*Note: series spoilers!
When I was in high school, I was introduced to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I fell in love with the dragons and their riders. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a telepathic relationship with a dragon, not to mention being able to actually ride one in flight?
I devoured the series as a teenager, and recently was discussing the series with a friend. I remembered how much joy I had felt when reading the series and decided that since I had already met my yearly Goodreads Reading Challenge goal that I would re-read the whole series.
The first book, Dragonflight, brought me back immediately. The abandoned Terran colony, left on its own for thousands of years, has grown into a semi-feudal society with guilds, lord holders, and dragonriders. Now, why would a society need dragonriders? And where did the dragons come from? All of this is explained as the story progresses, focused around the central story of Lessa of Ruatha Hold.
While the story still captivated me, still pulled me in, I was much more discerning of the way the story was written. I felt a distinct lack of character development and insight. This was really apparent to me in the second book when it was announced that Lessa had a child. No discussion of her being pregnant, nothing about riding a dragon while pregnant, nothing. Just that she’d had a child and that it had been difficult on her. When I contrast that with the way Diana Gabaldon described Claire’s pregnancies in the Outlander series, the lack was even more apparent.
That didn’t stop me from continuing to re-read the series because… dragons! And I always loved the idea of a planet being settled by a technologically-advanced society, regressing to a less technologically-advanced society, and then that society finding evidence of the original settlers and re-learning their technology. An archaeologist’s thought-assignment (I had a similar project in the Intro to Archaeology course I took in college) turns into a series of fantastic novels. My inner archaeologist thrilled when the Pernese explorers found various non-natural mounds that proved to house colonial transports and other technology.
I love McCaffrey’s world-building. Pern is believable as a planet: there are tropical zones, mountainous zones, temperate zones; in short, everything that a human could want. Then there’s that whole thread issue. Well, you always need conflict, right? What better motivator than an insidious planet-killing organism that rains down from the sky?
Then there are elements of time-travel (because what sci-fi fantasy series wouldn’t be complete without time-travel?) facilitated by astronomy and dragon skill. The characters are a bit predictable in that they play to archetypes. F’lar, the dashing young leader; F’nor, his supportive best friend. Lessa, the Cinderella-esque heir to a hold who becomes the co-leader of the dragon renewal movement. Then, of course, there are the supporting characters who provide advice, supplies, and more conflict. So, if you’re looking for amazing characters that really leap off the page, who you could call a book-boyfriend, you may want to keep looking. But, what is compelling is what these characters manage to accomplish within a few years of coming into power. They completely revitalize a stagnant society, rise to meet a global threat, and leave their world a better place than the one they received.
So, Pern still pulls me in. I definitely read it differently than I did as a teen, but I still love the series. If you’re looking for a fun, easy-to-read series, take a trip to Pern. You won’t be disappointed.