the Little Red Reviewer

Catching up with Classics: Dragonriders of Pern book 1

Posted on: March 30, 2011

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

first published in 1968

where I got it: Husband came with it.

why I read it:  said husband suggested it  for “catching up with classics”.

You know how most of my reviews are spoiler free?  this one is gonna be mostly spoilers.  Can you really call them spoilers if the book was written in 1968?

My husband has been trying to get me to read Dragonflight, along with the rest of the Dragonriders of Pern series for ages. It’s got cheesy cover art with a girl riding a dragon. and the blurb on the back is equally cheesy. But now that I’m doing this Catching up with Classics thing, there was no escaping the Anne McCaffrey.  He promised it had action. Adventure. telepathic dragons. A little bit of romance. some humor. but really, all he needed to say to get me to read it was that it had Time Travel.

Yes dear friends, Dragonflight is one of the original Science Fantasy stories. On the fantasy side, we’ve got feudal lordlings, harpers and singers who pass on knowledge through songs and storytelling, Stonehenge style calendars, primitive weapons and firebreathing dragons.  On the scifi-side, we’ve got a planet that was colonized by humans hundreds of years ago and then forgotten, genetic manipulation, telepathy, teleportation, and did I mention time travel?

It’s been many generations since the deadly threads last fell from the sky, and the populace has become complacent. Many holds no longer send tribute to the dragonriders, and some blatantly defy tradition by forbidding harpers to sing the old songs. Many dragon Weyrs lie empty, and the Queen dragon lays fewer eggs than ever before. With a tiny clutch of dragon eggs and only one golden queen egg, a Search begins for a female rider for the soon to be born queen.  

Lessa, of Ruatha Hold, is completely oblivious to the Search. For ten turns she’s been working towards her goal of reclaiming the lands that were forcibly taken from her family. Lord Fax’s death is imminent, and soon Lessa’s dream will come true.   When the Searches come to Ruatha, lead by wingleader F’lar, he immediately recognizes Lessa as a candidate to bond with the queen dragon.  

Whisking her away from her home, F’lar introduces Lessa to dragonkind and everything they are capable of.  The funny part is, Lessa can’t escape politicking no matter where she goes. Hold or Weyr, there is no escape from leaders paralyzed into non-action by bureaucracy and petty pride.

Once Lessa bonds with the new dragon queen Ramoth, the plot picks up quite a bit.   Which is a very, very good thing, as the beginning of Dragonflight is (McCaffrey fans, get your pitchforks ready!) slow, unfocused, full of clunky sentences that break up the flow, and many an awkward scene transition.  

Lessa and F’lar have a big mystery to solve – How is one tiny and unprepared Weyr supposed to protect all of Pern against the Threads, a task that used to require six full Weyrs and the help of the populace? And where did all the dragonriders of old disappear to in the first place?  The threads have already begun to fall, and they are running out of precious time. As they dig through archives full of crumbling scrolls and skins, they find references and  bits of information that readers can see are modern day and futuristic technologies but to Pernese are mythical fictional nonsense.  McCaffrey has a ball playing with the questions of how many generations would it take for technology and knowledge to be forgotten and what would be the best way to ensure the knowledge is preserved.

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve already additionally spoiled the ending for you in a most wonderful science fiction way.

The writing style does improve (or I got used to it) as Dragonflight progresses, although I never really cared much for Lessa. I never felt she was all that developed, and her blossoming romance with F’lar has some major moments of Stockholm Syndrome.  Awkward moments with Lessa aside, F’lar is a fun character, but he’s so busy being the super serious hero type that it’s hard to see if there is more to his personality.   My favorite characters were F’nor (F’lar’s half-brother and wingman) and Kylara. Kylara is obnoxious and diva-ish, and poor F’nor basically gets stuck babysitting her, and it’s just funny watching his failed attempts to get rid of her.

Although I had my complaints, I can see why this series has become such a well loved classic. If someone had only told me that it involved time travel, I would have picked it up years ago!

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6 Responses to "Catching up with Classics: Dragonriders of Pern book 1"

I think you will like Dragonquest better. It is all about F’nor, my favorite character. The writing style is meh, but I have always loved the premise of these books. Riding on the back of a huge, flying dragon? Fighting deadly things that fall from the sky like rain? I LOVED this series when I was a kid :)

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The series does start off acceptably but starts lagging about vol.6.

There is a short but entertaining parody of the Pern series in David Langford’s ‘The Dragonhiker’s Guide to Battlefield Covenant at Dune’s Edge: Odyssey Two’.

For all that he has won 28 Hugo awards, DL is a naughty man.

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Julie – I’ve got plans to pick up Dragonquest soon. I’m looking forward to reading more about F’nor, he strikes me as really interesting.

bta – now that sounds hilarious!

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I would recommend “The Lady”. One of her lesser known books, but my favorite. I read and still own just about every McCaffery book when I was in high school. Love the Killesandra and Crystal Line series.

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This was part of my assigned reading my first term in grad school. I ended up not reading any more in the series, though I did give DRAGONSDAWN a crack before realizing this world really isn’t for me. To be fair, I’m not big on dragons.

Here’s a link to my review, which is one of my very first reviews, actually… http://calico-reaction.livejournal.com/3048.html

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[…] up seven years after Dragonflight (reviewed here), Lessa has come into her own as Weyrwoman, F’lar is a respected Weyrleader, and the […]

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