The adventures of Pern continue!
So, McCaffrey’s books started sort of in the middle of the timeline of Pern. Her prefaces always indicated that the original settlers of Pern came, via spaceship, and settled the planet. Over the centuries, their roots were lost. Dragonsdawn deals with the story of those original settlers, and it was possibly my favorite Pern book to-date. Also, about two fifty pages into this book, I suddenly realized something. These books are sci-fi! What!? I don’t usually read a lot of sci-fi, so I think that may be why I didn’t really realize that that was what was happening, haha. Whoops. The dragons threw me off, too. Who puts dragons in their sci-fi? Well, McCaffrey does, especially when those dragons are actually genetically engineered from tiny fire lizards. SCIENCE. (Well, sort of.)
As with all of the Pern books, it was a little difficult to get into the groove of Dragonsdawn. There were a lot of different characters and no reference sheet. The main thing that McCaffrey does that makes sense but also makes things complicated for someone with a poor short-term memory, is sort of “sets the stage” by introducing EVERYONE in the first chapter, just a few paragraphs about each person/group of people, what they’re doing, why they’re here, etc. So Dragonsdawn begins with everyone on the spaceship just because they get to Pern, and her first chapter sort of meanders around the spaceship, checking in with everyone who is going to be a major player in the story, briefly touching on what they’re doing right now, and how they ended up on this spaceship to begin with. It’s great, but it’s also confusing, because now I have to remember these fifteen different people when they show up a few chapters later. (Was that the guy who was good with computers, or was that the fighter-pilot guy? Wait, did that girl meeting the kid in the conservatory, or was that the one who was the famous genetic engineer?) It doesn’t help that McCaffrey frequently skips several years at a time, so just because this person was a kid the last time I saw them, doesn’t mean that they’re going to still be a kid in the next chapter!
Still, there are plenty of online references to help me if I really get lost, and it usually only takes me about the first quarter of the book to get most of the people sorted out in my head.
We find that the people heading for Pern have every intention of settling there and eventually making do without the technological conveniences they have always had in their previous life. Pern is 15 years of traveling away from the other main planets settled by humans, and the new settlers are interested in starting again with a simpler, freer life – one free from the wars and power-hungry governments of the planets they have left behind. It is possible that part of the reason I so enjoyed this book is that I completely emphasized with these settlers – I’ve always been a bit sad that I was born in a time period too late to simply load up the wagons and head west for new land (even though being born then means I probably would be dead now at the ancient age of 33!).
Anyway, at first, everything seems to go according to plan as the settlers land on Pern and begin to spread out. But eight years later, the deadly Thread begins to fall – a phenomenon that no one anticipated and no one knows how to handle. It was thoroughly engaging to read about a problem that I already know how future generations handle. I’m actually someone who enjoys knowing the ending of a story (although no, I don’t skip to the end on new books!) and then seeing how we get there, so I really liked reading about the origins of the flame-breathing dragons and their riders.
There is a lot of additional drama from a crafty individual attempting to utilize Pern for her own advantages, and one of my favorite characters dies quite tragically (I may or may not have gotten choked up over that), but everything came together for a gripping tale that I really, really enjoyed. Most of the Pern books take me a bit of time to work through as they are rather hefty and sometimes a bit dry, but I could hardly put Dragonsdawn down, and actually stayed up until midnight one night finishing it off!
While I highly recommend reading these books in published order the first time around, I do think that sometime I will read them in chronological-ish order at some point in the future. I’m currently reading Renegades of Pern, and it covers random points in time from before the first (published) book, Dragonflight, and apparently ends after the sixth book, The White Dragon. It would be fun to read those first six books, and then Renegades, and really get a better feel for how everything meshes together.
ANYWAY. Point is, Dragonsdawn was a very enjoyable read, one that I liked so much that it really gave me a mid-series boost and reengaged me into the world of Pern.