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.
M: This was one of my favorite Pern books growing up, and after reading it, I’d still say it’s in the top 5. I really enjoy seeing the fallout AIVAS caused on all of Pern, and this is a special subset affected – those who love dolphins and want to reestablish a working relationship with them.
(I was raised on a steady diet of Flipper and The Little Mermaid, so it’s no surprise I enjoyed a story about dolphins. Which, like other sea mammals, seem horribly underrepresented in sci-fi/fantasy until recently. I guess I’m not the only one who finds them fascinating.)
T: Flipper? You watched FLIPPER? Woah. (I didn’t really get to watch that show, as our television access was spotty, to say the least, when I was a kid!). I’ve always loved dolphins too, so yes, having a book ostensibly about a society revolving around dragons being about dolphins was pretty much going to hit about a million of my “yes please” buttons!
M: Hell yeah! Flipper was on Nickelodeon, I loved all of its cheesy glory.
In what has become an unfortunate theme in this series, though, I’m really unimpressed with the showcasing of women in this book. In particular, I find the portrayal of Readis’s mother, Aramina, who has previously been this strong, confident woman, into a shrinking fearful for my baaaaaby mother, infuriating. The woman goes through kidnapping, betrayal, holdessness, survives the trip to the Southern Continent, but loses her brain over one of her four kids? She doesn’t do anything to her other kids at all to back up the big shift in her attitude, and overall just found it to be disappointing.
T: *sigh* Yes. That characterisation was really off. McCaffrey seemed to work really hard to explain Aramina’s attitude but it just didn’t fly. I could get it to a certain point, because in her own short story and in Renegades, there were some aspects of her personality that could lend themselves to her becoming overprotective and handling things in a way that might seem strange, but she really does go over the top, and it makes no sense in the context of the life they lead. It makes less sense that Jayge never addresses it with her and Readis, or that Alemi doesn’t prod him to do so!
M: Exactly! Where is the changeover? It’s like she goes from zero to ninety in no space. It makes her come off a bit crazy. And the fact everyone else either never acknowledges it or handwaves it away is so out of character.
And other than that, we get short bits with Menolly and Mirrim, and stand-in characters for sisters, etc. We’ve hit this point where women are becoming equal, at least that’s what we’re being fed, so where are they?
T: Well, as you know Marisol, the perception of women as equal is really at about 15%, right? 😛 I think I forgave this one a little more than I should have, reading your comments now, because it didn’t bother me while I read it. Possibly that was a little in part due to the fact I really like Alemi as a character, and he plays a significant role. I fear I may have done that thing where you think there are more female characters than there are when a few a randomly mentioned by name and have a bit to do (such as Temma, for example). But you are definitely right. Like, why couldn’t Persellan, the healer, have been a woman, to give us another reasonably important character?
M: I’ve wondered if one of the girls had been the eldest and the planned holder if we could have had the exact same story, and I don’t see why not, other than she’d be the first female Holder. Which would have made for a better story/angle, far more believable than a sudden fear of Readis and a watery grave simply because he was in one storm. Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE DOLPHINS OF PERN”