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Dakota Black or "the Dragon"

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A modern reappearance of the great American novel Moby Dick, in a form appealing to today's readers

Synopsis

Writer Nathaniel Matthews presents - Dakota Black: or "the Dragon" - Fantasy Fiction inspired by Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick. Young Isabelle journeys to Nantucket to find a place aboard a ship as a galley hand. She finds herself instead aboard the most unlikely of vessels, the airship Pequod, as it journeys west to hunt the great American Buffalo. Under the command of the obsessively mad Ahab, the ships original mission is abandoned as the captain seeks revenge on what he claims is a dragon in the Dakota Territories of the early 19th century.

Dakota Black (Dakota Black or "the Dragon" in full) is deeply inspired by Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. As I realized, it's the same at heart as its inspiration (i.e., Moby Dick). And similar to the great old novel, it is based on the Bible and portrays the selfsame battle between good and evil. Most of the characters are the same—Ahab, the egomaniacal captain, mates Starbuck, Stubb, Flask...and most of the crew of Melville's classic. The story winds itself around the long journey of an airship, the ‘Pequod’. This ‘Pequod’ has an interesting history as well—it was built using the remains of Moby Dick’s sea-ship, ‘Pequod’ (so it immediately inherits the widespread popularity of that old American classic).


I tried, but couldn’t successfully explain why the author rewrote Melville's old classic in the form of Dakota Black. If one goes by the main differences between the two stories, the latter appears as a merely modernized version of the former, intended to appeal to today’s readers, and a new class of readers: women. First, it appears to acknowledge the landmark change we witness in modern society caused by women rising to positions of power and authority, by being more inclusive of women. For example, Isabelle, a girl, fulfills the primary role of the narrator, as opposed to Ishmael in Moby Dick. Another important replacement is Berta, the (woman) cook, who replaces the wise Queequeg. The second major difference is the 19th-century sea-ship ‘Pequod’ reappears in the form of an airship. Finally, in place of the giant white whale Moby Dick, we have the mighty black dragon, Dakota Black.


The aforementioned are the major differences. As none of them seemed to suggest a fundamental/pivotal change to the old classic, I went on to conclude that Dakota Black is merely the former in modern garb (as above). However, I could be wrong on account of my analysis being superficial. I would, therefore, like to add that there are some smaller differences too e.g., Pip, the cabin boy dies in this story, following one of the dragon’s attacks (while he survives but turns mad after the great whale’s attack in Moby Dick), the addition of new characters Brit and Sara, etc. If an expert were to make an in-depth analysis taking all the differences into account, they might discover vastly more profound meanings/interpretations of this great American classic, but I stopped short of that, feeling it was beyond the scope of this review.


Dakota Black preserves the old-world charm of Moby Dick by using comparable settings, and by using the same ancient English as its illustrious predecessor. I recommend it to the selfsame readership of Melville's classic—readers of Christian fiction, classics, students of literature (particularly American literature), scholars, and so on. Another thing, one can expect a significant number of new readers to be women since they have a greater role in this story!



Reviewed by

An engineer and part-time IT Consultant based in Bangalore, India. Part-time copy editor/reviewer. A deep thinker and innovator. Highly analytical, clear, accurate, and thorough. Worked with OnlineBookClub since June 2018. Nearly 25 book reviews published to date.

Synopsis

Writer Nathaniel Matthews presents - Dakota Black: or "the Dragon" - Fantasy Fiction inspired by Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick. Young Isabelle journeys to Nantucket to find a place aboard a ship as a galley hand. She finds herself instead aboard the most unlikely of vessels, the airship Pequod, as it journeys west to hunt the great American Buffalo. Under the command of the obsessively mad Ahab, the ships original mission is abandoned as the captain seeks revenge on what he claims is a dragon in the Dakota Territories of the early 19th century.

DAKOTA BLACK: or "the Dragon"

-LOOMINGS-

 

Call me Isabelle. Sometime ago, never mind exactly when, I found myself restless. For countless days, I found my gaze moving skyward. The red morning dawn would meet my thirsty eyes, evaporating the last of the lingering stars as it washed away the shadowy stains of a long night. Infinite variations of clouds would then become the attraction, a never-ending picture show of white puffs floating lazily by, maybe wispy swirls seemingly frozen in place, or the cover of a lifting fog accompanied by the insubstantial and sometimes welcome drizzle of rain. Some days it was thundering and towering stacks flooding the streets with heavy downpours, others a solid gray ceiling bringing perpetual dusk, and on special occasions a thin and silken layer high in the sky adorning the sun with a crown, the almighty king of the heavenly lights.

The grand finale was and is repeated evening by evening as the day recedes into night, and has drawn our attention since the dawn of man. Surely even Adam and Eve sat side by side and enjoyed the multispectral kaleidoscope that so many lovers since gazed upon with doe eyes, a natural aphrodisiac. The Sun, placed in the heavens by God’s word as a gift to the world, to shed light on all the beauty of His making, shows during its daily closing act to be perhaps His most beautiful creation.

Despite my passion and no matter my spirit’s protests, however, my eyes would eventually bring their focus away from the heavens and back to the reality in which I lived, and the world's chaos I had yet to really understand. Only recently having freed myself from incarceration and forced labor, an injustice that I had endured since I was a child, having nothing to my name and knowing nothing of how I could bring value to the world, I wandered looking for some sign of my destiny, waiting for some glimpse into what purpose my existence could possibly have. 

Although the sky called me, I began to view the sea as an escape. One thing I was sure of is that the land had defeated me, and I had no love for it. During my bondage my soul had at times been no more than the flickering light of a dying flame–even less than that, perhaps just an ember, blocked from the winds of freedom and losing its glow. What if I viewed the swinging chap at the gallows with envy? What if the sharp sickle of the field sang to my blood, offering it an escape from the body that betrayed its inherent nobility? I had wanted to die for a long time, but survived out of spite. I would not let the ground have me. I would not feed myself to the fields. In freedom I have maintained that grudge. However, slipping under the surface of the sea and succumbing to a November squall in a fight with the natural rage of one of God’s greatest creations to me seemed acceptable, almost grand. Even then, I would not give in without resistance, for with freedom my ember had found its flame and demanded more. So, I decided to find a spot as a common sailor. It was not the proper place for a woman, and I knew I risked facing rejection and unknown hardship. I knew that by no means was such a position viewed as anything too respectable, but I had started to think to myself that away from the land, perhaps I could find purpose, even honor in life.

It was a Saturday when I left New Amsterdam. No way could I have guessed the voyage the fates had in store for me. Never would I experience the sea, and never again would the sky represent such benign beauty to me. Now, when I gain the courage to glance up, I see the clouds as playing an ominous part, not only for the rampages I have seen them release on their own accord, but because of their willingness to hide the terror that glides above them. God’s creation is no doubt awe inspiring, but I fear that our sin has unleashed powers that we cannot contain. Perhaps the great serpent was Satan himself, perhaps it was a demon, or more likely just another of God’s wondrous creatures, beautiful and perfect–terribly beautiful, imperviously and powerfully perfect.

About the author

After a tour in Afghanistan and the completion of his contracted service, Nathaniel Matthews returned to the heart of Michigan, the place where it all began. He spends his time as an undercover writer , and developing secret missions for his children. view profile

Published on April 05, 2020

Published by

90000 words

Genre: Magical Realism

Reviewed by

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