I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
I'm just pretending that Grimlock wins that fight, by the way, much like this books wins... everything.
Chasing the Dragon is a clever little novella about a dragonslayer descended from Saint George who ends up, well, chasing the dragon. Horse is her drug of choice, of course, and Georgia takes great pleasure in getting her hits long before it truly becomes pivotal to the plot of this story.
However, every detail ends up to be integral; every story line ties into the main plot, and it's impressive looking back at how much is in this slim volume. (No, seriously, after promising the author that I'd have this up, and knowing exactly which shelf and a half this is on, I proceeded to panic as I couldn't find it. Then I shifted the books on those bookshelves five times, looked on my other shelves, shifted the original bookshelves five more times, and then realized that it was in one of the first piles I'd looked at. Obviously, my memory of how much had been packed into this book influenced my search: I was looking for a far larger novel than this is in reality.)
Also, I told the author I'd have this done by this weekend. What I should have said was, 'holy shit, you're writing is my crack, and I'll have this up within forty eight hours.' I put off, like, everything - and yes, buddy, I will catch up on my buddy read later tonight - to finish this book. Because I needed to reread to catch all those details before reviewing, and the plan was to read half or so of this today and then buddy read, and then finish this tomorrow or the day after. Fail. I have no self-control. Plus, crack. Total crack. Or horse. Or whatever. It's also kinda funny to me that a book about a drug addict is so addictive that I literally got pissed off at anything in the way of me finishing this book. Driving? Why aren't the lights longer? Another couple hours, that's all I need. Food? Who needs it when you have Chasing the Dragon to read! Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood - and you know how much I love that shit - can wait!
Yup. It was all Georgia for me today. And I keep changing my mind about what exactly is most amazing about this book. Is is the fact that there is so much about Georgia and her backstory that explains why she is a drug addict? Is is that despite me despising drug addicts in general as main characters, I was charmed by Georgia? (I'm not going to go on a lengthy rant about drug addicts as characters... here.) Or was it the original mythology surrounding the dragon and how it kept me guessing as to what the outcome would be? I don't know, all I know is that goddamn, I love this book!
Yup, it deserves sexy GIFs. Mmm. Bee.
But you really want to hear about the book, right? Because as much as this is fantasy, and as much as there are elements such as dragons and dragon-controlled zombies, this is really a story about loss and despair and how someone does become addicted to heroin. At least how it might happen. It's a story about overcoming, that, though.
By the way, here's where I rant about characters who are drug addicts. I first read them in Bret Ellis Easton. It was back when I absolutely, 100% refused to not finish books... until I ran across Less Than Zero. (Don't worry. Much like Georgia's backstory, this will be relevant!) I've hated main characters who are drug addicts since then. It was so vapid, and so much about rich, bored kids, and so fucking pointless. Yeah, that book sucked so bad, I've had a bias ever since. I actually hate Easton's writing in general, or so I found when I tried reading American Psycho, but Less Than Zero was the first book I read by him. I see a character who's a drug addict and think, 'they're vapid and just don't take responsibility and...' I have a really long list. Anyway, yeah, I bought this book since I was going to see Kaufman at Readercon and I have a lovely inscription in this book from him. I actually try to read these books before Readercon, but this one was one that I didn't get to, and I was reading it in the Con-suite, unable to put it down. I told Kaufman that when I cornered him to sign it, and that people were asking about the book and I was telling them how much I adored it. And I remember he said I made his night. A favor he returned by remembering me as the crazed Transformers fan in an Optimus Prime shirt. (I also now have two funny stories about that shirt, so thank you for that, too.)
Georgia has reasons for starting out her drug addiction. I still didn't sympathize with her just 'cos she had a reason! Everyone does, don't they? She actually felt guilt and shame when she had to steal from the dead to get money for food, she actually had a reason to continue injecting - a reason that finally did make me sympathize, although this happened long after she'd started taking drugs. She was, despite her heroin addiction, clever and took responsibility for chasing the dragon - the real one, not the drug - eventually. She didn't let the addiction get in the way of chasing the actual dragon. (< -- no one count how many times I use some form of 'chasing the dragon' in this review!)
This is a rather simple story, wrapped up in this new, complex world Kaufman has created. In the end, it's got one real character that this hinges on, and that's Georgia. If you don't like her, then there's not another character you spend enough time with to redeem the novella for you. It's a bold move, but it pays off: by focusing on Georgia alone, you can really get to know her story without bogging the reader down with anything else. The story is about Georgia, and Georgia alone, and it feels all the more intimate for that fact. I feel slightly voyeuristic after reading this, but it's also very satisfying to know one character so well.
I didn't think I'd like the ending as much as I did when I saw where I thought it was going. The truth is that the ending really did surprise me, and in a way that made me happier than I suspected I would be when I originally started this the first time last year. Part of it is that the story presents a never-ending struggle, and I'm a little jaded when it comes to the 'it's about the journey!' stories. They're usually either, 'you can do something,' or 'resign yourself to it, sucka' endings. This one, however, struck a nicely balanced approach, and was far more perfect than anything I'd imagined before I got to that ending.
Not only that, this is a quicker read than I remembered. Not in a bad way; in the best of ways. Much like Asimov, in fact, who I read quite quickly. The pleasure isn't in such complex sentences, such heavy prose, that you have to pick it apart; the pleasure is in simply leaning back, and mulling over that world, those characters, and what they mean in context to life in general. Asimov excels at this, and there aren't all that many writers who I feel are up to par when it comes to this type of writing. Kaufman, though? Kaufman comes pretty damn close, if he doesn't match Asimov. (And while Asimov did write fantasy and mystery, I, surprise, surprise, pretty much stuck to robots, so I'm thinking of I, Robot and Robot Dreams in particular here.) The content may differ, but the sense of fulfillment that comes from dwelling on the story is the same.
Oh, yeah, and I like to try to keep a bit of balance. Negative? And I bring this up because Chizine Press is usually so careful about editing, so this one typo stuck out in my mind, to the point where I remembered the page it was on to type it out later: "It settled warmly around her, and suddenly the warehouse was gone and she was girl again..."
It should be 'a' girl. Um, that's it for the negative. It did kind of take me out of the story for one second, but then I was like, 'must has ending!' again.
Random GIF! Because it makes me as happy as the book does.