I actually finished reading Dragon Flight by Anne McCaffrey (Science Fiction/Fantasy 202 pages) either last week or the week before. I don’t remember when exactly, as it seems to me that I started and finished the book the same day. I told several of my friends that I was reading it and one of the questions came up as to whether I was reading the series in the order that it was published or the actual timeline order. Having no idea what my friend was talking about, I did a little bit of research about how the series progressed. I mentioned to them that I had never actually read any of the books in the series and that produced an astonished response. Having now read the first book in the series, I am also wondering how it is I managed to never read the series before now.
My childhood was certainly shaped mostly by fantasy books, the Dragonlance books, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, Mercedes Lackey, Patricia Wrede, Andre Norton, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc., and most of the television I enjoyed was either science fiction or fantasy. So how come it is that I missed the Dragonriders of Pern?
I guess the easy way to start this review is to actually say that I enjoyed the book very much. Anne McCaffrey‘s Crystal Singer Trilogy remains to this day one of my favorite series which means that I’ve been pre-conditioned to enjoy her science fiction stories. I guess all those times in the bookstores where I passed the Dragonriders of Pern books that I was perhaps slightly biased. The titles themselves indicated to me that the books were more fantasy and less science fiction and for the last decade or so, I think I’ve been tired of reading dragon stories. But it turns out that the Pern series really is carefully buried Science Fiction. It’s just not as obvious in the first book.
One of the fun parts about stories like this for me is the anticipation. I never read the back cover of this book to see what it would be about, but based on the title, I guessed that people who ride dragons would feature prominently into the story and this is true. So when the story started out with the intertwining fates of the two main characters, you get that feeling that you know what each of them wants, needs, and is looking for and then you get frustrated when they don’t communicate their intentions adequately to the correct person.
There were some parts of the story that were a bit frustrating to me, but I absolutely respected that this was a story about a completely different culture on a very different planet. Lessa’s first intimate encounter is unexpected and potentially rather rough, but that’s just the rules of how that society works. The characters were clearly products of their environment, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Anne McCaffrey‘s work so much. She builds completely different societies and completely different planets and she does it so well that you as the reader are simply expected to accept the way the world is and move on. In my opinion, this provides credibility to her world building when she doesn’t take the time to explain down to the readers te complicated process that simply makes the world the way it is, whether that world is a Red Star, Pern, or someplace else entirely.
I guess one of my sources of amusement or concern (I couldn’t decide which it was more often) was how many times Lessa just gets shaken. “You’re not understanding me, woman!” shake, shake, shake. Grab by the shoulders, shake, shake, shake. I got the feeling that Lessa was something of a bobble-head and I wondered if that was where the idea came from. Other than that, I didn’t really have any issues with the story.
I thought the story was well-written with good action and the pace was enough to keep me turning the pages. In fact, the story was a little bit too engrossing, as I several times decided that I should finish just this one more paragraph/page/chapter instead of accomplishing necessary tasks like going to work. Or cleaning out my empty apartment. You know, things that actually have deadlines and make it so I can pay the bills and live comfortably. The dragons, of course, were my favorite characters.
Overall, I think this is another great book that I can’t believe I never read before. Silly younger me and not reading these books sooner!