In this world, history has taken a different path: Emperor Julian the Apostate managed to make sure that Christianity did not become the dominant religion, but remained just one of many heresies, Islam was not born, the Crusades did not take place… And in the XV century Byzantium still thrives, subjugating or simply gaining control of most of Europe. Four – the Welsh wizard Hivel, the fugitive heir to the Byzantine throne Demetrius, the Florentine female physician Cynthia and the German engineer Gregor – are at the forefront of events to elevate Richard Gloucester to the English throne. Someone we know as Richard III…
John M. Ford
The Dragon Waiting
Genre: alternative-historical fantasy
Original output: 1983
Painter: Stephane Martinier
Translator: E. Dobrokhotova-Maikova
Publishers: Exmo, fanzon, 2022
Series: «Fantasy World. The best modern fantasy “
Age rating: 16+
416 pp., 3000 copies.
Kim Stanley Robinson “Years of Rice and Salt”
John Courtney Grimwood’s The Fallen Blade
The John M. Ford novel, which won the 1984 World Fantasy Prize (bypassing, among others, George Martin’s The Noise of Armageddon, Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery, and Jack Vance’s Lioness), was not republished long after the author’s death. legal reasons. However, now, almost forty years after writing, it does not look naive, archaic, outdated or stuffed. Yes, the quartet of main characters involuntarily or deliberately includes painfully familiar archetypes: warrior, magician, healer, creature. Gregor stands for the creature: he, like some famous historical figures in this novel, is a vampire. However, The Dragon Does Not Sleep is not a vampire novel in the sense in which it is presented to the mass reader. But this story is not about magicians – much less about dragons. In fact, in a single volume, the author packed an alternative story, a bloody fantasy, a political thriller, a metaplay of Shakespeare and modern mass culture – but avoided the problem of “salt shaker”, which is typical of many similar books. After all, Ford not only carefully places genre labels, but also fully develops this or that affected topic.
Of course, the meticulous reader can point out that it is unlikely that the historical assumptions declared by the author would preserve the realities we know: from genealogical lines (they were mostly based on dynastic marriages) to names (some of them are related to specific Christian saints). ). But the bottom line is that Ford disguises the literary-historical game as an alternative story.
The novel “The Dragon Does Not Sleep” is imbued with allusions, literary and historical references, subtext – all this requires thoughtful interpretation. Often even too serious – they are so local and specialized. Alas, the Russian reader, not immersed in the context, hardly considers everything. Even Draco Concordans, a commentary guide to the novel written by English-speaking enthusiasts, covers at best only half of all elements of this intellectual game.
And “Dragon does not sleep” does not affect the reader’s emotional strings: if the text does not have your personal triggers, then the story can remain cold. However, this does not mean that the characters themselves are cold, emotionless or cardboard – no, they are all, up to minor, very complex and even traumatized personalities. But Ford doesn’t poke them with his brokenness into a reader, he doesn’t turn them into one-legged dogs: their injuries have made the heroes what they are. It was they who brought them together.
Ford skillfully introduces the reader to his world: there are no sheets of text or dialogues that retell things that are obvious to the interlocutors, there is no all-seeing author’s eye – only pieces of information that gradually merge into a common picture. However, unfortunately, the action often develops too quickly – and for the sake of drive Ford throws out of the story whole pieces of biographies, huge episodes of history, which can disappoint the most meticulous and hungry readers.
The result: a curious, rich (even oversaturated) historical and literary game
under the guise of adventurous fantasy.
The word of the creator
Few people know Shakespeare by heart, but most have absorbed passages from him and almost unconsciously reproduce phrases like “To be or not to be.” Modern speech is as full of references and allusions as any other, and perhaps to a greater extent. And the fact that these are allusions to the headlines of the tabloids or the series about Buffy, does not change anything.
For the next fifteen hours, everyone was silent. Then Lorenzo began to read poetry. That was Dante Alighieri, from the Commedia dell’Uomo [«Человеческая комедия» — прим. «МирФ»], the part where the poet finally finds the right way out of the courts and corridors of Pluto’s kingdom. He always liked puns about Plato’s Cave and Pluto’s.
John M. Ford “The Dragon Doesn’t Sleep”
Is it worth reading?
Yes, if you like political thrillers, you’re good at alternative history – and not against vampires.
curious construct of the world
interesting game with historical figures
too fast action
the vagueness and punctuality of many references
the conditionality of the possibility of many historical conflicts