by Deborah K. Lauro
The protagonist of HANSELL’S DRAGON is a man who created misery for the occupants of a tiny penal colony of the future in the form of voracious, flying dragons, and subsequently is trying to assuage his guilt by doing good for one person at time.
Alex Collin, the protagonist is a biogeneticist who has lived for 174 years becoming over that time a wise, skilled physician serving outback communities whose residents respect and love him, but would tear him apart if they discovered he is the man who made the dragons who prey on them. The character created by Lauro is a decent guy with a hard edge; he is capable of crushing those who cross him and suffers from the loss of those he has loved over his long lifetime since they do die of old age while he goes on. And, Collin continues his biogenetic experiments secretly creating mammal bodies with computers for brains and souls.
At first I thought Lauro’s account suffered from too much dialogue, then at Chapter 16 (of a 40-chapter book) the quoted conversations slipped more into the background and the descriptions and character’s inner lives engagingly emerged. She is an effective writer and story teller; whenever the plot seemed ready to slow Lauro produced another interesting twist.
There is a love story: a young woman preparing to leave this planet she loves to spend the rest of her life on an austere space station because of her man. Her love is a fearful, suspicious, prejudiced (against computers), narrow-minded man, who doesn't seem worthy of her. Other self-centered and selfish men and women dance across the stage adding depth to the book, and so do blindly loyal robots limited only by their natures and programs.
The author takes us into a different world of exiled criminals, which reminds me of the early days of Australia where the British dumped all kinds of people they wanted to get rid of whether they committed real crimes or not, serious crimes or minor ones. And guess what? Most of the occupants of the free universe live in stark, artificial environments while the supposed criminals live in a beautiful, but dangerous natural world, blocked from access to any high-tech tools or weapons by their distant prison guards, who are watching them from space stations spinning around their planet.
I read this book in its free-online novel form, printing off three chapters at a time and continuing to be propelled by the characters through the story. I would recommend purchasing HANSELL’S DRAGON from an online source, where it is available, as a paperback or an ebook. The free online version that I read suffered from a distracting glitch with little squares replacing quote marks and apostrophes. Despite that I enjoyed reading Lauro’s novel.