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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 series.

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 "mirror dragon."

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 been seen.

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 mindlessness.

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 thinking again.

*

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 choreographers around.

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 other anyway.

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.


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