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 – All the Weyrs of Pern
T: This is the book you could really end the series with. And maybe McCaffrey should have, though I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve reread Dolphins and Skies (and the Masterharper), because I don’t think I’ve read some of those more than once, so don’t really remember much about them. I’ve not included The Chronicles of Pern in that, because everything in it comes from the beginning, prior to or following Dragonsdawn.
M: I’d be really sad if we didn’t include Dolphins, that’s one of my favorites from my childhood, although we shall see if that’s still the case.
T: Oh, we’re totally doing it, I’m just saying that the story cycle really completes nicely in All the Weyrs…
M: I remember being surprised they came out with more books after, because it seemed like they were going to stop after this one. At the same time, though, I really enjoyed reading about the ‘fallout’ post AIVAS in the next books, and I’ve got some thoughts on that I’ll keep shushed til we get there.
T: To be honest, I didn’t love this book as much as I remember loving it in past readings. Partly I think it’s because there are still issues with gender roles that glare at me – in Chapter 2, for example, when all the men are doing the bidding of AIVAS, Lessa, Menolly and Jancis and some drudges take on the cleaning… Really? REALLY?! Two of the most powerful and well-respected women on Pern ending up on cleaning duty?
M: I feel like some things in their culture are harder to let go of in the ingrained sense than others. Certainly if Lessa didn’t feel like cleaning, she wouldn’t have. I like to think (hope) that they’re moving towards equal rather than one gender.
T: I think I forgot that this was, essentially, the sequel to The White Dragon. It’s Jaxom’s story more than anyone else’s, and while I love Jaxom to bits, that surprised me a bit and also meant that rereading it now, when I tend not to read many books with male protagonists these days, was an interesting experience. Particularly as the focus was most definitely on the male characters in general. Whole swathes of pages go by with no women featured or even present, at times.
M: Do you think that might be because so few of the notable people are women? I mean, with AIVAS discovered, it’s understandable that leaders rather than just anyone would be allowed access to Landing first. There’s an argument in there for women being able to reach said spots as well, but I noted a few instances where things were now casually mentioned as new men and women in Crafthalls and working on projects to help defeat Thread. Able hands are now regarded as just that, and the fact they’re not arguing about “the wimmins!” working is a good step forward for this generation. I would love to see more, but considering where the petulant, hidebound individuals started, I think the growth has been good.
T: Yeah, but the books have always harped on about how the Weyrwomen are as important to the Weyrs as the Weyrleaders (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding…) so I guess it just would have been nice to see more females given page time. Particularly Menolly, Lessa, Sharra, Jancis and the like. Seems like half the time they are mentioned it’s only to talk about their latest pregnancy or baby!
M: I know! What was with that? I know we were going over four years, but I would’ve liked to have had more of them, in particular Menolly as you’d think she’d be allowed to be as invested as Piemur and Robinton.
T: Exactly. It’s just a bit off.
M: One thing I want to touch on, though, speaking of Ruth and Jaxom – them doing the impossible. How incredible is it they managed to jump 50 years into the future to confirm everything worked as AIVAS said, and then timed it back 1800 years for the first engine?! Freaking incredible. The entire last part of the book still had me on the edge of my seat while simultaneously cheering all the incredible leaps they made. Who said advancement was only for technology?!
T: I really liked that AIVAS’s plan were very much structured around a reliance on Ruth’s abilities, and Jaxom’s willingness to take the risks needed. It was a lovely full circle from the early days of their story, when others would have let Ruth die, or separated them. I think it had a nice little message, in that ending.
M: This may sound weird, but there was almost a fondness for me when the anti-progress people came out in angry waves. Because they’re so expected when big technological and societal advances hit, I had this “finally” moment when they tried to sabotage AIVAS. I like problems that can addressed rather than rumors which are difficult to pin, because I wanted to see everyone triumph over the angry mobs. I think of them as the Abominators, although they never named themselves.
Every Pern story isn’t complete without a good cry, and (massive spoiler if you’ve never read them), having Robinton die after everything they’ve did is the hardest death in all of the books. He’s a force of nature, and even though it was probably one of the kindest deaths a person could have, going to sleep like that, a Pern without him is an incomplete world. My cat judged me horribly when I cried and hugged him.
T: Oh my yes. I had, again, forgotten that it happened in this book. As we were winding up for the ending I’m reading and going, wait, I have a bad feeling here… So many sobs.
M: Maybe this is where the series should have ended. Man, I’m really looking forward to reading the rest. (But Masterharper goes back in time and therefore doesn’t count for ‘ending’, as it chronologically is much earlier and I NEED my Robinton!)
Previously, in the Great Pern Reread of 2015:
The Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums)
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern / Nerilka’s Story