The Skies of Pern appears to be the last book, chronologically, that McCaffrey wrote about Pern. Set after The Dolphins of Pern, McCaffrey looks at life on Pern as its people look toward a Thread-free future. While it was good to get some closure for some of the characters that have gone through so many of the books together – eleven of the Pern books center around the same 40 or so years of Pernese history – I didn’t feel that Skies was McCaffrey’s best work.
First off, she starts by harping back on the same old thing: a disgruntled group of horrible people who hate progress. I just don’t understand why McCaffrey feels like this is a plot-line she has to revisit in almost every book. It is getting quite old – for someone who makes all the anti-change people absolutely evil, McCaffrey seems to be in a bit of a rut herself. The especially frustrating part about this plot line in Skies was that it also felt completely unnecessary. It was the plot that fit the last well into the overall story, and I genuinely think the entire book would have read better without it, especially since it was also the story line that was most poorly ended.
The rest of the stories actually aren’t bad. F’lessan, the (adult) son of the Benden Weyrleaders, is the main character of the book, and we more or less follow his relationship with a green dragon rider, Tai. F’lessan has been in and out of several of the other books, and I have always liked him. He is a character who could have kicked back and rested on the laurels of his parents, who are incredibly important and powerful people in Pern, but he doesn’t. Instead, F’lessan makes his own way, working through the ranks, studying, and aiming for a future.
Tai was also a really likable character. Quiet and intelligent, she was also not intended to be a dragonrider, and just happened to be at the hatching where her dragon, Zaranth, chose her. Tai is a good balance for F’lessan’s sociable, breezy personality.
The other big story (besides the random “we hate progress” vandals) is a huge meteor hitting Pern and causing a tsunami. It’s this whole big thing and lots of drama, yadda yadda, and this is the other point where the book kind of fails to hang together. See, I think what McCaffrey was trying to do was create a realistic role for many dragonriders to play after the end of the current Pass of Thread. Having altered the Red Star’s course, Thread will never fall on Pern again after the end of the current Pass, which means that dragonriders can no longer expect to receive tithe from the Holders and Halls. I’m not really sure why she felt like she had to come up with a special task for them, since we’ve already established that there is a ridiculously large amount of unsettled land on the southern continent, and all the dragonriders can just start their own Holds and go from there. But apparently this isn’t enough. Using the meteor as a starting point, McCaffrey has the dragonriders determine that they should basically start their own sky watch program, where they have people observing the skies 24-7, on constant alert for other dangerous chunks of rock falling from the sky. Throughout the story, the dragons discover that they not only have the power to communicate telepathically, as well as the ability to teleport, but they can also move things telekinesistically. So apparently, in the future, dragonriders are going to look through telescopes for potential danger, and if they see something, the dragons will head out and use their minds to redirect the path of the meteor! ???????? What?!
This makes no sense to me, mainly because it’s not like they have this big problem with meteors falling all over the place. They rarely fall, and they even more rarely fall in such large chunks as to actually cause trouble. So this whole thing with justifying the continued existence of dragons really didn’t hang together for me.
Despite the flaws, this was still a very readable book. And, like I said, it was good to get some closure on some of my favorites. I’m actually quite sad that it appears that all the rest of the Pern books will take place during earlier points of Pernese history. These characters have been together for the longest stretch, and I have gotten to know them the best.
Still have nine Pern books left! They are neverending!