"Cooperation can save the day"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted September 10, 2015
Science Fiction Space Opera
This sparky, action-filled science fiction novella
brightened up my day just by reading it. In a previous
instalment in the light space opera series by James
McCormick, I learned that Dragon is the name of an advanced
spacecraft and it's smart, not too wise or brave, and the pilot is a
lad called Sillow. Now in DRAGON: THE TOWER OF TAMERLANE,
the plot thickens and the zombie droids rampage.
Sillow agrees to act as a spy after his burly friend Brok
gets married and retires from the active smuggler life. By
this time Sillow has built-in nanobot connections to his
Dragon ship's operating computer. This is an age of
technical marvels, which include a shrivelled megalomaniac
turning himself into a computer virus presence in order to
infiltrate a computer in a privatised convict holding
facility run by a different, beefy megalomaniac. Well, when
the galaxy is within your reach, why not grasp it? Sillow
agrees to slip in and discover what is going on. He's soon
This merry romp involves plenty of running, fighting and
swordplay, as well as tech work and zombies. We meet a fine
Amazonian lady called Titanya who gives Sillow the
necessary powerful arm, while other characters are strong
individuals and memorable, especially the villains. Readers
just looking for light relief will enjoy this tale on its
own but I suggest that it would help to have read the
earlier books in the Dragon series, if only so that we
feel invested in Brok's marriage. Those who enjoy horror
will like certain scenes more than I did but that didn't
stop me from enjoying the whole. DRAGON: THE TOWER OF
TAMERLANE reminds us that even when everyone is out to get
you, cooperation can save the day.
After the death of the Tuolon Ambassador Lagua and the
failure to bring the
non-humanoid worlds into the Alliance, Sillow and Brok’s
long partnership is
finally at an end. Now a reluctant solo agent, Sillow is
called upon to
undertake his first mission, investigate the Tower, a
tech prison complex
along with the oligarch who runs it, a mysterious
who calls himself
Seeking evidence to prove Tamerlane is responsible for a
series of terrorist
attacks, Sillow quickly uncovers the sheer scale of his
plans, a lethal military
strike on all four humanoid home worlds.
Caught and imprisoned however, the Sylvan finds himself
helpless to warn the
Alliance of the coming danger.
All the while, something has been evolving, growing
stronger inside the
Tower, something intangible yet far more dangerous than
could be, a being implacably opposed to all life in the
And only Sillow has any chance of stopping it.
Excerpt“Take a good look Drake,” the guard said as the craft
closed on the gigantic, ornate structure resting between
frozen mountains. “This is the end of the line for you. I
hear Tamerlane wanted you personally.” The man grinned,
splitting his ugly face in half. “Which ain’t good for
your scrawny ass, believe me.”
The prisoner remained indifferent to the mocking tones or
indeed the attempt to scare him, but then Darius Drake
was a most unusual figure. Small and malformed, his
owlish eyes nevertheless exuded an absolute, unshakable
confidence, a haughty detachment that often unnerved
those around him. The guard was one of them. It was
partly for this reason he felt compelled to say something
to the perfectly silent prisoner who’d got so deep under
Drake regarded the structure below. The closer they came,
the more like some bizarre, oriental tower it appeared.
After some moments he turned his watery gaze back to the
guard. There was no aggression, no challenge, just a cool
The smirk crumbled from the other man’s lips. “You be
taking those psycho eyes off me freak,” he warned,
lifting his rifle.
Drake blinked impassively back, his wrinkled, wizened
Those damn eyes, the man thought. He couldn’t stand them
anymore. He moved forward, stopping the rifle butt just
an inch or so in front of Drake’s face.
The little man didn’t flinch.
The guard’s knuckles whitened around the weapon and for a
moment he looked as if he might use it. Then he sneered.
“You ain’t worth it. Little cripple like you.” He shook
his head, sitting back down. He made a point of avoiding
the prisoner’s eyes.
A derisive snort made him whirl round, a large blue vein
bulging in his neck. The guard stared at a powerfully
built, buxom woman with long auburn curls that fell to
her shoulders. She was a striking sight, and as he was
aware, she’d caught him more than once ogling her during
their half day’s journey to Tamerlane’s prison complex.
One of her shoulders and arm was completely cybernetic
yet the metal was so smooth, so perfectly formed it
seemed almost like a bodily adornment rather than an
artificial appendage. A thin silver line ran across one
of her cheeks whilst above it the eye glowed with an
artificial soft ruby light. That eye was mocking him.
