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Dragon and Thief: The First Dragonback…
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Dragon and Thief: The First Dragonback Adventure (edició 2003)

de Timothy Zahn (Autor)

Sèrie: Dragonback (1)

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5241747,537 (3.74)17
Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:The first novel in the Dragonback series is "a romp of a space thriller" (Booklist) from the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Star Wars: Thrawn.

Jack Morgan is dealing with more trouble than any young man deserves. Raised to be a professional thief and con artist by his late uncle Virgil, he's survived on his uncle's spaceship with the help of an AI program. But when he's accused of a crime he actually didn't commit, Jack is forced to flee to a remote, uninhabited planet where he can stay off the radar for a while.

His solitude is soon interrupted when a ship crashes on Jack's hideout after a terrible space battle. There's only one survivor: a warrior called Draycos, whose reptilian race is being targeted for extinction.

The good news is that if Jack helps Draycos, the odd creature might be able to help clear Jack's name. The not-so-good news is that to survive, Draycos must bondphysically and mentallywith a sentient being to use as his "host."

And it looks like Jack is the only sentient being around . . .
… (més)
Membre:WendyBird29
Títol:Dragon and Thief: The First Dragonback Adventure
Autors:Timothy Zahn (Autor)
Informació:Tor Books (2003), Edition: 1st, 256 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Llegint actualment
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Dragon and Thief de Timothy Zahn

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On the run for a crime he didn’t commit, Jack Morgan comes across a dragon-like creature that can only survive 6 hours without being able to attach himself to a host—and Jack is the only suitable host nearby. Draycos is the sole survivor of a battle that destroyed 3 ships on their way to scout a planet to relocate an entire civilization. While destruction looms for Draycos’s people, he can’t go anywhere without Jack, and Jack can’t go anywhere without the threat of capture hanging over him. So together, they will work to clear Jack’s name, so that Draycos can try to stop the menace that wants to wipe out the rest of his people.

I was not entirely certain that this was the kind of book I’d like, as sci-fi this heavy and the space opera genre have not held a lot of interest for me in general. But this book caught my interest early on, once I got past the really confusing drop right into the middle of the world building, and I enjoyed it all the way through. Draycos and Jack make a compelling hero/anti-hero combo, and then you throw in the morally questionable Uncle Virge (though he isn’t around as much), and it’s quite a cast. I think that the book being meant for teens, which some people say made it too simple for them, might be the reason that I was able to get into it. The complexities of epic sci-fi and fantasy usually end up leaving me lost and bored. Though some of the descriptions of Draycos’s extra-dimensionalness did go over my head, I’m definitely the right kind of audience for this book, even as an adult. Being a book for teens and fairly short, only one plot line was wrapped up in this book, but I don’t mind that, as I’m happy to continue the series. ( )
  Kristi_D | Sep 22, 2023 |
Thief should steal some brains!

Seems 'Thriller' now means 'for brain dead idiots'...'we can write ANYTHING whether it makes sense or not as long as it's EXCITING ACTION!' ( )
  acb13adm | Sep 13, 2023 |
Timothy Zahn's first foray into YA is a solid, if unremarkable, novel and a fantastic intro for younger readers into the sci-fi genre, particularly if they have only read straight-up fantasy previously.

Dragon and Thief is about a young boy named Jack who has been framed for a crime he didn't commit. He stumbles upon Draycos, a k'da poet-warrior, and the two find a unique bond and shared goal.

The most striking aspect of this book is the dragon. The k'da are an alien species boasting superior strength, speed, and combat prowess. They have talons that can shred metal. They can eat about anything. They have incredible memories and composition abilities. They can see through walls. They're one weakness is an inability to live on their own: a k'da must shift into a 2-dimensional form and bond with a host species, like a living, parasitic tattoo. Without a host, a k'da will die within hours. It's a nice twist on the dragon myth.

