Excerpt from an unpublished review of “How to Build a Dragon or Die Trying: A Satirical Look at Cutting Edge Science.”
There is enough in HOW TO BUILD A DRAGON OR DIE TRYING to obsess the true, mainlining dragon-builder for a godly amount of time. The Knoefplers do a good job considering, for example, all the ways things could go wrong. “Getting it wrong and an unfortunate mishap is deadly to onlookers. Our dragon could even die due to such a mistake.” Small understatement.
You might, in reading this, form an opinion on how or whether this will go down. This building of dragons. IRL.
Here’s mine: Someone we know (yes, you probably know this person) will set up a garage lab or a company to start making it happen. They’ll come out of alpha with the cell biology to build electricity-conducting wires that can be amped high enough to create the spark that can light the flammable gas. They’ll show that DNA grown on the surface of scales is fireproof (the DNA is). They’ll get funding and make the mistake of going public too soon. This will spark outrage and require a pivot – in story at least – which, not-ironically, will attract even more funding. (You know how that story goes.) New tools and techniques will emerge, come close to, but never reach commercialization.
Bleeding cash, our dragon-building company will try self-funding via a direct-to-consumer subscription service that gets kids around the world addicted to the idea that they too – with enough money – own their own pet dragon. (“Mommy, please! Poppy’s mom let her have one.”) The company will crash and burn spectacularly to the joy of detractors, fundamentalists, the anti-GMO crowd, and parents everywhere. They will breathe a sigh of relief, “Where would we put that damn dragon anyway?” Over time, those dragon-addicted kids will be heart-broken. But some will go on to start their dragon-building startups. Soon enough, dragons. Everywhere. A menace.
Until that happens, we have Knoepfler and Knoepfler’s book, which I predict more than a few will read as a set of instructions (or instructions for instructions). So let’s pause, smile, and remember the dragons we’ve read about, imagine those we’ll build, and give thanks to the daughter and father team that gave us this gift of a book to read and ponder.
Here’s the full review.