“You got a problem?” he snarled.
The woman sneered. “Real tough guy aren’t you Kerry? Bet
all the ladies are real impressed by you.”
The guard’s nostrils flared. “Shut your bitch mouth.”
Narrowed eyes swept over her. “Look at you, Titanya, the
Pirate Queen. Least that’s what they call you, ain’t it?”
He slid along his bench, moving towards to her. “Well you
don’t look so noble to me. More like a slattern.” He
placed a gloved hand to her throat. “Don’t look so damn
tough neither.” The woman licked her full lips. “Tell you
what lover boy. Take these restraints off and let’s see.”
The guard pressed his face closer to hers. “Let’s not, I
like you just the way you are.” He leaned in as if to
kiss her. “Nice and easy, which I guess you are anyway.”
Before he could achieve his amorous objective however
Titanya swung out a boot. It connected squarely between
his legs. The man let out a soft moan and collapsed to
the floor, instinctively curling up in embryonic fashion.
The lights inside the craft suddenly flashed red. A bull-
necked pilot poked his head around the doorway. “What the
hell you playing at Kerry?” he barked. “Get off the floor
and strap yourself in. I’m taking us in for landing.”
The guard gave a groan by way of acknowledgment then
after a couple of deep breaths succeeded in rolling
himself into a kneeling position. He glared at the woman.
“What’s the matter baby?” she asked. “Foreplay a little
rough for you?”
“You’re going to get yours,” he spat. He slowly unfolded
himself, getting shakily to his feet.
Titanya smiled sweetly. “Not from you, lover boy.”
“This is as far as I go,” Kerry told the two prisoners as
they entered the honey comb chamber. “Crims only past
this point.” The whole area was built from translucent
plasi-steel and the walls danced with the beautiful yet
deadly ice storm raging outside. Swarms of bug like
droids flew back and forth, attending to a myriad of
In the distance two figures melted out of the shadows.
Kerry thrust a hand into the small of Titanya’s back.
“Escort’s arrived. You’ll just love these guys. Tamerlane
calls them his ‘daichin,’ that means warrior in
The figures strode toward them. Broad shouldered and
powerfully built with stern oriental faces they appeared
indistinguishable from each other. Each wore identical
dark leather armor.
Kerry’s nerve broke as they drew near. “I’m out of here,”
he said, hooking a thumb toward the exit. With that he
turned and beat a hasty retreat. Docking bay doors
slammed behind him.
The figures stopped. One of them drew a curved blade and
pointed it at each of the prisoners, barking something in
a harsh, guttural language. He grabbed the woman by her
silver arm and flung her forward. Such was his strength
she was barely able to stay on her feet. The second
daichin went to do the same to Drake but the little man
held up a frail hand. Something stayed the fearsome
figure and before he could decide exactly what he was
going to do Drake moved forward unmolested. His movements
were stiff, almost clockwork in their manner.
They walked for some time, first passing out of the
honeycombed area then into a series of chambers that
struck Titanya as belonging in some kind of exotic
palace. From time to time they came across other daichin,
all near perfect replicas of the two now escorting them.
“These guys give me the creeps,” the woman said. “What
are they, clones or something?”
“Indeed,” Drake replied, his tone flat and emotionless.
“These brutish specimens represent Tamerlane’s idea of a
master race. He is misguided.”
“How so?” Titanya asked.
“Biological creatures are imperfect,” the man answered,
myopic eyes staring into the distance.
An insect droid buzzed past the Earth woman’s cheek. She
waved it away with an irritated hand. “I hear you like
machines more than people,” she commented.
Drake blinked. “Machines are pure. They are perfect. Take
for example the incredible AI system Tamerlane has
created here.” He regarded his shriveled hand. “Flesh is
nothing in comparison.”
The woman’s beautiful features creased in a frown.
“You’re a real odd ball Drake, you know that?”
The little man’s expression didn’t alter. “I’m not as
other men,” he allowed. “Soon I intend to become far much
more.” There was a cold, calculated exhilaration in his
owl-like eyes as he spoke.
Titanya studied him. “I don’t believe it. You wanted to
get caught, didn’t you? You wanted to be brought here?”
She shook her head. “Why?”
A heavy palm across her head made her stagger.
“Hey,” she shouted, rubbing the back of her skull.
