Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Gods of the Electronic Books are plotting against me.

Well, not really. But it seems that way sometimes.

Last year, I bought an Amazon Kindle. I got it in large part because I was heading off to South Sudan on a mission trip. The dinky little plane that flies us from Uganda into the village of Nimule (where the compound I stay at is located) is limited to 30 pounds of luggage per passenger. In my previous trip, bringing along my Bible, reading materials for the plane trips, teaching notes and enough spare underwear to survive two weeks was a challenge. But the Kindle let me bring several different Bible translations, my notes and lots of reading material without having to worry about the weight at all. And, if I don't use the wireless, the Kindle battery lasts for a couple of weeks. It did indeed prove to be a great tool for the trip.

But I admit I like my Kindle for purely personal reasons also. I'm effectively carrying about 600 books with me wherever I go. Heck, I never have to interact with another human being again if I don't want to. And, really, how many real-life people are as interesting as, say, Captain Nemo or Long John Silver? You're all boring compared to them. Boring, I say!!!

(Ironically, it was a nice royalty check that allowed me to buy the Kindle, but neither of my books are available electronically, so aren't on the device.)

My goal is to one day make the Kindle my perfect personal library. But I've still got a page long list of books and short stories that aren't available electronically. I check once a month or so and a few items have popped up (such as some of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels), but there's still a lot of stuff I want that I can't get.

For instance, there's a delightful fantasy novel by Gordon R. Dickson titled. The Dragon and the the George (1976) that isn't available electronically. This is a fun book--great storytelling with a lot of humor and some really exciting action set pieces.

It's about a young college professor  named Jim Eckert and the girl to whom he's engaged (named Angie). Angie's making some extra cash by participating in a scientific experiment and gets zapped into another plane of reality. Jim follows, but ends up inhabiting the body of a dragon named Gorbash.

Angie is captured by an evil dragon working for the Dark Powers. Jim/Gorbash manages to locate a grouchy magician named Carolinus, who sends him on a quest to rescue Angie (which also now involves saving the world).

The world Jim is in is a sort of alternate medieval England. Soon, he manages to find a number of Companions for his quest. It's these characters--a wonderful motley crew--that really make the novel. Each of them brings a different sort of humor to the novel, but each also functions as a fully realized character that we really come to care about.

There's Sir Brian, whom normally hunts and slays dragons, but comes to accept that Jim really is a human in a dragon's body. There's Aragh, the talking wolf who had been a friend of Gorbash. Danielle is a beautiful girl whose father is a Robin Hood-style outlaw. Daffyd is the Welsh archer--the best archer in the world, it turns out--who is in love with Danielle. Secosh is a small "mere-dragon" who is meek and cowardly--at least he thinks he's cowardly. Smrgol is Gorbash's aging grand-uncle, a dragon-equivalent to the grizzled veteran with an endless supply of war stories.

I have a fondness for stories that use the "motley crew" approach--when a set of pretty much random characters with different skill sets are thrust together to do a job/mission/quest. Because of the skilled characterizations--Dickson gives them all believable personalities and masterfully avoids allowing any of them to turn into mere cliches--this is one of my favorites. Whenever I re-read it, I always end up wishing Smrgol the dragon were my grand-uncle. He's just such a cool guy.

Great fight scene at the end as well. The group has to divide up to fight a series of monsters on an individual basis. There's a giant slug-like worm monster, the aforementioned evil dragon, a band (flock?) of harpies, and an ogre.

Of course, I've still got the physical novel, so I can re-read it again anytime I want even if I can't get it for my Kindle. But it's the principle of the thing. My Kindle is destined to become by perfect personal library. The Dragon and the George is one of the books required to make that happen.


  1. Did you know he wrote a few sequels?

  2. I do. I started the first sequel once some years ago, but didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as the original. It may be, though, that I just wasn't in the right mood at the time to enjoy it.


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