This Lair’s Draggin’ by garrie keyman
Novice writer Lisa Guilfoil’s debut, The Dragon’s Lair, introduces a young bar owner whose traumatic past catches up with her. Confronting her demons is Skye Dakota, the supposedly tough-as-Teflon proprietor of the Dragon’s Lair, a well-appointed bar on space station Pettit. Set in a nebulous Earth-referenced future where space stations boast not only bars, but also Olympic-size swimming pools and thoroughly-equipped gyms, The Dragon’s Lair reads like an early draft of a promising tale that evaded an editor’s pen.
Tough, I suppose, because she is a vodka-swilling masochist, Skye Dakota is beaten to a pulp by a couple of bad’uns early in the book. Her recovery is painfully slow, especially for the reader. Skye learns the biggest bad’un of ‘em all is the one who had her roughed up and she means to find out why, but her pummeling stirs memories that haunt her dreams.
Enduring countless days of self-induced insomnia using something referred to as stim stix, Skye begins pulling away from her small circle of friends. After surviving on alternating doses of vodka and coffee while punishing herself with grueling work-outs, she at last decides she must return to her roots, where her old friends are apparently tougher than her current crew, and can help her re-gain her ‘edge’ to face down space gangster Viktor.
If it’s any clue about the book’s pace, this set-up takes 174 pages.
Guilfoil is a young writer yet to learn what show, don’t tell really means. What’s more, she tells us over and over and over. Nevertheless, victims of domestic violence harboring revenge fantasies might have spun The Dragon’s Lair into a campy cult classic if Kill Bill hadn’t come along first.
While The Dragon’s Lair is not being marketed as any particular genre, it reads like a romance set in space. Tossed in for that groovy sci-fi effect are words like chronometer and vidcom, while sprinkled throughout is the occasional unexplained (and therefore ever annoying) foreign term. With 287 pages of story wearing 421 pages of text, The Dragon’s Lair might have fared better if Guilfoil had turned one of her tale’s bloody knives on her manuscript; there are entire scenes and characters that should have been nixed.
What’s more, with a volume this thick you might at least expect a substantial subplot, but don’t look for it here. In truth, the most impressive part of this novel is Kandace Wright’s richly-drawn, if darkly-rendered, cover art, even if what’s lurking beyond the door is anyone’s guess. It looks like the framework to the Hindenburg.
Get past the heroine’s name, the smatterings of Shakespeare (Hey, they did it in Star Trek, right?) and strings of adjectives where one would do, and you might actually read The Dragon’s Lair cover to cover. If you do, let me know… and how many stim stix it took to do it.