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.
Pern Series – Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern / Nerilka’s Story
T: In Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, we go back in time several hundreds of years (turns), and read the story of “Moreta’s Ride”, a ballad we were introduced to in earlier books.
M: This is one of those great tiebacks where you realize the ballad in no way reflects the reality of the situation. And given the nature of the entire pandemic, I doubt it could, anyways. Most poignant fact being that no one wanted to admit she was on Holth and not Orlith. Nor was the last wink between as heroic in the story as it sounds in the ballad. It was a terrible accident brought on by exhaustion.
I mean, it’s still heroic, but it’s not the same.
T: One of the things that struck me was how McCaffrey did a pretty good job of making some small societal changes that made it clear it was a different era. Nothing hugely significant, but just tweaks that may logically have changed before we get to the “present day” Pern.
M: The one that stuck with me was the underlying attitude of us versus them. I mean, people did their duty, but it was really lip service for tithings, while simultaneously talking behind people’s backs. It’s no wonder they nearly failed to inoculate all of Pern. Cooperation is not in their mindsets!
T: I also found it interesting how several characters were presented as really unlikeable or not as personable as their counterparts in the “modern” era – Lord Tolocamp of Fort Hold springs to mind, and suffers by comparison to Lord Groghe (who may be hidebound but still generally affable), and of course the Fort Weyrleader, Sh’gall, who is not at all of a like with F’lar!
M: Almost all of them, I thought. Moreta’s story is a cautionary tale of selfish people and how the only handful of thinkers managed to save the planet from being wiped out. Sh’gall in particular is an embarrassment to Weyrkind. He exalts absolutely no virtues whatsoever, and I don’t think being good at organizing Threadfall runs is an excuse to be Weyrleader. And given how often the Queen riders mentioned terrible scorings, many of which put riders out a full Turn, was the final straw. Poor leadership means more accidents, and it showed.
Which is why Orlith liking Sh’gall initially puzzled me. I cannot possibly fathom why.
T: Well, the queen doesn’t necessarily make the choice, right? Sometimes the bronze outflies her…
Moreta, though, is easily comparable to Lessa, although Lessa had a tougher upbringing, which is reflected in her more prickly nature, I think.
M: Moreta reminded me of the mother’s quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” There isn’t a partnership here, nor does it seem in any of the Weyrleader partnerships. Which goes back to your comments about changes from the times, I know, but I think it’s sad that the people with common sense have to bull their way through to get things done that need to be done. Ridiculous.
T: So true.
M: Tehani, did you feel like the dragons came across as different, too? I don’t know if Orlith was an oddball as far as dragons are concerned, but her in particular I found – I want to say less evolved, but I don’t think that’s exactly right. Her thought processes were so markedly different from the others we’ve been exposed to, more simplistic and immediate. Other dragons were making observations and pointing things out in later generations, and I didn’t really see any of that awareness in Orlith.
T: I think that’s definitely an evolution to the point of the modern dragons – even Lessa, F’lar, F’nor comment on the way some of the dragons surprise them with their comments on things sometimes. And that culminates in Ruth, whose thought processes and understandings are a marked step up again. It’s quite obvious in the way that Moreta says it’s unusual for a dragon to participate in the healing like Orlith does, so even in THAT time, there were different evolutionary points in dragonkind.
I think there’s an interesting maturity about Nerilka’s Story that you don’t often see in books. We always want the “happy ever after”, and it’s quite unusual to see a “what comes next” story. I don’t know what motivated McCaffrey to write this story (and it’s only a novella, not a true novel), but she clearly had something she wanted to say.
M: I think Nerilka said it best: “To cry was to release all sorts of ugly little pressures and tensions. Like waking out of a long, dark dream to a sun-filled day.” Nerilka’s story is a reminder that we do the best we can with the hand we’re dealt, and sometimes it’s more terrifying and all encompassing than we as individuals can cope with. But it’s not the end, and it’s ok to grieve when needed.
And as a further nod to Anne’s masterful story-telling, I love how she manages to encompass the negative emotions, especially the grief, while managing to show those tiny bright moments that pop in the dark. Rill managing to find a home despite all the mess. Her putting her hard work from the distillery to use before it expired.
T: Did you notice, Nerilka’s Story is the first (I want to say only?) one of the series written in first person?
M: Yes! It reinforced the idea for me that this story was about processing grief and trauma. Because it’s such an intensely personal process, it wouldn’t have the impact in a third person account.
Life isn’t all kittens and rainbows, but we can find those small rainbows amongst the showers. It’s a beautiful, powerful story that sticks with you.
Previously, in the Great Pern Reread of 2015:
The Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums)