This is the fourth, and so far final, novel of S. M. Stirling’s Draka stories (there is also an anthology of short stories by various authors, Drakas!). Apparently a fifth book, a sequel to this one, entitled “Unto Us a Child”, has been planned, but Stirling has indicated this now looks unlikely to ever be published.
The plot of Drakon is quite simple, and is arguably more science fiction than alternate history: hundreds of years in the future, the Draka have conquered all of Earth and in fact the solar system, although a reminant of the Alliance for Democracy (see The Stone Dogs) did escape the Draka by fleeing to Alpha Centauri. As a result of an accident, a single Draka arrives in a parallel world – a late 20th century Earth which is almost exactly like our Earth (sharp eyed readers may notice minor differences like the name of the actor who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels). Can the Draka be stopped before she establishes contact with her home timeline allowing this new Earth to be conquered?
Obviously this story is not intended to be plausible, and you don’t even get the faux plausibility devices that are seen in Marching Through Georgia, Under the Yoke, and The Stone Dogs. The book is written in a lighter tone than the prior novels, and the plot is also a lot more simplistic and action-orientated (I can imagine Drakon making a damned good movie). Furthermore since the technology is effectively magic, it is mainly used to set up the environment for the story, but then takes a backseat to the action. Another noticeable thing is that this book is a lot less brutal and with less sadism than earlier novels in the series (not that they aren’t some gruesome scenes in Drakon).
One criticism that I would make is that (as seems to happen quite frequently in Stirling’s novels) people with environmentalist sympathies are positioned as stock-idiots, or even downright helpful to the baddies (other examples of this in Stirling’s work includes his T2 novels, and Island in the Sea of Time). I found this disappointing – even if you’re skeptical about about many aspects of the green movement, there’s no reason to assume that wanting the human race to be exterminated (T2) or enslaved (Drakon) is a common sentiment among environmentalists.
My other main criticism is the ending. There actual two endings – the first of which is reminiscent of All the Myriad Ways by Larry Niven, except that Stirling doesn’t whole heartedly commit to that ending – I guess he didn’t want to leave readers with the feeling of having worked through a whole novel only to end with an ending telling you the whole thing was pointless. If that’s not enough, we then get a second ending as a kind of postscript – and this seems to be transparently inserted so as to allow a sequel – which since there is no sequel, and there may never be one, I found quite frustrating!
I personally enjoyed this book, and if you’ve read and enjoyed the other Draka works, then I expect that you will too. On the other hand, if you don’t want to read the previous three Draka novels, this book could also be read as a standalone science fiction novel.