aka Red Star Rising
In this book, McCaffrey takes us back to around 300 years after the initial landing at Pern. When Thread first fell, the original settlers were able to determine that Thread would fall for about 50 years, and that there would be intervals of around 200 years between each cycle of Thread. Dragonseye takes place as the First Interval is drawing to a close and the Second Fall is about to begin.
I don’t know if I’m just getting used to McCaffrey’s writing/Pern or what, but despite the fact that this book involved an entirely new cast of characters, I found it a lot easier to get into than some of her other stories. McCaffrey uses this story to show us how a lot of the information/history from the original settlers was lost completely by the Ninth Pass 2000 years later (which is when the first book in the series is set).
As usual, there are several strands of story playing out at the same time. The main drive of the story is the Dragonriders trying to get everyone to prepare for Threadfall. Even though there has only been about 200 years since the last Threadfall, some people are reluctant to admit that Thread is coming again. One Lord Holder in particular, Chalkin, refuses to accept that Thread is going to fall. He doesn’t warn his people and will take no preparatory action. And, on top of that, he’s just an all-around nasty guy.
Meanwhile, the school system in Pern is undergoing a big change. Up until this point, they have followed an educational system fairly close to what we would see here, where students would attend regular classes and lessons. But as the society comes to rely less and less on technology, and more and more on what they grow/create themselves, there isn’t as much time for education as before. The leader of schooling system, Clisser, believes that much of what is being taught is unnecessary. Why do they need to spend time teaching the students about per-Pern history, for instance? What they need is to focus on the specific studies that will help them survive. Thus, we see the very beginnings of the different “halls” – one for each branch of industry/study – born, as well as the technique of teaching important information by song. (As the reader, we know that eventually the educational system will be replaced by the Harper Hall, and that songs will become the main way by which education is shared.)
All in all, this was a solid story. I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable if I hadn’t read it at this point in the series. By knowing what is going to happen later in Pernese history, this book of background was a lot more intriguing.
I’ve mentioned before a frustration with the fact that McCaffrey – and most other authors – love to portray those who advocate change as the good guys, and anyone who is against the change (or even like “Hey guys maybe we should think this through”) are automatically the nasty people that no one likes. In this book, one such character is Sallisha, a teacher who isn’t sure about Clisser’s ideas for changing the entire educational system. She’s a minor character, but even so comes across as stiff-necked, traditional (in a negative sense), and basically someone who will blindly cling to the old way just because it is the old way. This was extremely aggravating because her actions show Sallisha to be intelligent, interested in her students, and not the type of person who would remain prejudiced against a genuinely good idea.
For instance, in this conversation between Sallisha and Clisser, McCaffrey immediately sets the tone for how we are supposed to view Sallisha, thus subtly encouraging the reader to disregard everything she is getting ready to say:
Sallisha had seated herself in the least comfortable chair – the woman positively enjoyed being martyred. She still held the notebook, like a precious artifact, across her chest.
So basically we’re already being told that she is cranky, self-righteous, and stubborn. After setting her up thus, then we are allowed to hear her actual views, which are actually quite reasonable. Sallisha is concerned that by eliminating history and an emphasis on the way that Pern came to be, that the culture will lose that information entirely, a view that Clisser completely dismisses as ridiculous. Ironically, it’s Sallisha who is proved right centuries later.
Point being, Sallisha could have been used to show another side of the coin, but instead is just set up as a grouchy old woman. McCaffrey has a very aggravating habit of creating “good” characters, who, no matter how crazy their decisions sound, are always right. These are in contrast to the “bad” characters: anyone who disagrees with the good guys is always set up as a grouch, hidebound, stubborn, unlikable, barely tolerated even by those who are close and/or related, etc. It seems like the stories could really benefit from some intelligent and reasonable controversy.
At any rate, Dragonseye – and the series as a whole – is still a good time, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. The next stop is back into the future to learn more about Masterharper Robinton’s childhood and background, so I’m excited about that one.