The daichin waved at a gigantic cog wheel just before
them. The wheel was turning, internal gears grinding. The
cog rolled aside, revealing a long, brightly lit corridor
in front of them.
Drake’s little body trembled, but not from fear.
One of the daichins took hold of Titanya. The other
indicated for Drake to proceed ahead with him.
The little figure moved forward in his clockwork fashion,
attention entirely on what was before him, indifferent to
anything else. He looked far from being the condemned
“Darius Drake,” the robed figure greeted the little man
as his prisoner was led into the laboratory. Like the
daichin, he was oriental in appearance yet in contrast to
the other’s bullish physique he wall tall and slender.
There was also an aristocratic bearing about him, the
long drooping moustache and slim braided knot of beard
giving the appearance of a warlord monarch. He smiled,
revealing a row of savage teeth filed into points.
He stepped away from a hi-tech casket of flashing lights
and moved toward his prisoner. “I’ve long wished to meet
the individual who masterminded the attack on the
Alliance’s armada and the theft of its Arkonium.” He ran
a hand down the braided knot at his chin. “And why would
you need the most dangerous substance in known space? To
continue your string of terrorist attacks against the
human race no doubt.” He sighed. “Such a limited vision
Mr. Drake. I however have a far greater one. To achieve
it though I will need your precious horde.”
The warlord studied his prisoner with black, piercing
eyes. “It wasn’t easy to secure your contract. It took a
lot of bribes, a little blackmail and even one or two
unfortunate accidents to make it happen. One of them
wasn’t even of my doing.”
Drake blinked. “I know. It was mine.”
Tamerlane arched an eyebrow. “Then I should thank you.
Without your assistance I could never have gotten you
here. Although I suspect you will soon regret doing so.”
Drake shook his head. “I’m exactly where I wish to be.”
The warlord studied his prisoner, a mixture of curiosity
and puzzlement on his cruel features. “I wonder what you
mean by that.” He was silent for some moments then
clapped his hands. Metallic cables unfolded from above
and wrapped themselves around Drake, hauling him into the
air. “Most curious.” A view screen flashed into life on
the far wall. Tamerlane turned to it. “Now, let’s get a
look at you. See if those rumors of all those
augmentations are true.” He studied the screen.
“Impressive, skeletal and lymphatic system, major
internal organs, even much of your soft tissue has been
replaced. Most sufferers of Progeria die of old age
before they reach twenty but you’ve managed to extend
your own span by decades.” He regarded the cranial
readout. “But this, ah, this is something entirely
unique. Your entire higher brain functions are digitally
encoded. I’m not sure if you’re cognitive processes are
even biological anymore. What an incredible intellect you
He waved a hand at the casket and the tentacles swung
Drake towards it, flinging him inside. A metallic cord,
the end tipped with a glowing ruby needle, reared up and
poised itself just above Drake’s forehead. Tamerlane
smiled. “Now it belongs to me.” The cable sprang forward.
Drake offered no resistance as it pierced his skull and
dove into his electronic brain. His eyes flickered then
A translucent panel closed over the casket and a super-
chilled mist filled the interior. Tamerlane studied the
information flooding into his super-computer. “Now, let’s
see where you’ve hidden my Arkonium.” He stretched out a
hand and the daichin hurriedly poured out a goblet of
wine, placing it in his master’s grip. The warlord took a
large gulp as he watched the data falling like raindrops
down the screen. He frowned. Something wasn’t right. Some
of the data leaking out of Drake’s mind seemed corrupted
somehow, as if hidden programs were flooding into the
system. Surely such a thing was impossible. His AI was
perfect, impervious to infection. He drained the rest of
his goblet, watching the screen anxiously. If something
was wrong then all his plans were in jeopardy. The
invaluable secrets and specialized knowledge of dozens of
super criminals were inside it, as were the meticulous
plans concerning his Golden Horde.
He hurled the goblet away, his dark features reddening,
not from drink but from anger. Yet just as suddenly the
anomaly flickered away. Tamerlane watched for some time
before he was satisfied there was no more problem.
“Wine,” he barked.
The daichin went to retrieve the goblet.
The heavy set man handed him the wine.
Tamerlane drained the vessel, enjoying the warmth it
spread though his body. A sense of exhilaration filled
him. His destiny was about to begin.
He never noticed the eyes appear on the screen, large,
owl like eyes.
What do you think about this review?
No comments posted.
Registered users may leave comments.
Log in or register now!