There is also Jack's uncle. In a fun surprise, one that reminded me of the dynamic relationship of Alec in the Company series, Jack's uncle [spoiler]is dead, and Jack now lives with an AI rendition of his uncle's knowledge and personality[/spoiler]. I wasn't expecting it, and it is SO quintessential sci-fi. Between him and the dragon, I forgive a lot of sins.

Other parts are not as well done. Jack himself is rather bland. He shifts in mentality from a slightly-annoying 10yo to a rather clever and controlled 14yo boy. As he is supposed to be 10-12, I found this shifts grating. Perhaps the novel would have been better with a slightly older and more believeable protagionist.

The setting is cookie-cutter sci-fi. Grimdark corporations, shady space marines and mercenaries, the usual array of aliens. It feels like sci-fi, and it has the grit of space adventure sci-fi, but we learn very little about the world and there is not much to it that makes it unique. Look at Star Wars, or Star Trek, or BSG...the same trappings are there, but there is a distinct feel and culture to the world. That instant recognizability is lacking in Dragon and Thief. As I said earlier, its nice to introduce kids to sci-fi, but for a sci-fi veteran, you want a bit more detail and richness.

The plot moves very quickly. It is liberally sprinkled with well-done action sequences, primarily chase scenes. Really, for the reading level of the novel, the action is exceptionally well done. Its a shame that it happens almost at the expense of characterization or worldbuilding.

There are a few areas that annoyed me, not because they were implausible, but because they were not addressed. First, everyone miraculously speaks the same language. Even Draycos, who has never encountered a human before, understands him perfectly when he speaks, even before he takes up residence on Jack's hide. Jack understands aliens. Somehow Draycos is completely unable to even memorize the written language of humans, however. Obviously the novel would have dragged if there were language struggles throughout, but I do expect it to be addressed somehow, with some manner of technobabble handwaving. "Ever since 2425, children are given translation chips in their brains." "We are taught basic Common in school, and a few alien dialects." "Once a K'da bonds with a host, it can map its brain to understand the language." etc. etc.

The reason why a k'da needs a host is never explained. I know that it serves as a nice plot device to get them to meet and bond and work together, but its cheating to have a mechanism that supports the plot but is never supported by the universe in which the story is taking place. Again, we only hear "I need to or I'll die!" Why would something evolve that way, why have this odd ability? A simple "We are unable to sleep unless attached to a host. Our people theorize it was a way to reduce the danger we were exposed to while unconscious." or "Our bodies cannot synthesize X/perform metabolic function Y, so we borrow a host to do so." or even "Physically we've long since been able to live without a host. However, it is such a deep psychological/instinctual need that we get sick and die of lonliness." Throw me a bone here.

TL;DR Despite a lack of depth or refinement, a fun and effective intro to a series with some of the most unique dragons around. ( )
  kaitlynn_g | Dec 13, 2020 |
This very sci-fi story is about two unlikely companions. Jack is a boy- about twelve I think- who was raised by a conman, decided to quit that lifestyle and at the opening of the book is hiding out on a mostly uninhabited planet because someone framed him for a very serious theft. Draycos is an alien being, a highly intelligent dragonlike creature trained as a warrior, with a strong sense of honor and ethics. Draycos and his crewmates are fleeing an enemy intent on commiting genocide against his race, when they're ambushed and his ship crashes on the same planet: Draycos is the only survivor. Some dangerous mercenaries come to inspect the crash site, to do away with any possible survivors or witnesses. The boy had approached the crash site out of curiosity but finds himself fleeing alongside Draycos for his life. They strike up a very unusual partnership. Draycos agrees to help Jack solve the mystery of the theft he was blamed for, after which they intend to do something about the aliens that killed Draycos' people- because they are now approaching humankind as well, presumably with similar intent. This quickly becomes a story with a lot of action and intrigue, which ends up centering on a high-stakes heist Jack is forced to perform by his enemies, only in the end to discover the enemy isn't quite who he thought it was. There are encounters with other aliens, chase scenes with narrow escapes, sophisticated break-ins, and other adventures. Not my usual kind of reading yet I was riveted to the page.

