One of the joys of fiction is watching characters tackle insurmountable problems. For fans of science fiction and history, Robert Kroese’s Dream of the Iron Dragon, (available in print, ebook, and through Audible) provides numerous delights. One complication leads to another, and the next thing we know our space-traveling heroes are fighting with and alongside some of history’s greatest warriors, the Vikings.
By 2207 an ongoing war with an alien race called the Cho-ta’an has left Earth uninhabitable. Most of humanity has never even seen their homeworld. The crew of the ship Andrea Luhman is on a scientific survey mission when they are given a planet killer-bomb, built by an ancient race, which could finally end the war. The bomb must be delivered to their high command, and as quickly as possible.
Pursued by a Cho-ta’an ship, Andrea Luhman makes a desperate maneuver, accidentally flinging themselves into Earth’s orbit and back in time to 885 A.D. With a damaged ship and precious cargo, the crew has no choice but to attempt to make repairs. While most of the crew remains aboard Andrea Luhman, engineer Carolyn Reyes and a small crew take a landing vessel to Earth intending to build a forge and cast an essential spaceship part from scratch.
Unfortunately, the Cho-ta’an follow them and again attack. Reyes manages a nail-biting escape, but rather than landing in rural Colorado as intended, they crash near a Viking village in Norway. As if two damaged spacecraft and injured crew aren’t enough to worry about, Reyes and her crew find themselves at the center of a Viking conflict.
For the audiobook, narrator J.D. Ledford expertly gives each character a unique voice and conveys every ounce of emotion, without ever upstaging the story. Her performance is so good, in fact, it’s easy to forget she’s there. While the salty language and blasphemies might be too much, and Ledford doesn’t hold back spitting out profanities, Kroese chooses to write jaded soldiers as they are and not how we wish them to be.
Given the fantastic premise, Kroese keeps everything surprisingly grounded. Scientific and historical details were thoroughly researched, giving one the impression that Kroese could conceivably build his own backyard spaceship if he had some Vikings around to give him a hand. Yet the heart of the story is always with the characters, each of whom has hopes, ambitions, wounds, and a purpose.
Star Trek pictures a future where basically good humanity is forever on the cusp of utopia. Here Kroese illustrates what we read in Ecclesiastes, that “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” Whether it belongs to an interplanetary explorer or Viking warrior, the unaided human heart is forever the same. (Audible)