Dragonsdawn is the ninth book in the Dragonriders of Pern series but takes place approximately 2,500 years before Dragonflight, the first book in the series.
I discovered Anne McCaffrey in an English textbook sample my dad brought home from school when I was about 13. There was an excerpt from Dragonsinger in there and I fell in love. I devoured every Pern book our local library had over the next few months and set out to collect the ones they didn’t have.
I purchased this book from Borders bookstore in the summer of 1995. My copy hadn’t been cut square properly and the pages at the top of the book were crinkled as if they’d been torn into shape. I still have the book somewhere, but now I read it on my phone.
Because this book takes place chronologically before Dragonflight, you can read it first if you wish. It assumes you know about the universe, but it’s explanatory enough that I think you’d be fine picking it up. This is a well done book, and I always really enjoy reading it.
Plot summary and spoilers ahead.
Pern is a small Earth-like planet in the Sagittarius sector of space. Mankind discovered it during their explorations and found it to be a nice planet, but not rich enough in resources for the high-tech interests, so the powers-that-be released it to a small group of colonists who wanted to form a pastoral colony. The system of planets has a planet in a very eccentric orbit that pierces the Oort cloud and swings past Pern every 250 years or so.
Could this be the setup for a plot device???
The eccentric planet pierces the Oort cloud and attracts a shitload of a low-intelligence lifeform similar to our mycorrhiza and drags them in a cometary style tail near Pern. As they approach the planet, some of the ovids break off and drop onto the planet. The friction on entering the atmosphere turns the lifeform into a thread-like thing that devours everything carbon-based that it touches. [Source: Other books in the series, particularly All the Weyrs of Pern]
Eight years after the colony is established Thread falls for the first time, destroying and killing a large number of people and animals. They mount a defense, but it proves to be insufficient in the long-term. The leaders of the loose government approach the geneticist of the colony and ask about creating dragons out of the small fire-lizard/dragonets that were discovered to be partnered with humans. The experiment proves to be a success and 28 dragons were created, from which an entire species will be born. The dragons have the ability to teleport between places, which is useful when you’re transporting things or when you’ve been struck by Thread. Between is very cold and you have no sense of touch there, but you’re only in between for about five seconds.
A large portion of the series is given to the knowledge that humans now live in caves. Pern has numerous cave systems, and caves are naturally Thread-proof. The rest of the book is a plot device given towards moving them out of the Southern continent where they landed and into the first cave system, Fort Hold, in the Northern continent.
If you guessed that a volcano was going to erupt I’d wonder if you’ve read the book already. Yep, Landing was on a plateau near several volcanos. One of them decided that it was time to go blow chunks, just as they were deciding to move everyone north. Convenient, wut? The evacuation is a bit of a mess, and the author alludes to things that happened that she fleshed out more in her book of short stories The Chronicles of Pern.