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The Dragon's Nine Sons by Chris Roberson

The Dragon's Nine Sons (2008)

by Chris Roberson

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The Dragon’s Nine Sons
Author: Chris Roberson
Publisher: Solaris - BL Publishing
Published In: Nottingham, UK
Date: 2008
Pgs: 429


A war of attrition rages around the planet named Fire Star, aka Mars. Mexica and Imperial China fight an ancient war for the future of Humankind. A suicide mission for a disgraced naval captain and a commando who knows too much goes awry when they discover that there are prisoners on the asteroid stronghold Xolotl, their target. Enough explosives to turn the asteroid into an expanding cloud of debris. A suicide mission becomes a rescue mission, but will their people allow them to return home, will they be able to escape with the prisoners. This could still be a suicide mission. But they will trade their lives dearly.

Alternate History
Science fiction
Space opera

Why this book:
Guns of Navarone. The Dirty Dozen. ...in Space. Alternate history. Alternate future.

Favorite Character:
Captain Zhuan Jie. He’s very much the character who makes the hero’s journey in this story.

The Feel:
It wanders occasionally.

Favorite Scene:
Captain Zhuan and Syxtun’s final scene. Powerful. Poetic. Boom.

The flow is mostly great. It loses its way occasionally. During training for the mission after they are freed from prison, for example.

Plot Holes/Out of Character:
The bridge altar on the Mexic ship that requires blood to activate ship’s systems makes my lips twitch in a Mona Lisa half grimace. Hemoglobin sensors. Blood sacrifice as a religious rite, okay. An Aztec-ish empire that has risen to the stars, okay. I’d even accept blood sacrifice as an attempt to influence good omens on the start of a voyage or something like that. Blood sacrifice required to operate bridge stations on a starship. :/ This feels like a hole in the worldbuilding designed to make the enemy seem more bloodthirsty than they would seem anyway marching prisoners to sacrificial altars in religious ceremonies.

Hmm Moments:
The worldbuilding here is awesome, but it does have its overboard exaggerations. See above and below.

I thought the altar was overblown, overwhelming, over the top...then I read about the cages and it brought the book crashing back to earth in horrifying detail. The cages at the back of the bridge of the Mexic ship and the thought of being trapped there, watching your fellows be drug out as blood sacrifices to satiate the ship’s controls. Wow! Mixing blood sacrifice ritual with sci fi spaceship controls...just wow. Your enemies would all fight to the death and your crew would worry about what happens when those cages get empty on a long voyage. And the rust brown stains all over from when the controls are being satisfied in zero gravity...wow!

Last Page Sound:
That’s alright.

Author Assessment:
I might look at something else by this author

Editorial Assessment:
Could have used a bit more editorial guidance to keep the plot from wandering and filling pages in a few spots, ie: the training sequence.

Knee Jerk Reaction:
it’s alright

Disposition of Book:
Moore Memorial Public Library
Texas City, TX

Dewey Decimal or Other ID System:

Would recommend to:
friends, family, kids, colleagues, everyone, genre fans, no one
__________________________________________________​ ( )
  texascheeseman | Jul 8, 2016 |
Chris Roberson’s Celestial Empire stories are distinctive and compelling in a crowded marketplace. Set in a reality where China’s 15th century treasure fleets weren’t dismantled, but instead expanded Imperial Chinese power across the globe, the resulting stories have a decidedly solid foundation that come off as otherworldly rather than contrived. Roberson has exploited this milieu exceptionally well, setting his various short stories and novels in different eras to keep the narrative and cast of character fresh.

In The Dragon’s Nine Sons, Roberson produces a full-blown science fictional adventure dependent on none of the traditional sleight-of-hand that sometimes mars lesser alternate history. And indeed, this isn’t alternate history at all, but rather an alternate future set in a time equivalent to our year 2052. China has expanded to become a world-spanning super power, challenged only by the vicious Mexic Dominion, a powerful Central American nation descended from the Aztec Empire. Both powers have pushed their rivalry beyond the boundaries of Earth. China has made the colonization and terraforming of Mars--known as Fire Star--a priority, while the Mexic fight a bloody war of attrition with warships striking from a secret asteroid base with an orbit that closely tracks the planet’s.

Enter the titular nine sons. In a classic Dirty Dozen setup, each former member of the Chinese military has been sentenced to death for some mortal infraction or other. Such sins will be forgiven and death sentences rescinded, however, if they accept a mission that is certain suicide--to fly a captured warship into the heavily-defended Mexic base and detonate a nuclear warhead at the heart of the asteroid.

Roberson’s world building is excellent. His writing is tight and focused, the various characters’ back stories deftly intertwined with that of each other and the larger plot in general. The biggest complaint is that Roberson repeatedly deflates the escalating tension of infiltration or combat by interrupting the narrative for extended flashbacks explaining how a particular character reached this particular point.

( )
  jblaschke | May 17, 2016 |
Breakin it down
story 3/10
characters 4/10
addictiveness 4/10
readability 7/10
Big total
4 outta 10 ( )
1 vote | sweetbookdelights | Jun 22, 2009 |
This was an interesting variation on the 'Dirty Dozen' theme, set in an alternate history universe. In this universe, the Chinese empire did not turn internal, which changed history quite a bit. Their only opposition is the descendants of the Aztec empire. This was fairly well done for a variation on a common theme, but not in same class as John Scalzi's recent novels, for example. ( )
1 vote Karlstar | Jun 5, 2008 |
Oh, my, goodness. That was bad, bad writing. Cardboard characters and a plot predictable from the first scene. Moreover it takes place in a ghastly universe of a strong Chinese hierarchical government fighting a blood thirsty Aztec government. Unfortunately neither of them seem any brighter than room temperature or any more motivated than shooting first and asking questions later. I suppose some lover of military SF might find the magnesium fire lances interesting, but overall there has to be better military SF than this. ( )
1 vote kd9 | Apr 19, 2008 |
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It is the age of the Celestial Empire, and the mighty civilizations of China and Mexica have taken their ancient war into space. As they fight a desperate war of attrition for control of the red planet, Fire Star, two disgraced soldiers are picked to lead a suicide mission to Xolotl, the asteroid stronghold of the enemy.… (more)

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