Monday, August 14, 2017

Gork, The Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

Size matters. No dragon wants his horns to be too small or his heart too large, especially during the awkward teenage years. Suffering from both of these maladies, our hero Gork must navigate the toxic dragon masculinity of WarWings Academy and Planet Blegwethia.

Making matters worse for Gork is that these flaws are not subjective: they are objectively ranked and broadcast on his data display, alerting all to his dangerously low levels of Mating Magnetism and Will to Power, and his dangerously high Heart Mass Index. Bad enough for any teenage dragon, but even worse when your guardian and grandfather is the notoriously toxic Dr. Terrible. How will Gork ever be able to find a Queen and conquer some distant planet?

Yes, here there be dragons in Gabe Hudson’s Gork, The Teenage Dragon. Literal, smelly, scaly dragons. Mutant dragons with their heads in their midsections. Robot dragons like Gork’s flirty female friend Fribby. Bullying dragons who make Gork’s life miserable. An entire society of dragons. Dragons that breathe fire and fly at incredible speeds, but also dragons with superb technology and very human teenage drama.

And just as on the maps of yore, these dragons indicate danger. Danger that Gork will never live up to expectations of his grandfather and the template for male dragonhood. Danger that Gork’s tender, enlarged heart and proclivity for fainting will lead to a solitary life of servitude. Danger that, alternately, Gork will slay the perceived dragon of his own sensitivity to live out the script being written in the evil machinations of Dr. Terrible.

You don’t have to read Gork, The Teenage Dragon as an amusing commentary on less than amusing aspects of contemporary culture to enjoy it, but it’s hard not to. Your enjoyment of Hudson’s novel will largely rise and fall with your enjoyment of Gork’s narrative voice. I found the narration to be a winning mix of teenage snark, teenage angst, and teenage lust (Gork may have small horns, but he is plenty horny, and there is much talk of loins).

Plot-wise, Gork is a breezy read, with plenty of deus ex machina, deus ex draco, and techno-geekery. And by showing us Gork’s comic struggle to learn what it means to be a dragon, Hudson sneaks in some serious thinking about what it means to be human, making Gork, The Teenage Dragon the mother of all teenage dragon novels.

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