into a great story. There are three worlds our heroine, Dr. Vivian Maylor, lives in: Wakeworld, where she is a no-nonsense ER doctor, deals in facts and figures, is used to controlling her world and all in it. There is Dreamworld, which comes when she sleeps, where she has little if any control, and in fact isn't even sure of the rules. And there is Between, that world where one is between the other two.

That between world is one of my most favorite worlds. Not so our intrepid heroine. I spend almost an hour every night, and if I'm lucky, an hour every morning in that between world. I would not necessarily want to spend any time in Vivian Maylor's Between!

Between is an adult novel. I think I'd call it modern high fantasy, complete with swords, sorcerers, and dragons. And a penguin. In fact, Poe (the penguin) is probably my favorite character. (Never compete with small children or animals, they win every time! ;-) Rape happens, death happens, dragons happen. What is real? What is dream? Where is Between?

Ms. Schafer has done a great job of world building; her dragons are more closely related to those of fairy tales than those of Anne McCaffrey. Perhaps this should be called a modern fairy tale. It has all the elements of an old one, just brought up to date.