When I was looking for books to read as part of a Year of Fantasy Classic Challenge I discovered the "The Dragon & The George". At first I wasn't sure about reading but as I was looking over the synopsis on Wikipedia I noticed that "The Flight of Dragons" which is one of my all time favourite movies as a child was actually based on the book. At that point there was no stopping me and I was off the mark to track down a copy.
The story is based around Jim Eckert, a regular guy living in the modern world who has become rather discontent with the life that he and his girlfriend, Angie are being forced to live in. However, when an experiment in astral projection goes wrong and Angie vanishes. Jim makes a quick decision and uses the same experimental machine to send himself after her into the unknown. What he discovers is that both he and Angie have been sent to an alternative medieval earth where magic abounds. Unfortunately for him, his transfer went slightly askew and he is trapped in the body of a dragon named Gorbash. When Angie is then kidnapped by the Dark Powers, Jim is forced to join forces with a range of characters including a wizard, wolf and knight in an attempt to rescue her and find a way to return them both home.
Now, those who have watched "The Flight of Dragons" you may have noticed that the above synopsis only sounds loosely similar to what occurred in the film and you would be right. About the only thing similar is that a 20th century man is sent to a historic fantasy novel and trapped in a dragon's body. Other than this, the only other similarities are in regards to the use of various character names and in regards to some of the evil creatures they are forced to fight. Don't get me wrong, it is still an enjoyable fantasy novel even if the story is fairly standard and at times I think Dickson is more creating a parody than a serious fantasy novel. But personally I prefer the more epic and serious feeling story that is told in the movie.
One nice little novelty in the story though was in regards to the use of magic. There was no mysticism or unlimited powers in this book, the magic system followed very strict laws with every act of magic requiring some sort of payment for its utilisation. I enjoyed seeing this as all too often magic is used in fantasy novels as the quick and easy weapon to solve any problem.
I was in two minds about the characters; Jim Eckert is rather annoying for large sections of the book and is anything but likeable. He is selfish, rude and stubborn throughout the entire novel and it is actually his companions that solve his problems for him. However, I found the supporting characters to be quite nicely developed and quite complex. I particularly loved the antics of Aragh the wolf whose independence and gruffness were there for all to see, but underneath it all there was a loyal and decent creature that we see more of as the story progressed.
Overall, I do think that this is very much a by the numbers fantasy novel, but it has been written competently enough to ensure there is some enjoyment for the reader. Whilst I don't think it is anywhere near the quality of the story told in the movie I loved as a child, it was still fun to read and full of rather interesting characters who kept me entertained. Personally, I am going to try a few more in the series to see if I enjoy them more or less when I am no longer biased by a movie I loved as a child.