This is the fourth, and thus far last, novel of SM Stirling’s Draka stories (there’s also an anthology of multi-author short stories, Drakas!). A fifth book, a sequel to this one, titled “Unto Us a Child,” appears to have been planned, but Stirling has indicated that it now appears unlikely to be published.
Drakon’s plot is quite simple, and arguably more science fiction than alternate history: hundreds of years in the future, the Draka have conquered all of Earth and, indeed, the solar system, albeit a remnant of the Alliance for Democracy (see The Stone Dogs) escaped the Draka by fleeing to Alpha Centauri. As a result of an accident, a single Draka arrives in a parallel world: a late 20th century Earth that is almost exactly like our Earth (sharp-eyed readers may notice minor differences such as the name of the actor who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars Prequels). Can Draka be stopped before he makes contact with his home timeline allowing this new Earth to be conquered?
Obviously, this story is not intended to be plausible, and you don’t even get the false plausibility devices seen in Marching Through Georgia, Under the Yoke, and The Stone Dogs. The book is written in a lighter tone than previous novels, and the plot is also much more simplistic and action-oriented (I can imagine Drakon making a very good movie). Also, since the technology is effectively magical, it is used primarily to set the setting for the story, but then takes a back seat to the action. Another notable thing is that this book is much less brutal and with less sadism than the previous novels in the series (not that they are not gruesome scenes in Drakon).
One criticism I would make is that (as seems to be the case quite often in Stirling’s novels) people with environmental sympathies are positioned as common idiots, or even downright helpful to bad guys (other examples of this in Stirling’s work include his novels T2, and Island in the Sea of Time). I found this disappointing, even if you are skeptical about many aspects of the green movement, there is no reason to suppose that wanting the human race to be exterminated (T2) or enslaved (Drakon) is a common sentiment among environmentalists.
My other great review is the ending. There are two actual endings, the first of which is reminiscent of Larry Niven’s All the Myriad Ways, except that Stirling doesn’t wholeheartedly commit to that ending, I suppose he didn’t want to leave readers with the feeling of having worked well. a whole novel only to end with an ending that tells you it was all useless. If that’s not enough, we get a second ending as a kind of postscript, and this seems to be seamlessly inserted to allow for a sequel, which since there is no sequel, and there may never be, I found quite frustrating!
I personally enjoyed this book, and if you’ve read and enjoyed Draka’s other works, I hope you do too. On the other hand, if you don’t want to read Draka’s previous three novels, this book can also be read as a standalone sci-fi novel.