Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
January 11, 2009
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Eon, Donatos Pizza, Why We Suck, and Superstars of Dance
Australian writer Alison Goodman has written an absolutely stunning fantasy
novel that deserves a wide readership, among both adults and children.
The trouble is that several curses have been put on the book.
First, there's the title: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn. "Eon" is not a word dealing
with a vast passage of time, it's the main character's name. And "Dragoneye
Reborn" suggests that this is a sequel to some earlier book.
It isn't a sequel at all. While there will be more books, this is the first in the
Who was marketing this? While the title makes perfect sense after reading the
book, it's a terrible thing to put in the title, because it makes would-be readers
think they've already missed the first book, and since they will never find an
earlier "Dragoneye" book by Alison Goodman, a significant number of casual
readers will pass it by.
Second, the book was actually released to the public on December 26, 2008.
You do understand, don't you, that this is the worst day on the calendar for
release of a novel? Did you go to the bookstore looking for something new to
read on the day after Christmas?
OK, yes, I did, but I'm sure we can all agree that I'm odd.
Despite these curses, however, I think this book will do very well -- because
the curses only affect a book that has no word-of-mouth publicity going for it.
And Eon will have no lack of that, because it's the kind of book that both
teenagers and adults will want to press on their friends.
Before the story begins, there are maps and charts. The animals of the
Chinese zodiac and calendar provide the basis for a fascinating magic system.
The idea is that there is a dragon associated with each of the animals of the
zodiac -- an ox dragon, a tiger dragon, a rabbit dragon, and so on. However,
one of the animals of the zodiac is a dragon, so you have a dragon dragon -- or
Children are trained by their sponsors for years in preparation for the day
when a dragon will choose a human to be apprentice to that dragon's liaison
(called "dragoneye"). No one can predict how a dragon will choose, but the
sponsors of a chosen child immediately become wealthy and the child is treated
as a lordling and heir to the present dragoneye.
Dragons are visible to only a few people, except on the day of choosing, when
every human present can see the dragon make its choice. But there has not
been a dragoneye for the Mirror Dragon in centuries, and that dragon has not
Eon has, from childhood, been able to see all the dragons, though she keeps
that fact to herself. She keeps a lot of things to herself -- like the fact that
she's a girl, training in a competition to which only boys are admitted.
She is also handicapped by a childhood injury to one leg, so that in learning
the martial-arts movements at the heart of the training, there are positions she
physically cannot assume.
She has friends who help her and enemies who oppose her, but no one really
believes she can be chosen by the Tiger Dragon. And, in fact, she is not.
Instead, she is chosen by the Mirror Dragon, who comes out of nowhere and
chooses her -- the first Mirror Dragoneye in living memory.
From there the adventure gets really intense, full of palace intrigue and
political maneuvering, soul-searching and tragic loss, trust and betrayal, and
swashbuckling adventure of the first order.
It's a terrific first novel in a fascinating world, fully realized by a writer who
knows her craft and can spin a story.
Forget the curses -- Eon deserves to be a smashing success.
I had never heard of the pizza chain Donatos when it opened in a storefront in
the Village at North Elm (next to the UPS Store at Elm and Pisgah Church).
But since Pie Works, two miles west on Pisgah Church, is planning to move to
a location much farther from our house, we needed to know if Donatos would
be a fair replacement.
The answer is: Oh yes.
Donatos does several things that make their pizzas stand out. First, the meat
and sauce really are "edge to edge." There is simply no "handle" on the pizza --
no ribbon of dry crust around the outside. And this means you get a lot more
of whatever topping you ordered.
Furthermore, they cut their pizza in rectangles instead of wedges. They call it
their "party cut," but it's a great idea. It means that you get your pizza in
much smaller pieces; you don't have to commit to a whole wedge if all you want
is just a few more bites.
You can choose either thin crust (my preference) or thick (my wife's and
daughter's choice). And we all agreed that the quality of everything was first-rate -- crust, sauces, toppings.
Our daughter's verdict on the buffalo wings was that they were much spicier
than those at Pie Works, and the flavor was not quite as much to her liking --
but they were still very good. And we all liked their bread sticks, which can be
dipped into pizza sauce or a very good garlic sauce.
The salads? Not a bit of iceberg lettuce, and very good dressing (though, alas,
their tuscan caesar dressing has a bit of wine in it, making it off limits for those
with allergies -- i.e., everybody in our party except me).
Add to this cheerful service by employees who actually seem to enjoy their jobs
and to be proud of the food they serve, and you can be sure we'll be back.
In fact, we liked the pizza so well, we did the unheard of. We never bring
leftovers home any more, but we liked this pizza so well that we didn't want to
leave any behind. Reheated, it became our Sunday lunch, and was just as
good on the second go-round.
You can eat in the shop or phone in an order and pick it up. Or they'll deliver.
Is it the best pizza in town? That's impossible to judge -- it all depends on
your own preferences. But they certainly make pizza exactly right for me.
I picked up Denis Leary's book Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying
Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid with high hopes. I think Leary is a funny guy and a
good actor, and I like his bitter-sarcastic style.
Alas, while there is much that's funny here, Leary hasn't actually done any
thinking, which is a disappointment. I guess that for me, it's the kiss of death
when you invoke the name of George W. Bush as the epitome of all evil.
Not because I expect everyone to assess him and his presidency as I do, but
because this Bush-is-evil mantra is an absolutely surefire marker of
Since there is no rational measure of Bush's actual behavior in office that is
markedly "evil" (everything he's hated for is well within the behavior patterns of
previous presidents of both parties, and/or was voted for by many or most
Democrats in Congress), when a commentator takes it for granted that Bush is
evil, what he's really saying is, "I'm an idiot who is repeating the groupthink of
the insane Left, and therefore if you are not one of the club that 'thinks' this
way, you might as well quit reading."
So ... I took that message clearly from Leary and quit reading.
How long do you suppose it will be after Bush leaves office before the Left
actually has a rational thought again?
Future historians will read these documents and talk about the "mania" of
bush-bashing, regarding it as a strange phenomenon. They will assess Bush
as being somewhere between an ordinary and an excellent president, and they
will marvel that the American intelligentsia was so uniform in their irrational
condemnation of things they approved of when done by Democrats. They will
call this an era of irrational partisanship, with the most irrational utterances
coming from the Left.
Meanwhile, I can't wait till most of our smart and talented writers start
The American Idol team has struck again with Superstars of Dance -- but
what they struck was not gold.
I suppose it's because this is the same producing team that created So You
Think You Can Dance, which shows us superb performers from many
different traditions, honing their skills while working with some of the best
But Superstars is something between a freak show, a Vegas spectacle, and a
folk dance festival. There are judges, but their judging is a joke -- the acts
simply can't be compared with each other. And while there are times when we
looked at the screen and said, "That's interesting" or "I didn't know you could
do that," there were only two acts the first night and two the second episode
that looked like anything I'd ever want to see again.
The "international competition" aspect of the show is ludicrous. These
performing groups don't represent their nations and can't be compared to each
As a variety show, it's passable -- if you record it and fast-forward through the
judging. If you also fast-forward through the ads and the boring acts, you
should have about twenty minutes of entertaining television.
Otherwise, just wait for So You Think You Can Dance -- which, in my opinion,
is the only real dance show on TV. Ever.