Offutt’s dedication for King Dragon claims for its predecessors the Lost World novels of Haggard, Doyle, Burroughs, Wells, and Howard. His world is “lost” by being remote in space, and he has populated it with a jungle and megafauna from a variety of prehistoric and prehuman ages of earth. Besides anachronistic animals, there are a lot of fanciful plants. It is all the result of long-ago terraforming and breeding by an eccentric tycoon who came to see himself as God. The religious background of Offut’s interstellar future is Muslim, which makes for a little different flavor than most science fiction written circa 1980.
The male protagonist Jimajin Allayth is an aspiring scholar who has journeyed from Earth to explore this isolated and mysterious world. In parallel with his arrival, there is the story of Joharah, a savage inhabitant of the world who becomes an outcast from her tribe. Eventually, the two meet as captives. Once the full narrative frame is in view, with Jim and Jo together fighting against the pterodactyl forces of the backwater world’s senile demiurge, the plot wraps up with blinding speed. Death Star explodes, everyone calls it a day.
The book is shorter than it looks, with many pages occupied by black-and-white art from Estaban Moroto, who draws an excellent mostly-naked sword-and-planet babe in the Frazetta tradition, as well as suitably scary dinosaurs. Unfortunately, not all of the illustrations are unique; many of them are merely different enlarged details of the same original drawings. The cover art of a chained Joharah contorting below a descending dragon is by Rowena Morrill, and is actually a little more lurid than the book deserves. The pictured scene does not occur in the text.