The dynamic between Jack and Draycos is a good one- Jack is not really pleased at having to use his thievery skills just when he was trying to start living a reformed life, but at the same time he is often irritated by Draycos' insistence on honorable actions which he perceives as being pointless or getting in the way of their goal. Draycos is literally bound to the boy in order to live (more on that in a moment) but finds Jack's everyone-for-himself attitude troublesome and at one point serious thinks of abandoning him, even though it might mean his own undoing. His often superior attitude reminded me a lot of Ax from the Animorphs books. And there is an even stronger connection:

SPOILERS in this paragraph. I didn't know this aspect going into the book, it took me by as much surprise as it did the main character, and I was instantly intrigued and delighted by the unique idea. The dragonlike alien shifts between dimensions. He can be three-dimensional for a six-hour limit, then must rest or he will die. And he rests by flattening himself into two-dimensional form that lays over the skin of an appropriate host- in this case the boy Jack. He's like a living tattoo that can slide around into any position on the body, and pop out into real space at any point. I've read plenty of books featuring dragons that have some sort of bond with a human partner- mental telepathy or sharing emotions, etc. This idea! It was so fascinating to imagine, and of course gives Jack an edge when facing his enemies who don't know Draycos even exists, much less is travelling along with him at every moment, communicating, planning, and able to snap out into attack mode when the moment is right. The dragon can also bend himself somehow to move through walls, and says that when he is in two-dimensional form "most of my body is now projected along a fourth dimension, outside the bounds of this universe." Does that sound like Z-space to anyone? Ha. But in this case it's handled so well- the alien's attempts to explain a complicated phenomenon of his life-form to an unbelieving boy is totally believable to this reader.

And my fascination with this concept- that Draycos with all his speed, agility, intelligence, claws that can pierce metal and ability to go through walls- yet had a serious vulnerability in depending on this young boy for his continual existence (also he couldn't read written language, a crucial flaw in a few points of the story that he struggled to overcome)- kept me reading with a lot of interest, even though the main premise is outside my usual interest. It's a well-written story too, which also kept me very engaged. There's even some funny moments. Like when they are running from enemies, crash an alien celebration ceremony and avoid being outright killed for the intrusion by pretending to be hired performers. Draycos stepped up to the role very adroitly!

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Aug 21, 2020 |
The Dragonback series is a what they now call a YA [Young Adult] series, but I still like the older designation of a juvenile novel, since I grew up with it, and also because a lot of what is branded as YA seems like utter crap. Here is what Jerry Pournelle had to say in 2011 about juveniles:

I followed Robert Heinlein’s rules on ‘juveniles’ when I wrote it: no sex scenes, and as Robert used to say, a juvenile has young protagonists and you can put in more science and explanations of what’s going on in juvenile works; which is to say it’s a good story, and has always appealed to adults as well as to the 10 – 15 year olds it was sort of written for.

I like re-posting Jerry’s re-iteration of Heinlein’s definition because I find that my appreciation for a well-done juvenile novel only grows with time. I am of course influenced by having small children that I want to share stories with, but I also just like this kind of story, and I have for a long time. Something that is truly only fit for children cannot really be a juvenile novel in this sense, because the author needs to craft something as interesting to adults as to teenagers. A good juvenile is also mildly didactic, which fits well in the general hard sci fi mold. In this case, Zahn’s juvenile series is less about some useful aspect of science than about a young man learning what it means to be a good man after growing up as the orphan apprentice of a con man and a thief.

The hook which sets this series in motion is our young protagonist, Jack Morgan, stumbling across the wreckage of an unfamiliar starship. Within, he finds a lone survivor, desperate and near death. That survivor is dying precisely because he is alone. The K’Da are interdimensional symbionts. Draycos can push himself into three-dimensional space for brief periods, but in order to rest he must allow himself to relax by becoming two-dimensional on the surface of a compatible host. Unfortunately, his host, and all the other crew of his ship, were killed either in battle or in the subsequent crash.

