||Totally awesome, and brilliantly
written. I honestly could not put this book down.
I believe this book is really a work of
science fiction, but I classify feudal courts and swordplay as fantasy,
so I was torn about which category to put this in. However, as the
series progressed, and we got technology in this series (and it looks
like spaceflight might not be out of the question, either), it has
definitely become SF.
The best part of this book was the way
nothing was given in the form of explanation. By its use, the reader has
to figure out what turns of phrasing, or even words, mean. Turns are
obviously the years of Pern, for example. The backstory is not given in
terms of a dramatic history, but as people talk and think in the
present, or by people actually doing things. The book is, in this way,
wonderfully subtle: the author asks the reader to accept the world of
Pern as it is.
The characters of Lessa and F'lar were
so very well-developed. I loved them both. F'lar, for his part, because
of his ignorance of current affairs in the outside world, and his
arrogance from being a special breed. It is an awesome combination.
Lessa was conniving and extremely intelligent. She was correct when she
said that nobody ever told her anything -so she took matters into her
own hands. I liked the fact that her actions sometimes backfired.
Both of these characters, and the world
of Pern, have a lot of undeveloped backstory, which makes it feel very
real. Not everything is divulged in this book, just enough to keep us
interested in learning more. It makes the world feel very real.
The people of Pern are quite ignorant
of their world, as well. Originally, Pern was some sort of human colony,
then, over the years, it was abandoned to fend for itself. The people
reverted to a more primitive lifestyle, and even forgot about the
dangers from the sky above. For another planet shared an eccentric orbit
with Pern, and came close enough to cause global changes every 200
years. To combat this threat, the original colonists somehow created the
dragons, which could sear the deadly Thread from the sky. Thread burrows
deep underground, and consumes all organic life until it starves to
This time around, however, it has been
400 years since the Red Star last passed. I love the celestial mechanics
involved. Sometimes the Red Star's orbit doesn't take it close enough to
Pern to "excite the Threads". Over such a long time, the people have
lost many of their fears over Thread, even to the point of thinking that
the threat is gone forever. The head of the dragonriders thinks this
way, too, and has allowed the dragons to nearly die out, and the people
to lower their regard for the "obsolete" dragonmen.
The first part of the book was by far
the most interesting. It is here that we meet Lessa, the last of the
formerly powerful clan of Ruatha. F'lar, rider of a bronze dragon, comes
looking for a weyr-woman, because a new queen dragon is about to be
born, and needs a rider. F'lar learns very quickly about the low regard
the dragonmen have in the common Holds. Fax, the tyrant who murdered all
the Ruathans, was amazingly hateable, and I love every moment where he
was manipulated or made to look like a fool. Lessa gets her revenge on
Fax, as she manipulates F'lar into a duel, which he wins. She doesn't
get to rule Ruatha, however, as she goes to Benden Weyr to be Impressed
by the dragon queen. Instead, the heir to Fax, born as F'lar killed Fax,
is given rulership, while a former dragonman, Lytol (whose dragon was
killed), becomes warder in his stead.
I loved Lessa's first contact with the
new dragon queen. As it hatched, the other contending women shrieked and
ran away, while Lessa took control of it. Ha! The whole thing did make
me wonder about the role of women in this world. If they came originally
from a technological society, millennia ago, why are the women so
subservient now? Why did they have to go on a Search to find an
appropriately-powerful woman? If most of the men come from the Weyr,
shouldn't there be women, as well? If Ruathan women were so powerful,
I'd think a child of F'nor, for example, would be powerful, as well.
Finally, if the green dragons could lay eggs, meaning at least some of
them are female (I assume), shouldn't they be paired with female riders,
and why didn't Lessa's name get shortened with an apostrophe, like the men's
The second part of the book
familiarizes us with life in the Weyr, as opposed to the outside world.
I shared Lessa's frustrations at the stagnation in the Weyr, and looked
forward to her plans and subterfuges to make the place subtly better. I
found it unfortunate that circumstances forced her to stop so soon, but
I liked that her impatience led to near-disaster for the Weyr, as the
Hold lords assembled an army against them.
However, I liked F'lar as Weyr leader,
and the way he took charge. He became Weyr leader when his dragon mated
with the queen. I liked the way Lessa experienced a dragon orgasm
through her link with Ramoth, as she mated with Mnementh. I, too, wished
F'lar would tell Lessa the reasons behind some traditions, however,
instead of just asking her to follow him blindly.
The Ballads that the Harpers sang had
instructional meaning, but they were hidden in the songs. R'gul had no
understanding of the ballads, but Lessa should have been able to go to
F'lar for some more information.
F'lar deflects the army of the Hold
Lords by telling them that Thread is imminent, and he takes advantage of
the dragon fear people have.
The third and fourth part of the story
were less interesting than the first two parts, but that doesn't mean
they were dull. By no means, for they contained some actual preparation
and fighting of Thread, and had a lot of surprises. I suppose it stems
from the fact that these parts were wrapping up the mysteries from the
F'lar teaches Lessa how to go
between, which is how a dragon travels across great distances in
only a few seconds. Sort of like hyperspace! Only Lessa goes between
time instead of just space, something that had been unknown
before! F'lar uses this to great
advantage when they are late discovering that Thread is already falling,
going back in time to counter the threat. They manage to destroy the
vast majority of the Thread, but some managed to burrow their way into
the rain forests.
F'Lar gathers the Hold lords and the
Master craftsmen to the Weyr, and they discuss ways to destroy the
burrows, and catch more Thread before it hits the ground, or injures or
kills dragons or dragonriders. They have some great discussion, with the
best lines going to the Master Harper, who has been nearly ostracized by
this time, as nobody has wanted to hear about dragons in his ballads for
a long time. He gets to criticize
the Lords without worrying about his life. F'lar also sets up a new Weyr
in the far south, ten years in the past! What a way to create new
dragons! However, it appears that being in two times at once is too much
of a strain on humans, though it doesn't affect dragons. As the Weyr is
"understaffed" to fight all the Thread that will fall in the next fifty
years, they are able to add many new dragons to the fight.
They keep lamenting the fact that five
out of six Weyrs on Pern were abandoned suddenly so long ago, and that
their Weyr was allowed to degenerate so much. Through a cool series of
clues, Lessa figures out that somebody went back in time by 400 years
and brought the populations of the five abandoned Weyrs to help with this
fight! I figured this out long before Lessa did, but only because Lessa
wasn't given all of the clues until much later than the reader was. As
usual, against F'lar's judgement and express orders, Lessa goes back in
time to get them.
If there is anything I have to complain
about in this book, this is the part. The five Weyrs were convinced way
too easily, and it took much less time to set everything up than I would
have expected. In defence of this, however, how could they doubt the
visions Ramoth was able to communicate to the other dragons? And a quick
and hasty exit is the only way to allay suspicion on the part of those
not involved. I thought Lessa and F'lar kept track of all the time
shifts too easily, as well. As in the latest
Harry Potter movie, and
other shows I've seen, all of the time travel is paradoxical and cyclic
-there is no "first time" for anything. The Weyrs were abandoned because
Lessa brought them forward in time, but Lessa went forward in time only
because the Weyrs were abandoned. I love this way of doing things. But
Lessa and the other Weyr-people seemed to go about things too
simplistically, as telling the Master Harper to write a song, only because
that's what she used to figure out the paradox, along with the tapestry.
Everyone is happy and shocked with the
appearance of 1800 more dragons to fight Thread, and Pern seems safe.
The people brought forward in time are also able to clear up some misinterpretations
of the traditions of the present time, and bring devices like
flame-throwers to use against Thread.
There are things which are not
explained, however, which undoubtedly links us to the sequels and
prequels. I wonder if there is some significance to Lessa's mistake in
timing the arrival in the present time. Also, who made the Timing charts
to help fight Thread, if the people from the past didn't have them?
Although several significant events
take place over the course of this novel, the most interesting parts are
the characters. They are so well-developed, and they have plans for
their future. Most of the time, the plans turn out differently from how
they intended. Lessa, for example, never planned her life beyond Fax's
death, so she could take control of Ruatha Hold. How different is her
life now! Many of the secondary characters also get good development,
especially F'nor (F'lar's half-brother), and the Master Harper and
The world itself is a fascinating
place. I am particularly drawn to the southern continent, abandoned to
the Threads every time the Red Star makes a pass. Now that they have set
up a Weyr in the south, will they protect it from the Threads? This
could mean doubling or tripling the forces required. If Thread reaches a
remote area, will it continue to spread through vegetative areas until
it reaches the Southern Weyr? F'lar also says that Thread falls
harmlessly into the ocean. How certain is he of this? There is green
vegetation in the ocean as well -they eat fish through the course of the
story. As there is a novel with Dolphins in the title, I wouldn't be
surprised to learn that Thread has some impact there, too.
In all, this book has so many
possibilities that it is a surety I will read another book in the
series, if not all of the books! The characters, and the paradoxes that
occur were amazing to read. The author's style was paramount to making
this work, however. Given the creatures and people that inhabit Pern, it
would have been easier for the author to use familiar terms. Instead,
she makes us think about what we are reading, and gives us enough
references to figure it out for ourselves, like the "crawlers". Amazing!
I do hope that future books, written in
the last twenty years, do not fill out with meaningless filler, the way
some authors have done, most notably Asimov. On the other hand, some
hearty discussion among the Weyrs from the past would have been welcome,
and might have been included if the book was written today. We'll see!