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Stalking the Dragon

Posted by Dan Smyth On Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Stalking the Dragon by Mike Resnick is apparently the third in the John Justin Mallory series of fantastical detective stories. It was reprinted by Pyr a bit ago, and I hadn’t read a whole lot by Resnick, so thought I’d pick it up.

Our story starts out with a brief intro of Mallory, the detective and main character of our story, staring into a magical mirror on Valentine ’s Day and getting ready to take his partner out to dinner. Then this big, hulk of a man with horns on his head hires Mallory to find his prize-winning, toy dragon by 4 pm the following day, at which time it’s supposed to compete in a pet show (think dog-show and you won’t be far off). Normal detective-like happenings ensue.

Two things become perfectly clear very quickly. One, this ain’t Kansas. Mallory lives in an alternate-reality Manhattan. It’s got demons, and goblins, and zombies, and all the chaos of a fantastical world, while still conforming to some of the standard’s we’re familiar with, like gambling, detective agencies and grocery stores. The second thing that’s obvious is that this is a book that supposed to be funny and it doesn’t matter what kind of nonsense is necessary to make that happen, everything is arranged around this single concept (just look at the cover--it should give you a good idea as to the silliness of the novel).

For the most part, the story is dialogue-driven with puns and gags in just about every other line. Humor is the word of the day, and the word of the day is humor. There’s loads of it, ranging across the whole spectrum of possibility, from laugh-out loud funny to groan-inducing horrible. The beginning is especially heavy, but eventually it evens out into something approaching regular.

The pacing of the story for the most part was good. There were spots with pun after pun after pun that slowed things down, and then there were those others surprisingly devoid of humor that made we wonder where it had gone to. The plot moves quickly from one step to the next as Mallory tries to figure out just what has happened to the toy dragon (not a miniature, a toy, and no that doesn’t mean it’s plastic either, as is assumed so many times).

The characters, besides Mallory, are all one-trick ponies. There’s a jealous magic mirror, a violent cat-girl who is always hungry, an overly-amorous cell phone, an inept goblin with a sword, and a zombie that’s particular about following instructions, to name a few. Interaction between any of them and Mallory was consistent. The cell phone is always hitting on him. The cat-girl is always threatening to kill someone. The zombie is continually screwing up because of the lack of detailed instructions. Their interaction is funny and sometimes hilarious, but toward the end it begins to drag a bit. One scene with a random goblin got me good, wherein it tried to sell Mallory a book of pornography that was disguised as a true-to-form Oxford English Dictionary. I won’t spoil the punch-line for you, but to say the least it got a hearty guffaw out of me.

This is really a quick popcorn read. Something to make you laugh, to get into and out of without much effort. It’s not a thinker. It’s not supposed to make sense, though some pieces of it do. The two small complaints I have is that things did get a bit repetitive, and there’s a startling lack of humor during the climax of the book. Definitely worth reading though. I should probably pick up something else by this guy. He’s certainly written enough.

Recommended age: 16+
Language: A little
Violence: A zombie gets shot up
Sex: Suggestive dialogue and numerous references to pornography

Mike Resnick's Website


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