Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series was one of the formative series of my life. In Junior High, I was in the advanced classes and was expected to read a lot of books I don’t remember. While on the bus going home one day, I saw one of my friends, who was in the regular English class, reading one of his assigned books. It was called Dragonsong. I was entranced and it was all I could do not to snatch it out of his hands. Fortunately, my parents were always willing to buy me books. Dragonsong was no where to be found, but there was a book called Dragonflight, so I bought it. I read Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon in short order, as well as The Harper Hall books (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragon Drums), Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, and Nerilka’s Story. I read them repeatedly during Jr. High and High School. And then I went to college and haven’t picked up a Pern book, or thought much about them, in over 25 years.
Pern has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while now, and I saw the three original Dragonrider books had been mushed into one Kindle offering and was on sale for $5.99. I devoured Dragonriders of Pern, flowing seamlessly from one book to the next in two days. I will admit, there are a couple of traumatic scenes in Dragonquest that I skipped over. If you’ve read the series, you know which scenes I’m talking about. I would say that overall the series, begun in 1967, holds up. There are some dated gender issues. On the one hand, I was rolling my eyes at the division of labor and some of the sexual politics, but it’s also very progressive for when it was written. Most of the POV characters are male, but Lessa, a primary POV character in Dragonflight, with fewer appearances in Dragonquest and The White Dragon, is a strong, opinionated, determined woman. She is still one of my formative fictional role models. It occurred to me during this read that F’lar, who was my romantic ideal when I was 13, is kind of an ass.
Dragonflight, which was originally two short stories, is the tightest novel of the trio. Dragonquest gets messy and The White Dragon is neater only because it stays primarily focused on Jaxom and his white dragon, Ruth. Pern is an interesting world. I enjoyed revisiting familiar landscapes and people. I will probably read the Harper Hall books, but I’m not sure I’ll go beyond that. The series is well worth reading if you enjoy fantasy, and somehow haven’t already read them. I know I’m not saying much, but look at the picture. If the picture intrigues you, read the books. If it doesn’t, my words probably wouldn’t help.
Edit: It’s amazing the things that slip right out of your mind when revisiting an old familiar friend. Amanda and I have reminded each other that there is some really fucked up sexual stuff in the books. When I referred to eye-rolling sexual politics, I was thinking of the contrast between bad, slutty Kylara and good, virginal Brekke. But now I’m reminded that there’s some yucky coercion and apparent indifference to consent. So if and when you read these, just remember, I love the dragons, not the male entitlement to women’s bodies.