Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pern + Hornblower + Aubrey = Temeraire

I'm a bit slow. I just read Temeraire by Naomi Novik. She's up to the fifth book in the series. I'm not sure I'd be willing to put in the time to read five books with these characters or set in Novik's world, but I'd be happy to read another one or two.

The set up is that the world has dragons in it, and countries use them as an airforce. Napoleon is kicking around threatening Britain, and the navy very important in defendng the island, but not as important as the dragons are.

On the one hand the dragons irritated the hokey hey out of me, being rather like Anne McCaffrey's lot. Not so much as to be plagiarised precisely; more like Tolkien's Elves and Dwarves have migrated through the fantasy world because they seem so obvious and natural. It's a testament to McCaffrey's creation, I suppose. Imitation, flattery and so on.

Having recently become quite attached to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, and being reasonably fond of the Hornblower books (although not as fond as the television Hornblower, of course) the Napoleon-fighting navy stuff was also quite familiar. The main human character, Captain Laurence, has all the good qualities of Hornblower and Aubrey, plus the wit and intelligence of Maturin, with no bad qualities whatsoever. Temeraire is his dragon, and a more noble, perceptive and talented creature you could not hope to meet. Laurence has a mild inner struggle when he has to surrender his ship so he can care for his new dragon, but that's about it. His character development is close to zero, although he does learn that personal charm only belongs to French traitors and evil dragon-neglectors. Horrors.

But I suppose the book transcends mere pastiche and wildly idealised characters because it is quite good at capturing the voice and attitude of Laurence as a very proper gentleman of the time. England-with-dragons is not really explored except at the level closest to the action and the main characters.

Mostly it works, though, because it's cool to think of dragons fighting.

Oh, and an Admiral is called Admiral Croft, but he's obese, grasping and not particularly kind. Most certainly not the Admiral Croft who is such a good friend to Anne Elliot. I found this much more off-putting than I should have.

1 comment:

Kimi said...

The Admiral Croft of "Temeraire" upset me, too. I had a moment of "There he is, the lovely man!", immediately followed by somewhat bitter disappointment.