Lacking recourse, Draycos gambles his life upon the possibility that Jack may provide the sanctuary he needs. Gathering his failing strength, he jumps! Zahn will likely have a lot of fun working out the implications of what this means over the next five novels in this series, but for now, Jack Morgan has gained an impressive tattoo/traveling companion with fierce claws and a strong sense of justice.

After this unlikely meeting, Jack and Draycos find that their lives are entwined in more ways than either initially suspects. Jack, despite [or because of?] his past life of crime, is hiding on this desolate planet because he has been unjustly accused of a crime. Draycos and his former crewmates were there seeking a new home, refugees of the losing side of an interstellar war. Somehow, this all hangs together, and part of the fun is finding out how and why.

Jack and Draycos immediately find themselves in each other’s debt, for Jack saves Draycos from dimensional dissolution, and Draycos returns the favor by saving Jack from the mercenary soldier prowling about the crashed ship looking for survivors, or witnesses. Fear and necessity bind them together initially, but the rest of the book, and presumably the following books in the series, are about Jack and Draycos learning about one another while trying to unravel the mystery in which they find themselves entangled.

The structure of Dragon and Thief is primarily a caper, as Jack uses his apprenticeship in crime to good advantage. This makes the novel rather fun, as we get to see Jack and Draycos bluff and scam their way through various adventures. However, Draycos himself makes for an interesting contrast, because his rather grand sense of honor is a continual foil for Jack’s primarily self-serving survival skills.

Jack is simultaneously fascinated and annoyed by Draycos, who like a knight of old, is fierce in battle, but he will not press an unfair advantage or abandon a fallen enemy in distress. Draycos, for his part, is occasionally appalled by Jack’s instincts, but mostly sees their fortuitous meeting as an opportunity to set Jack back on the straight and narrow in recompense for saving his life.

The interplay between them, mediated by the ship’s AI which houses the memory of the con man who raised Jack, is what raises this from an entertaining caper novel to a disquisition in very very applied ethics. The stakes in the story are dramatically high, but the basic questions are more fundamental: do you help someone because you expect recompense, or simply because it is the right thing to do? Do you defend yourself with maximum ruthlessness and force, because your enemies will not deign to extend you the same consideration, or do you seek the minimum of force which will allow you some measure of safety? Who can you really trust? And what hidden agendas lie behind offers of help and good intentions?

Since this is a juvenile novel, and not a work of historical fiction or political intrigue, these questions receive relatively straight forward answers. Which is in my opinion appropriate for the intended audience. At some point, harder questions and harder answers need to be proposed and given, but the result will be better built upon a foundation like this. It is far too easy to drift into nihilism otherwise.

I really liked this book, and I recommend it to fans of adventure fiction and juvenile novels in the Heinlein mold. You can pick the first three of six volumes up on Amazon right now for $2.99 USD, which is a great deal. I’ve got reviews coming of volumes two and three, so don’t fret. ( )
  bespen | Mar 6, 2019 |
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Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:The first novel in the Dragonback series is "a romp of a space thriller" (Booklist) from the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Star Wars: Thrawn.

Jack Morgan is dealing with more trouble than any young man deserves. Raised to be a professional thief and con artist by his late uncle Virgil, he's survived on his uncle's spaceship with the help of an AI program. But when he's accused of a crime he actually didn't commit, Jack is forced to flee to a remote, uninhabited planet where he can stay off the radar for a while.

His solitude is soon interrupted when a ship crashes on Jack's hideout after a terrible space battle. There's only one survivor: a warrior called Draycos, whose reptilian race is being targeted for extinction.

The good news is that if Jack helps Draycos, the odd creature might be able to help clear Jack's name. The not-so-good news is that to survive, Draycos must bondphysically and mentallywith a sentient being to use as his "host."

And it looks like Jack is the only sentient being around . . .

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