I love the Ology World books, especially Dragonology, and I think it’s even better when you’re a big kid who has had to accept that dragons don’t exisI love the Ology World books, especially Dragonology, and I think it’s even better when you’re a big kid who has had to accept that dragons don’t exist. Dragonology takes the subject of dragons utterly seriously, detailing different species, behaviour and tips on how to track and train them. The Dragon’s Eye is the first in a spin off series of YA fiction novels and ever since I read Dragonology I have been a little bit intrigued about what these books have to offer.
Well, quite a bit actually. I think the real strength in The Dragon’s Eye is the fact that it’s based on a pseudo-factual book, Dragonology. There’s a great sense that the book is based on real life events involving real creatures because there’s a boxful of literature that says so. The fantastical becomes the actual. It pulls on all the information you can find in the Dragonology books and gives it a storyline, and if you’re lucky enough to have the Ology books, you find yourself using them as some kind of reference guide despite the fact that you know it’s all made up. If you haven’t read Dragonology then fear not because The Dragon’s Eye is not dependent on it, you can still easily understand and enjoy the story as everything is explained. In fact, if you don’t know anything about dragons you’re in for a deep end learning experience as the lead characters don’t know anything to begin with either but end up experts.
The language has a wonderful Victorian quaintness about it, giving it an authenticity of the period and adding to the realism. Mixing this with the fantastical element of dragons makes for a great adventure story. I think my only real niggle is that it can be a bit too quaint at times. The lead characters are 12 and 13 so you imagine this is roughly the target reader age and it feels a little like the author is a bit out of touch with what 12 and 13 year olds are reading these days. It just lacks a bit of guts, you never feel like the heroes are in any genuine danger, the kind where the way out is not clear and there’s no one to rescue them. I found it a bit patronising at times and I’m sure modern young teens would feel the same – they can handle a lot more emotional depth in a story than this book allows.
Having said that, I still really enjoyed The Dragon’s Eye. Sometimes you just want a happy, heart-warming story where the good guys are guaranteed to win and that is certainly what is on offer here. There are also some incredible pencil drawings dotted around the book which add a great dimension and a visual treat. There should be more illustrations in books I say! Overall, this is a good story, harmless fun that’s toasty warm and that’s not just because there’s a lot of fire-breathing going on.
Not so long ago I watched a comedy programme on TV where a scientist came on and talked about drugs that would effectively stop cell degradation, resuNot so long ago I watched a comedy programme on TV where a scientist came on and talked about drugs that would effectively stop cell degradation, resulting in a massive slowing of the aging process in humans. The scientist claimed that these drugs would become available in the next 30 years and they would be used to prevent diseases such as dementia, cancer, motor neurone and other horrible ailments. As soon as he said this I didn’t believe it would be that straightforward and the idea of “immortality” or at least life-doubling drugs has been playing on my mind ever since. I am especially intrigued by the social impact these drugs would have. Would they be available to everyone? Would there be an elite class of immortals who could afford the drugs? What would happen to employment levels and would we have enough resources for a sudden increase in the population?
When I downloaded The Declaration I wasn’t entirely sure what the story was about but I am so glad I read this book as it has tapped into these questions that I have been toying with for many months. Gemma Malley has put together an incredibly well thought out future where immortality is the norm and has comprehensively explored the impact such a change in society would have. I think she’s hit me in the face with the reality I didn’t want to admit: that procreation would be made illegal. And then she takes it a step further by exploring this future through the eyes of a girl who was illegally brought into the world. Anna’s voice is so wonderfully institutionalised with capitals on big doctrinal concepts like “Knowing Your Place” and at the start even in her head she follows the rules that have been implanted in her brain since childhood. What is really special about the writing is that as the story unfolds, this voice gradually and very subtly becomes more inquisitive and less accepting. At the same time, the mystery and threat builds and the sense of safety within the doctrine slips away with each chapter. I think this is my favourite style of writing, where developments just seep into your reading – Anna’s relationship with Peter, the discovery of the truth and the curing of the indoctrination – nothing ever switches immediately, forcing you to stumble through a few chapters as you try to come to terms with a sudden change in attitude. It is completely natural.
I think The Declaration really embodies the spirit of dystopia. It’s a world that people have tried to force into a utopia and in doing so have made it completely the opposite. Gemma has been entirely successful in showing the reader the truth about humanity, the side we try to cover up in inspirational, God-Bless-America films and heart-warming documentaries. She has brought out the worst in people, the cruelty and wilful self-preservation that humanity has an alarming propensity for when it comes to the crunch. Don’t forget that alongside those films and documentaries are Big Brother and The Apprentice.
I’m so glad I read The Declaration as not only is it a brilliant story well written it has helped me to work through what would really happen – not just my optimistic and fair ideality – if humanity became immortal and I have now made up my mind that it cannot happen. I think Gemma herself sums it up beautifully in Anna’s metaphor: “‘I mean, old leaves fall off trees, don’t they? Why should old humans stay and the new ones not be allowed? Is that really what Mother Nature wants?’”