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Book Review

Book Review: by Ann Nongsue

Dragon Slayer

That prolific author Dean Barrett has been at it again, this time publishing a weighty three hundred and forty-eight page three novella book “Dragon Slayer” containing Dragon Slayer, Bones of the Chinamen and Golden Dragon (ISBN 0-9788888-0-4, Village East Books Florida).
The three novellas are involved with Chinese history, Chinese culture and Chinese superstition. Now add some fairly gory historical details and some American soldiers and some non-stop action and you are starting to see the way the novellas will unfold. The fact that Dean Barrett was a Chinese linguist with the American Army Security Agency and has lived in Asia for 25 years lends credibility to the writing.
There can be no doubting his knowledge of US firepower in Dragon Slayer, and his previous research into Hong Kong in 1857 (a musical called Fragrant Harbour) is evident in the Bones of the Chinamen, and one presumes the small town USA background is one in which Barrett probably grew up.
Dragon Slayer, the first novella in the trilogy deals with an American helicopter crew from the 82nd Assault Helicopter Company on duty in Vietnam. Like so many of their compatriots they were a fun-loving bunch, ready to break as many rules as the US Army could give them. A target painted under the fuselage of the helicopter read “VC Target Range – Happy Shooting”. These were modern day swashbuckling buccaneers.
The story covers the crew and their one US prisoner, as they get shot down, but crash landing not in Vietnam in 1968, but somehow through a ‘black hole’ or similar time warp, crash landing in China in 1857.
I must admit I was not quite ready for the Sci-Fi aspect, but the narrative and extreme action kept me reading. Dean Barrett has the ability to bring the reader into the plot. The ending was not how I had guessed, so expect something different. A great read on its own.
The second novella is called the Bones of the Chinamen and is set in the 1800’s and totally in a barracoon, which was a holding pen for Chinese slaves before they were shipped off to be used to recover guano from the Peruvian Chinchas, though told at the time that they were going to California for the gold rush. Apparently this story was originally a stage play, which also explains why the entire novella has the one setting. This one is no Sci-Fi but a horror story highlighting the inhumane treatment meted out to the slaves, and also the vagaries of life for even the non-slaves. Again this story has a brilliant psychological ending.
The final in the trilogy, Golden Dragon is a fine example of a paranormal thriller, but with again enough blood spilt to satisfy even the goriest of tastes. And enough shock and horror. This one I could see as a movie. It was also another story that I did not guess the ending anywhere near correct.
At B. 450 RRP and available at Bookazine outlets, this three in one is an excellent read, as well as excellent value, especially for those who like something just that little bit different.