Sean Grigsby makes a scorching debut with Smoke Eaters, a fun sci-fi romp set a hundred years hence in the ashes of America's Midwest.
It's the early 2100s and dragons have returned, these massive creatures of myth churning their way up from the Earth's core to wreak firey havoc all across the world. The US is divided into a series of nation states, Canada has built a wall to keep Americans out, and robots are taking everyone's jobs. In Ohio, an elite team of dragon fighters, known as Smoke Eaters, are attempting to keep the peace despite an unsympathetic populace. After responding to a fire, firefighter Cole Brannigan is confronted by a dragon, discovers he's immune to smoke, and quickly gets drafted into the Smoke Eaters.
Grigsby, an Arkansas firefighter, does an excellent job depicting the chaos of firefighting, as well as the mundane, sometimes comical, calls of false alert. Although there's plenty of dragon-fighting action with power suited Smoke Eaters going mano-a-mano with various species of scalies, one of my favorite scenes involved Brannigan and his team responding to an emergency call from a distraught woman whose home has been invaded by a decidedly non-dragon creature.
While there's a few cliches (Brannigan was supposed to retire before getting roped into his new calling, a well tread plot device that had me waiting for Danny Glover to remind us all that he's too old for this shit) and some moments of silliness that didn't quite work for me, Grigsby makes the story as a whole work well. The various plot threads of political corruption, dragon invasions, and robotic workers all come together in an exciting and violent climax of pyrotechnics.
If you're looking for some fun, action-heavy, big-screen ready SFF, or if the premise of firefighters versus dragons appeals to you (and let's face it, it is a freaking awesome premise that should be appealing to everyone with a pulse), Smoke Eaters is an enjoyable way to go. This is a solid debut, and one that leaves me hoping I'll get to take another ride-along through Parthenon City with Brannigan and his company of dragon slayers.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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