Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: Domesticating Dragons by Dan Koboldt

by Dan Koboldt
Release Date: January 5th 2021
2021 Baen Books
Kindle Edition; 345 Pages
ISBN: 978-1982125110
Genre: Fiction / Sci-fi
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Noah Parker, a newly minted Ph.D., is thrilled to land a dream job at Reptilian Corp., the hottest tech company in the American Southwest. He’s eager to put his genetic engineering expertise to use designing new lines of Reptilian’s feature product: living, breathing dragons.

Although highly specialized dragons have been used for industrial purposes for years, Reptilian is desperate to crack the general retail market. By creating a dragon that can be the perfect family pet, Reptilian hopes to put a dragon into every home.

While Noah’s research may help Reptilian create truly domesticated dragons, Noah has a secret goal. With his access to the company’s equipment and resources, Noah plans to slip changes into the dragons’ genetic code, bending the company’s products to another purpose entirely.
My Thoughts
Domesticating Dragons caught my attention simply because the word 'dragons' was in the title and I was curious as to how a science-fiction book was going to handle a subject that you would typically find in the fantasy genre.  I was definitely not disappointed as I found myself enjoying this book quite a bit, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the main characters and the dragons.  It was just pure fun.
Noah is one of those characters that really grew on me as the story progressed.  I wasn't a huge fan at the beginning as he was so consumed with his own agenda; I was sympathetic to the fact that he was trying to help his brother receive gene therapy, but was refused because they couldn't get an official diagnosis, and Noah was going to use the dragons to help, but it was more his attitude and his way of going about things that wasn't so endearing.  However, he definitely grew on me as the story progressed and I came to like him more and more.  I thought the author did a great job unveiling his personality and making him likeable, especially once the dragons came into the picture and he began to care for something other than his own agenda.  Noah did have a pretty good sense of humour as a main character, and I definitely appreciated his self-deprecating attitude. 

As a counterpoint to his days spent coding, Noah was a geocacher, and I really enjoyed those chapters devoted to his searches for those treasures. Here he runs into an old acquaintance, his ex-girlfriend's roommate, and together, they try to beat some of the more difficult geocache locations which are out in the Arizona desert. Summer was a really fun character to get to know, and if I have any criticism in this book, it's that I didn't get to learn as much as I wanted about her as she was  a really interesting character. And she could kick butt too!! There is definitely a lot more that happens with this side of the story, but there are spoilers here and I don't want to give anything away.  

I particularly enjoyed some of the added chapters from sales representatives or I guess they would be more like dragon help-lines.  They were pretty funny and added a lot of comedy/hilarity to the story; I couldn't help laughing out loud at some of the them.  Unfortunately, I could actually see some of these scenarios actually occurring.

The story itself moves rather quickly, especially in the second half of the book where most of the action really takes place.  And although there is a lot of talk about the funny types of dragons, and the cuddly ones, the author never lets you forget how dangerous they can be through certain scenes and certain scenarios.  It took everything in me not to check the last page of the book to make sure a certain dragon survived as I was more attached to it than to the main characters. 
Noah has a PhD in genetic engineering, and the book spent a lot of time talking about coding and genetics, something I appreciated.  The company for which he works, Reptilian, has created dragons to replace dogs which were wiped out several years ago due to a viral pestilence that has no cure. Noah's job was to help find the genetic markers that would turn the instinctual nature of a dragon to eat you into one that is domesticated, playful, and relatively tame.   The whole coding process and the types of dragons they created was pretty cool, and I even started longing for one myself.  Even one of Noah's previous programs was incorporated into the program at Reptilian and the coders all competed trying to create the perfect domesticated dragon, all within company parameters, of course, because the coders' agendas and the agendas of the CEO are not necessarily compatible. And this is where a secondary plot line comes into play. And this is where I will leave it as it's better not knowing what will happen.

Domesticating Dragons was a lot of fun and I devoured the book.  I do have a science background as well as history background, but I have no experience with genetics and coding so, to be honest, I have no idea if any of this is even remotely feasible.  I really enjoyed reading about the scientists' process as they discovered the domesticated dragons as too many science-fiction books tend to focus on the end result and not the process.  The plot moved quickly, especially in the second half, and the characters were interesting. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different. And it involves dragons!!



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