cover image The Dragon's Eye

The Dragon's Eye

Joel Champetier, Champetier. Tor Books, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86882-6

Champetier's first novel to be rendered into English--a 1991 Canadian volume written in French and translated by the author--takes the myth of the superspy thrown into a strange world and inverts it. With his red hair, R jean Tanner, a rookie secret agent for the Earth's European Bureau, is as conspicuous as a sunburn on New China, a planet over which the Dragon's Eye, a blue-white dwarf star, dictates everything from working hours to styles of dress. This blinding star's dangerous ultraviolet rays have kept Earth's Western countries from colonizing New China. Only the rural inhabitants of New China, who disdain birth control and are therefore desperate for real estate, have been interested in inhabiting it. The expense of interplanetary transportation, however, and of biotechnological research, has left New China so indebted to the industrialized nations of Earth that it cannot raise enough money to settle its loans and become completely independent from Earth--but secessionism, and terrorism to spur it on, is in the air. After his superior is wounded during a secessionist attack, Tanner, cosmetically altered to look Chinese, embarks on a dangerous mission: with the help of Japanese agent Jay Hamakawa, he must find an important undercover agent who has stopped responding to the Bureau's messages. Champetier sometimes presents the speech of the New Chinese as pidgin English when the people are supposedly speaking Mandarin, and, though Tanner is described as a master of espionage, he and his cohorts often get into scrapes that common sense might have prevented. Yet Champetier adequately describes the culture and structure of New China, and eventually it becomes clear that this is less a tale of spy vs. spy than an exploratory journey into a foreign land. (May)