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Plodding through Dragon’s Path (Where sometimes expectations just aren’t matched)[spoiler party] January 30, 2012

So I had heard on occasion from some different reputable people that this Daniel Abraham fellow is a good writer. He wrote a book under a pen name along with some other fellow (who I believe is an assistant to George R. R. Martin) that was quite spectacular. While it is quite difficult to know without the authors stating specifically who did what work, you’d think that just being involved in something so good would rub off on you, at least in certain ways. One of the big appeals of Leviathan Wakes, to me, was how good it is on social issues. It’s so rare to read a book that is short on (if not entirely devoid of) sexsism or racism or ableisism or transphobia and so forth and so on. This seems to be especially hard to find in speculative fiction. It seems like no matter how much we change our worlds we carry our current day prejudices with us. Sometimes it’s blatant and in your face, other times it’s the casual garbage that we just take for granted or hardly even notice. Leviathan Wakes was refreshingly short on all of that extra trash that pulls me so quickly out of books.

So here I was, thinking it was safe for me to venture into a book that half of those writers was involved in. I hoped it would be as good as Leviathan wakes, but really I was just betting on something that wasn’t atrocious. What I got fell well short of what I was expecting. Dragon’s Path is yet another example of a book where the writer chooses to change soo much of the world and still stick to outdated notions of gender and sexuality. Not only this, but it also another example of the callous disregard for loss of live on an extreme scale.

Let’s set a thing up here. We live in a land with 13 different races of human. Think video game fantasy stuff. Lizard people, Wolf People, Elephant People, Boar People, stuff like that. The taxonomy of the world is that different. Somehow though we still wind up with all the same generic Middle Ages Europe power structures and societal norms. With this we also carry over the exact same sex and gender dynamics as we have now. So much of this is true that the author goes out of his way to have one character lecture another about how there is no weapon natural for a woman. Women just aren’t fit for combat (ignoring that the book makes sure to include a bunch of female soldiers). I thought originally that the point was to say that there is no natural weapon for anyone. Instead it was just going on the assumption that all women are small and weak and as such no weapon would give them an advantage in a fight against a man. If this was just the one character’s idea we could let this go without any real fight or discussion. Had another character butted in and refuted the ideas behind the statements we would be fine. The statement doesn’t take into account men who are short or skinny or not strong or women who are trained in the same way as men would be in that society to be fighters. There’s no acknowledgement of societal factors that dictate what fighting is and who does it. The entire point of this lecture (well for literature’s sake it’s to make another sexist comment later in the book) was to tell a female character she shouldn’t even bother training to protect herself. Then, far later in the book a female character recalls that conversation and says to herself that he was wrong, because women do have a natural weapon, that of sex.  This whole notion is so fucked and backwards and sexist to it’s core I’m not even going to go over it.

Now, that there isn’t the only example of sexist thoughts and ideas. There are sections talking about how men go to war and women heal it all up with their companionable chit chatting. There’s more stuff as well, but that was just the best example of the kind of thing that totally derails a book for me. It’s superfluous and unnecessary.

Now, while that’s outrageously annoying I might still reccommend the book if a bunch of other things go right. The world is so devoid of great books (Not everyone can be N.K. Jemisin)  that sometimes you have to just take the good stuff where you can get it.

Then something awesome happened. (Remember, this is a soiler party). The book does one of the greatest things ever. It takes your stereotypical fat book reading nerd character and . . .makes them a stereotypical fat bookish nerd.Well, what do we expect? Everyone loves Samwell Tarly. It’s an easy character to sympathize with. He reads books and likes to think and do speculative essays. He’s not really cut out for war, there should be something else for a character like this to do in life rather than fight battles for the honor of other people. This is all well and good, tropes happen and we move on. This fat kid moves on indeed. He is put in control of a city. The plan was for him to fail at it, and fail he did. He failed spectacularly. Then he learned that he was set up for failure. This was a chance to do something rather cool. Instead our fat bookish nerd turns into Nero and lights a city on fire. His rationale for this you ask? They rioted. Because they were starving. Yup. He bungled the job and all the citizens decide to protest because he was making it hard for them to eat. So he burns them all. Yup, all of them. Locked the city down and had his soldiers shoot down anyone who tried to escape. Yup.

Then Abraham spends the rest of the book trying to make us feel bad for him when things get out of his control.I am thinking that the entire series is supposed to be us following the bad guys, but it’s hard to tell. He sets up people who are fond of slavery and treating non nobles as animals. Let’s say this is what he’s doing. I believe there is a way of writing this that doesn’t attempt to make it sound like he agrees with the awful bigots. The book is worded in a way that makes these ideas the moral center and compass for all other actions. It’s like Daniel is saying right to me, that laws on treating slaves better is bad and the idea of farmer’s having a say in the governing of farms is bad because the noble’s know better of farms than farmers.Not exactly refreshing, know?


2 Responses to “Plodding through Dragon’s Path (Where sometimes expectations just aren’t matched)[spoiler party]”

  1. You’re right that some of the folks we’re following are the villains. Nonetheless, I’m sorry the book didn’t work for you, and I appreciate the time and attention you’ve given it.

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