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The Dragon's Eye    by Joel Champetier order for
Dragon's Eye
by Joel Champetier
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2000
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Dragon's Eye is an SF thriller set in the future on the planet New China, an Earth colony. Its inhabitants are continually reminded ... Do not look at the Eye of the Dragon! The Dragon's Eye in the story is a blazing A2 blue-white dwarf that causes blindness to unwary inhabitants of the nearby world. New China has been judged too difficult to colonize by more affluent Earth countries and settled by immigrants from China. These colonists are now resentful under the burden of a huge debt, acquired in the process of setting up the colony. Modeled on Earth's ancient Chinese Empire, foreigners are restricted to a closed Enclave and not allowed to mingle with the population. The Enclave teems with spies from various Earth nations.

The story's protagonist is a young European spy, Rejean Tanner, on a mysterious mission which entails making contact with a senior official and close relative to the New Chinese leader. Tanner and a Japanese agent end up leaving the Enclave to travel undercover through New China. Over time, Rejean's experiences, including a romance with young local runaway Qingling, erode his conviction that he is on the right side.

The worlds and world politics are well developed, in particular descriptions of daily living in New China. Some of the futuristic details are very nicely done, especially the cosmetician's techniques in disguising Tanner as a Chinese and the methods by which Earth colonists cope with local divisions of time and with the ever present threat of blindness. However The Dragon's Eye is an amateur's spy story. Young Tanner would not survive for one minute in Le Carre's Cold War Europe or even in Kipling's Asian Great Game. He is naive and trusting, prone to reveal to anyone he meets his true mission and origins!

Overall Champetier gives us good science fiction but a weak thriller. It is well worth reading if you can tolerate the hero's (and his peers') incompetence as spies.The Dragon's Eye introduces an intriguing world and likeable characters, with an ending that parts his two lovers and simply begs for a sequel.

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