Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: The Harper Hall trilogy

Tehani and Marisol bonded over Pern (and Doctor Who) at a science fiction convention, decided that it was time for a reread of the series, and really, they should blog about that. They are reading in Anne McCaffrey’s preferred way, which is basically publication order.  

gl49of4nx3uzug5weu1fPern Series – The Harper Hall Trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums)

M: First, I think I should point out this is the only time Tehani and I decided to read out of publication order, because this trilogy has so much to do with the White Dragon and the landscape there-in. It just seemed right. And having read it in this order, I stand by this.

T: To be fair, Wikipedia says Anne recommended reading the Harper Hall books before The White Dragon, so I’m comfortable with our decision!

Harper HallM: Out of all the books, this set is my absolute favourite (can’t wait to see if that still stands come the end of this).

T: They really are very very good. And the first true time (at least in Dragonsong and Dragonsinger) that we have a female protagonist, which is nice.  And I recently remembered that I did a university assignment to design a unit of work around the first book! It definitely made an impact…

menolly2M: Menolly is a fifteen year old girl who is a musical prodigy. She writes catchy songs and is a deeply compassionate, kind person. Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: The Harper Hall trilogy”

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Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: DRAGONQUEST

Tehani and Marisol bonded over Pern (and Doctor Who) at a science fiction convention, decided that it was time for a reread of the series, and really, they should blog about that. They are reading in Anne McCaffrey’s preferred way, which is basically publication order.  

gl49of4nx3uzug5weu1fPern Series – Book 2 Dragonquest

T: Another story starting out from the male point-of-view. Dearie me, here we go again… Oh, but it’s Robinton, and you know what? I’m okay with that. I love the Masterharper 🙂

I really like the way McCaffrey gives us a quick recap in the shape of Robinton’s musings here – in fact, I might suggest that people planning to read the series for the first time might like to skip the very problematic Dragonflight and perhaps start here instead? Although this book is not itself problem-free…

51l2fhN2Q7LIn this one, the rampant misogyny is toned down a fair bit, giving over to the occasional off-putting line or two. Robinton’s thoughts in the first pages, for example, include this gem: “Larad, Lord of Telgar, was giving his half-sister, Famira, to Asgenar, Lord of Lemos Hold.” Giving? Is she a plant, to be given? And when the numbweed is being made, a significant event in the Weyr, it is of course “the women” boiling it and doing the awful work to make the salve. Little lines like “This was a matter for men to settle” grate on the modern reader, but again, in the context of the year of publication (1971), and in relation to some of the horrors of Dragonflight, I could deal with it.

Less easy to handle are some other aspects. Lessa’s subservience to F’lar irritated me. She stands up to him, she holds her own in a righteous argument, then suddenly caves, pressing up against him with: “I’ve no right to say such things to you,” Lessa was whispering in soft remorse. WHY? You certainly DO have the right, Lessa! You were making him see the truth of a situation! Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: DRAGONQUEST”

Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: DRAGONFLIGHT

Tehani and Marisol bonded over Pern (and Doctor Who) at a science fiction convention, decided that it was time for a reread of the series, and really, they should blog about that. They are reading in Anne McCaffrey’s preferred way, which is basically publication order.

gl49of4nx3uzug5weu1fPern Series – Book 1 Dragonflight

M: As a quick aside, can I say how surprised I was that this book had a prologue, and how incredibly info-dumpy it was? I’ve read Dragonflight probably a dozen times since I was 10, and I never once remembered the prologue, which seems to be a point in the “Prologues are useless or should be a chapter” box I always see espoused.

T: Yes! And the prologue sets it up as explicitly science fictional – do you suppose that’s the point, given how many readers think of it as fantasy because dragons? What’s even more interesting though is how that prologue CHANGED! I started reading an early edition of Dragonflight and then switched to a new (omnibus) version and the whole thing was different, reflecting the evolving world-building that had grown (and superceded) the early details as the series went on.

Genre Bender

51M6GYpJt8LM: Pern always gets marked as a fantasy, but I’ve always read it as a sci-fi with fantasy elements due to technology loss, and the way this story goes, I felt this was reinforced the whole time. It’s clear through sense of loss, not only with the dragons and the decay in weyrs/life/etc, but in the struggle to fight Thread on the ground with what they had on hand.

And considering this book was written in 1968, I’m amazed how well it stands the genre test of time. Still a great story.

DragonflightT: It certainly holds up in terms of genre, handwavy time-travel aside (I read it as fantasy for several volumes, even though I originally first read The White Dragon…), but the same can’t be said for gender – some of the gender stereotypes are, hmmm, problematic, to say the least! Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: DRAGONFLIGHT”