I need help remembering a SciFi book with an economics theme to it, and it was sort of Dragon related.

There was one SciFi story I read a long time ago that I can never remember the name of. It was about a galaxy where free enterprise was the name of the game, so long as you didn't break any laws almost anything went. Most sentient races were reptilian, and the galactic head honchos were a species we called Dragons. Mammals were by default second class citizens, so we had two strikes against us for being the new kids and for being hairy lumpy mammals.

The only other species that would talk to us were these giant rat things that made their living as galactic trash pickers and gossip mongers. The rest of the universe didn't care about humans at all. Even intelligent flowers had higher galactic status.

And somehow a lost colony figured into it all. We had a colony once and it had been wiped out by the flowers. Only, they weren't all gone. They were being used a slave labor. One of our ambassadors finally got to talk to a dragon, and the dragon quoted some obscure bit of galactic law. Which ended the story with a mercenary human army being hired by one race to clear out the flowers, and us getting our colony back.

  • Any clue as to the age of the book? Language/nationality?
    – Moogle
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 21:08
  • 2
    This sounds like a weird bastard child between Weber's "Excalibur Alternative" and Shumil's (written in Russian) Dragon saga. Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 21:15
  • When I read the book, it was the mid 1990's and the book was printed in English. I recall it had some oddly retro looking art on the cover, and maybe a couple illustrations inside as well. I do recall one picture of a giant dragon surrounded by high techy looking things peering down at a single human.
    – Tsureai
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 21:32
  • Found the Book using a tool linked on a different answer!
    – Tsureai
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 2:24

1 Answer 1


The book is Chess with a Dragon by David Gerrold. In another dragon related question someone linked ISFDB and I used that to skim... Every Novel with Dragon in the title between 1980 and 1999... Not the fastest way to get the answer, but it worked.

Book cover

An excerpt from a Goodreads review:

... Mankind has hit the galactic scene and discovered everyone is smarter than us. There is an immense "library" full of neat information, which you have to pay for. So we used it. A lot. Now we're in crazy debt. We might have to sell ourselves as food to the Ki!, an insectoid race.

We're some of the only mammals in the galaxy. Mammals have a rep for being stupid. We've reinforced this stereotype by not understanding a key use of the library- most species use it to blackmail each other in a complex series of strategic moves. That is the "chess" of the title.

One of my favorite sci-fi books. Humanity's new "friends," the delightfully untrustworthy "rats," are my favorite.

  • you can always accept this answer when you return.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 13:51

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