I’ve always liked this book in the Pern series, probably more than I like Dragonflight. I really like F’nor and Brekke and the introduction of the fire lizards. It’s also in this book that the characters really start to begin discovering their history and the technology of the Ancients, which is a trope I generally always really like in SF/Fantasy. I love those cross-over books that feel like fantasy but you discover have a solid, SF premise underneath.
I absorbed the Pern books so long ago in my reading life (they were some of my first SFF, loaned to me by one of my father’s PhD students; she was my book provider for a long time in my teens) that I don’t think I’ve ever really watched the progress of the story McCaffrey unfolded.
I remember I got a delightful surprise with The White Dragon and later Dragonsdawn as we really began to discover the Ancients (oh, how I loved Dragonsdawn when it came out). Looking back now, with much older eyes, and reading the books in sequence, I can see that McCaffrey must have had the basic idea for the Ninth and First Passes from the beginning. The first setup came in Dragonflight, but that book was too full of world building, character introduction and the beginning of Threadfall for much to be done with it. Here, it starts in earnest. I ate it up way back then, and I admit, I’m eating it up all over again.
This book was originally published in 1971 and it mostly holds up. But, ouch, there are a few misogynistic moments that made me cringe.
This was a matter for men to settle, F’lar thinks at one point, although at least he’d been thinking Lessa might be helpful the moment before.
Later, someone (F’lar again I think but my quote doesn’t include who was thinking it) reflects It was too bad you couldn’t beat a Weyrwoman with impunity. Her dragon wouldn’t permit it, but a sound thrashing was what Kylara badly needed. Well, she badly needed something, but I’m not sure a thrashing was it.
Neither attitude is acceptable, and if my son shows an interest in reading these books when he’s older, I’ll be pointing that out to him. But all the same, I’m going to give the book a general pass for two bad passages written over 40 years ago. (Not ignore them, but not stomp and throw the book either.) I’ll encourage him to read them because they are good stories with (generally good) role models both male and female. All the same, it did make me go ouch.
I’m looking forward to rereading the rest of the books (and I’m hoping those problematic attitudes pop up less and less as the books’ publication dates get closer to today). I’m seriously tempted to read Dragonsong to that 8 year old son I mentioned above, as I think he’s more ready for the tale and politics of Menolly and the fire lizards and the Harper Hall right now. However, I’m rereading McCaffrey in publication order, so To Ride Pegasus will be my next McCaffrey (and Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson my next book).
Pern and dragons and fire lizards and Thread! It’s been a happy trip back down memory lane so far.