Dragon Riders Of Pern

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The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

Dragonriders is composed of the first three novels McCaffrey has written about the world of Pern (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon). A prologue explains that Pern is a world much like Earth, chosen and settled long ago by explorers. Initially, little or no attention was paid to a small, stray planet orbiting the same star. The colonists would pay dearly for this oversight. Over the ensuing generations, the colony abandoned most of its higher technology as it became a peaceful, agrarian community. Unfortunately, at certain intervals, previously unobserved by the original explorers, Pern’s orbit coincides with the stray planet, dubbed the Red Star. At these times, a dangerous, parasitic lifeform known as Thread attempts to make its way to Pern, with disastrous effects to any living material it comes in contact with.

The settlers have long since lost contact with Earth and are ill equipped to survive this unexpected menace. They must rely on their knowledge and the materials close to hand to overcome this threat to their existence. A long term breeding and training program is developed, matching telepathic individuals with creatures resembling Terran dragons. The results provide the primary means of defense against Thread. However, the destruction Thread wreaks, coupled with the energy devoted to fighting it, thrusts the society ever further from the technology they once knew, until it is but a dim memory, myth-like and mostly forgotten. It is in this feudalistic society that the first of the novels begins.

Reviewed by: Diane

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Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

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In Pernese society the population has evolved into three groups. The Weyrs are home to the dragonriders and their kin. The Holds are ruled by the Lords and govern the vast majority of the populace in vassal-type servitude. The Halls are occupied by the craftsmen and women. For long generations the Weyrs have been sworn to protect the Holds and Halls, as well as all the areas beholden to them from the threat of Thread. In return, the Holds and Halls offer service and tithes to the dragonfolk, since their protective duties make it impossible to be self-supporting. As Dragonflight opens, Thread has not fallen for over 400 Turns and only one Weyr remains. The general population, as well as the various Lords, has begun to doubt that Thread will ever return and grow weary and resentful of supporting the dragonfolk. Even the dragonriders have become lax and less vigilant. Meanwhile, the last queen dragon lies dying as her last clutch of eggs (containing one final queen egg) prepares to hatch.

Under these dire circumstances, F’lar, a bronze rider, goes searching for the ideal candidate to Impress the queen egg. F’lar is sure that Thread will return soon and realizes that this search is critical to Pern’s future. The successful candidate will become the Weyrwoman, a crucial position to hold in the troubled times F’lar is convinced are ahead. Eventually he finds Lessa, a strong girl who has already survived betrayal and treachery. Together they will face a host of problems, not the least of which is the insufficient numbers of dragons (and riders) on hand when Thread ultimately returns to threaten Pern again.

With this book, McCaffrey sets the tone for an entire series based on Pern. She introduces a number of characters, both main and supporting, who will continue to evolve and grow throughout the series. The dragons are not just props, either. Their awesome majesty is finely drawn, yet it is made quite clear that they are also individuals who will have an impact on the events surrounding them. Although McCaffrey resolves the main issues raised in this novel, she hints at many others that are yet to be solved.

Reviewed by: Diane

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Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

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Seven Turns have passed since the events described in Dragonflight, McCaffrey’s first book in this series. During that tale, the mystery surrounding the missing dragons and people of the abandoned Weyrs was solved and new ways were found to fight the destructive Thread raining down on Pern. Unfortunately, the solutions to some of Pern’s most pressing problems have now created an entirely new set of troubles. The original resentment smoldering between the dragonmen and the rest of Pern’s inhabitants was only temporarily eased by the need for everyone to work together during the frantic first days of Thread’s return. Typical of human nature, now that Thread has become a familiar (if unwelcome) occurrence, some of the old feelings have returned. To make matters worse, factions have arisen within the dragonmen’s own ranks. One faction, the Oldtimers, strongly believes in their superiority over the rest of Pern’s populace. Their rigid adherence to obsolete traditions and their highhandedness in their dealings with others only serves to heighten the tension.

Meanwhile, lost technologies are being rediscovered and new ones are being created. Alternative forms of communication begin to develop. Possible new forms of protection from Thread are examined. The discovery of a distance viewer enables the dragonmen and Lords to take their first detailed look at the Red Star, Thread’s point of origin. Theoretically, it is possible for a dragon to transport itself and its rider anywhere that can be clearly visualized. The disgruntled Lord Holders begin to exert pressure on the dragonmen to fly directly to the Red Star and battle Thread at its source. The responsibility for resolving all of these various conflicts once again falls to the Benden Weyrleader, F’lar, and his Weyrwoman, Lessa.

Although F’lar and Lessa, the main characters of Dragonflight, are still key elements in the story, McCaffrey has shifted the focus slightly away from them. In this installment, she has begun to flesh out several of the supporting characters from the first book and introduces several new players. F’nor, F’lar’s half-brother; Masterharper Robinton; and Mastersmith Fandarel return in pivotal roles. New characters, including Brekke, another Weyrwoman; Felessan, son of F’lar and Lessa; and young Lord Jaxom (just an infant in the first book) add additional depth and detail. McCaffrey keeps the story moving and the world and people of Pern continue to evolve in interesting ways. Her description of the discovery and impression of fire-lizards, distant relatives to the dragons, is especially intriguing. McCaffrey brings this novel to a satisfactory conclusion, yet still manages to set the stage for the next volume in the series.

Reviewed by: Diane

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The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey

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McCaffrey returns once again to the world of Pern in the final novel of The Dragonriders of Pern trilogy. Young Lord Jaxom of Ruatha Hold and his white dragon, Ruth, are at the center of the action this time, picking up just a few years after Dragonquest’s conclusion. McCaffrey frequently questions the tendency to blindly follow tradition and seems to enjoy shaking things up. The inadvertent impression of a "misfit" dragon by a Lord Holder certainly challenges the beliefs and patience of many on Pern. Jaxom has his work cut out for him, trying to prove that Ruth has all the capabilities of a true dragon, while still maintaining his status as Lord Holder.

In actuality, although Ruth may be smaller than most dragons, he appears to have some abilities beyond those of the other dragons. Ruth professes to always know "when" he is, making it possible for Jaxom to take Ruth to places and times that other dragons may be unable to reach. Additionally, all the fire lizards on Pern seem to consider Ruth their personal friend and show him mysterious things from their collective memories. When the Oldtimers create a major problem, these talents become extremely useful to Jaxom and, ultimately, to Pern.

Through a series of rapidly occurring circumstances, attention is drawn to the vast, mostly unpopulated Southern Continent. Both the dragonriders and the Lord Holders are interested in developing the land from which their ancestors are believed to have originated. But the Benden Weyrleaders, F’lar and Lessa, and MasterHarper Robinton have a hidden agenda, possibly one which will have a lasting impact on the world of Pern.

Although written from a different perspective, McCaffrey once again brings the world of Pern to life. The old familiar characters are still present, but Jaxom, and to a lesser extent, Robinton, are the voices telling the tale. The interaction between the characters is still enjoyable and McCaffrey’s world continues to grow more richly detailed. While this is a good stand-alone novel, it is by no means McCaffrey’s final word on the subject of Pern or the dragonriders. It is quite obvious that she has much more to say!

Reviewed by: Diane

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