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A Judgment of Dragons by Phyllis Gotlieb
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A Judgment of Dragons (edition 1985)

by Phyllis Gotlieb

Series: Ungrukh (1)

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633188,983 (3.17)10
Member:TadAD
Title:A Judgment of Dragons
Authors:Phyllis Gotlieb
Info:Ace (1985), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Science Fiction

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A Judgement of Dragons by Phyllis Gotlieb (Author)

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Phyllis Gotlieb A Judgement of Dragons (1980), with the frontliner on the cover: A starcat and rabbi tale, with dragons. I love this book despite Berkley misleading us on this cover. I suspect they had a hand in the title as well.

First, there are no dragons in this book. Nada. I suppose it is a metaphor. A very weak one, no doubt dreamed up by the promotions department.

Second,it isn't _a_ tale--it is four fine, inter-connected novellas. Annoying if what you want is a novel, but it works perfectly well and I enjoyed each tale a lot.

Third, the main characters are indeed cat-like, but they are not called starcats. Minor point.

Fourth, the rabbi is restricted to the first tale. Initially I was disappointed because she handles his world (pre-pogrom Europe) very well, but the other stories are good enough that I soon forgot my complaint.

So Berkley has the good judgement to buy this well written, subtle, and entertaining book, and then lacks the nerve to admit what it really is. Who wants to buy novellas, even connected ones?
Well, having read it, I say, "I would!"

Gotlieb takes chances in her writing and I admire that. She has the cats speak entirely in the first person--a clever linguistic extension of their very in-the-moment response to life. They don't plan how they will do things, they invent on the spot, giving them flexibility and a keen sense of what is needed now, rather than imposing a pre-decided view on everything. They are essentially humane, if not human, despite their carnivorous nature, and find highly creative solutions to problems normally solved in such novels with explosions and murder. As the novellas progress the reader comes to know a lot about their universe and a variety of life-forms and cultures, including human (Solthrees--I love that!), but it never gets in the way of the story. Very enjoyable adventures with an unusual outlook on life.

The sequel—Emperor, Swords, Pentacles (1982) was published by Ace. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Jun 22, 2013 |
Extremely painful. The biggest problem was that I found the characters flat as a pancake. Plus, the plot lacked coherence in the sense that Gotlieb just kept throwing stuff in without any real consideration of whether it advanced the central story line—it's not a good thing in a novel; it's far more distracting in a shorter story form like this. Finally, the dialog was painful to read. Having the Ungruwarkh cats speak only in the present tense using stilted speech patterns just wasn't worth it.

I got through the first of the four novellas in this book and then quit. ( )
  TadAD | Dec 9, 2012 |
I acquired A Judgment of Dragons back when tit was first published in 1980. A Judgment of Dragons introduced readers to the Ungrukh: large, red telepathic cats that live on the stark, remote, hardscrabble planet Ungruwarkh. The Galactic Federation offers assistance in exchange for their telepathic services. Thus the adventures of Khreng and Prandra, a young Ungrukh couple, ensue. The main plot driver being a renegade Qumedni--a nigh-omnipotent energy being that bears a strong resemblance to Q of Star Trek fame. This book was rapidly followed by Emperor, Swords, Pentacles and then The Kingdom of the Cats.

These stories are classic space opera--lots of action and not much science. They are fun and serious at the same time, though. Phyllis Gotlieb's style is unique, and her books are like nothing else I've read. She starts with the charismatic hook of intelligent, giant cats, but brings in many other types of intelligent beings. So she's one of the rare authors who creates believable aliens. Moreover, her space operas have a rare depth, anchored in both the complex characters with individual personalities and the array of issues and concepts that are incorporated into the plot. The characters are extremely diverse and representative (whether of real or entirely fictional groups), not just another legion of generic, homogeneous white folks with no particular background or culture beyond a vaguely American feel. These include Native Americans, traditional Jews, blacks, Sikhs and other Indian groups, women with a rare genetic disorder that turns their skin blue, genetically engineered amphibious men and women, homosexuals, heterosexuals, the rare person born with six fingers and toes, the wealthy and privileged as well as the down-trodden outcasts...it goes on and on. And even the most minor secondary characters are given their own personalities and motivations. Then there's the requisite supervillians--crackpot psychopaths, the lot of them. But once again, each with his or her own personality and history leading to the increasingly unhinged evil plots that entangle our Ungrukh protagonists and their allies. The books address questions of prejudice, power, politics, colonialism, etc. And all in such an engrossing style. All of them are keepers, and I'm happy to have all three of this obscure and hard-to-find collection in my library. ( )
1 vote justchris | Jul 24, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gotlieb, PhyllisAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kidd, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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