SCI FICTION, December 01, 2004

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"The Dragons of Summer Gulch" by Robert Reed

ImageRobert Reed's "The Dragons of Summer Gulch" is a paleontological treasure hunt, a treatise on the rights and liberties of native peoples, and a quick lesson in dragon biology 101, all fused together into an adventure-laden novelette.  Reed paints a world where dragons are extinct, but their remains are more precious than gold–more precious than platinum plus gold even, which is what their spleens are composed of.  Their fossilized scales and claws are used as (nearly) unbreachable armor and deadly weapons, respectively, in the ubiquitous wars, and their preserved viscera are scientific prizes, promising to open avenues of discovery yet unknown.

The story jumps in a smooth point-of-view leapfrog between Barrow, treasure hunter-cum-prospector-cum-solider, who happens upon an amazing find–a nearly perfectly preserved dragon cadaver; Manmark, a wealthy scholar and adventurer, obsessed by his purpose of discovery and greed; and Zephyr, a trader who deals exclusively in dragon remains.  And then there is the beautiful aboriginal woman: whore and visionary.  The players's varied goals and ambitions converge and collide as they scrabble for the critical prize: dragon eggs.

There's an unmistakable Western frontier ambiance to "The Dragons of Summer Gulch." That and a scientific wonderment that dinosaur discoveries always brings out in me. Reed's novelette merges the current whimsy speculating on the feasibility of bringing back mammoths from extinction, and the flashy awe of prehistoric threats a la Reign of Fire and Jurassic Park.  A rollicking dragonian read with a bit of depth to entice the thoughtful.