Saturday, May 7, 2016

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb

What's this? Two reviews in one week? The Iron Guy has been doing some heavy lifting with his reading and reviewing lately! But I had really wanted to get something in for May the Fourth and I had also mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had been reading this book. It's about time I finished it, don't you think? Anyway, I ramble. Let me clue you in to this really good sci-fi adventure story, Secrets of the Dragon Tombs by Patrick Samphire.

The year is 1816. Humanity, especially the British Empire, has colonized Mars. Young Edward Sullivan wants to be like W. A. Masters, the spy and adventurer he reads about every month in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Yet adventure comes all too quickly when the famous Sir Titus Dane visits the Sullivan house. It turns out that he's there for more than a social call; he is looking for a map for a hidden Dragon Tomb, one of the places where the Ancient Martians buried their emperors and left all sorts of advanced technology. He hopes to claim the technology for himself and maybe even sell some to the Emperor Napoleon, who is winning his wars on Earth. Sir Titus finds the map but needs someone to decipher the Ancient Martian inscriptions that tell where the Tomb is located. That someone is Edward's father, a brilliant scientist and inventor who has created a sort of computer. Sir Titus kidnaps the father and the rest of the family, hoping to force Edward's father into solving the puzzle but Edward, two sisters and his blathering idiot cousin Freddie escape. How could this assortment of kids ever hope to rescue their family from such a powerful bad guy? And is there more to Freddie than what you see on the surface? And if they ever find Sir Titus, will it be too late?

If you want adventure, this book has it! Thrilling crash landings in the jungle, sword fights with bad guys, fights with mechanical crabs and a dangerous bite from a spider-slug. And more! This has enough excitement to please any guy. Plus you have the exotic setting of an alien world. Forget what we know about Mars these days--this book draws on old books and magazines from way back in the day that imagined Mars or even Venus to be places a lot like Earth. Once you accept that and just enjoy the story, you'll be in for a good time. And I bet that, if you enjoy sci-fi or not, you'll get a lot of excitement out of this book. (and guess what--there's going to be a second one, The Emperor of Mars. It'll be worth waiting, guys!)

Written in 1917!
One more thing--and you can ignore this part if you want--I've got a question for all you boys. I'm very curious about this. As I said, this book draws on a lot of old books. Like the John Carter of Mars books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of the original Tarzan) in the 1910's. In these books, the climate and atmosphere of Mars wasn't that much different from Earth's. When I was 16, I read Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, one of the most terrific books ever, in which human beings walked and drove around Mars like the were in their own neighborhoods on Earth. Once I reviewed a sci-fi book (Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein) written in the 1950's in which a bunch of cadets crash-landed on Venus and had adventures there. We were willing to accept these ideas (even if suspected they weren't accurate) because no one had explored those planets.

The real Mars
Since those days, we've sent up several satellites and rovers that have actually gone to these planets and beamed back images of what Mars and Venus are truly like. Now we know that Mars is a barren rock and Venus has a pressure-cooker atmosphere that disintegrates spacecraft before they reach the surface. So let me ask--would any of this current knowledge interfere with your enjoying a story like Secrets of the Dragon Tombs? You boys have grown up seeing pictures from the rovers and knowing the true conditions of Mars. Could you just sit back and enjoy the story or would you say, "Oh, man, Mars isn't like that!" I had no problem with it but I'm from another generation, growing up reading those older books but what about YOU? Leave me an answer in the Comments section under this post and let me know.


Greg Pattridge said...

No problem with the changing view of Mars. It's the story that counts. Thanks for sharing this one. I've added it to my books to read list.

Iron Guy Carl said...

Thanks, Greg! You'll enjoy it.

Sue Heavenrich said...

Looks like a fun book... who doesn't love sword fighting and dragons? As for Mars - people reading sci fi have already suspended their belief and are willing to enter whatever world the author builds.

Kim Aippersbach said...

I have got to get my hands on Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. It looks so fantastic!

That's an interesting point about the appeal of books like that for a generation that knows Mars a lot more accurately than we did. I recently read Mars Evacuees, which was a great book set on a pretty realistic Mars. Lots of adventure and excitement and aliens (not Martians, though!). But no dragons.

Iron Guy Carl said...

Mars Evacuees sounds pretty good. Would be fun to do a whole post on Mars books, fiction and nonfiction.