James A. Owen: Here, There be Dragons

December 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Fiction

000g3197978-1416912279 – Hardcover – Simon & Schuster – $17.95 (a paperback edition is also available – but the price difference is small enough for me to recommend you buy the hardcover)

James A. Owen is a wonderful writer.  It’s interesting to me how many really excellent writers there are who are categorized as “young adult” writers because the books they write are about things like dragons, or boys who are heroes or even young wizards in an imaginary school in an imaginary part of England.  In my opinion anyway, Here, There be Dragons is a book for readers of all ages or any age.  It’s well written, has characters with depth, beautifully done line drawings by the author, and a fast moving, engaging story line that includes heroes who are connected to our literary history in some very interesting ways.  What more can one ask for in a novel?

“What is it?” John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.
“It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.”

An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds. And in the process, they will share a great adventure filled with clues that lead readers to the surprise revelation of the legendary storytellers these men will one day become.

It’s a pretty good bet that if you like this book, you will be pleased to know you can continue to read.  This is the first volume in the Chronicles of Imaginarium Geographica series, which has now reached a total of four books, with more to come.  It’s probably true that this book and its series will appeal most to a certain type of reader, one who has read and enjoyed adventure stories, particularly those well written classics of the past (again, I don’t think it’s about the age of the reader but rather one’s interests).  Unlikely heroes, normal people faced with challenges to which they rise, mythological characters brought to life, and above all, dragons, definitely motivate some of us more than others.  I guess I am one of those.

I had the pleasure of meeting James A. Owen at Comicon in San Diego.  I was impressed to see a writer so willing to engage with his readers – Comicon can be exhausting for exhibitors and for creators even more so.  In this interview, he displays his engaging personality, and talks with me about the origin of his work as a novelist, his work in comics, contacts with film makers (the film adaptation is in development and appears scheduled as a 2011 release), and his attempt to revive the classic magazine, Argosy.  Owen started as a comic book writer and illustrator, and even was a publisher of comics, and then moved into writing novels almost accidentally.  This is a lucky turn of events for readers of fiction.  You can learn much more about James A. Owen and his work at this website and he also has a beautiful blog based site, the Wonder Cabinet, that is well worth regular visits.  I’m hopeful that over time, Owen’s work will reach the wider audience it deserves.

Note to listeners: this interview is slightly longer than most at 27 minutes, but should provide sufficient interest to reward your investment of time.