Of Bone And Thun­der

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

Fan­tasy gets na­palmed

Re­lease Date: 6 Fe­bru­ary

614 pages | Pa­per­back Au­thor: Chris Evans Pub­lisher: Ti­tan Books

This book shunts the

Viet­nam war into an al­ter­nate world where na­palm is re­placed by dragon­fire, sol­diers fight with cross­bows and cat­a­pults, dwarves are the an­gry racial un­der­class and magic is a tool of cut­ting- edge army re­search. For all that, though, it’s still clearly ’ Nam. The wide- eyed, pa­tri­otic boys rapidly be­come grunts off- their- heads on drugs and atroc­i­ties, in a war with­out shape or mean­ing. Like many Hol­ly­wood ’ Nam films, it’s all told from the POV of strangers in a for­eign land. The lo­cals are in­scrutable; in­stead of “gooks,” they’re “slyts”.

The most im­pres­sive world­build­ing con­cerns the dragons ( ab­bre­vi­ated to “rags”). They’re used both as weapons and trans­port, but they’re ex­plo­sively danger­ous and nau­seously un­com­fort­able. ( Dragon­flights in­volve tor­rents of puke and urine.) Yet th­ese dumb beasts of bur­den have an an­i­mal no­bil­ity, well evoked on the page.

The hu­mans fare less well. There are just too darn many, with their scenes get­ting in each other’s way. Much of the early char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is painfully over- ob­vi­ous. Very slowly, good plot arcs emerge, but the char­ac­ters them­selves aren’t strong enough to reg­is­ter. The re­sult is less a novel than a nar­ra­tive swamp, with sev­eral dif­fer­ent sto­ries strug­gling to break free and be­come bet­ter de­vel­oped books. An­drew Os­mond When he’s not writ­ing fic­tion, Chris Evans is a mil­i­tary his­to­rian who con­ducts bat­tle­field tours in Europe.

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