Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: ALL THE WEYRS OF PERN

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 – 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.

AnneMcCaffrey_AllTheWeyrsOfPernT: 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. Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: ALL THE WEYRS OF PERN”


Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE RENEGADES OF PERN

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 Renegades of Pern

M: This is the book I always think of as “The Gypsy Book”. I always forget all the OTHER stuff that happens in it.

T: The events of The White Dragon, The Renegades of Pern and All the Weyrs of Pern are apparently just one big jumble in my head, because I really had no idea which events took place in what book (or sometimes, short story…), so it was wonderful fun revisiting these to find out!

M: Given the ridiculously wide timeframe this book covers, it’s no surprise. I mean, we see Fax before he’s been killed. That’s ages ago!

michael whelan_anne mccaffrey_pern_renegades of pernT: At first I felt like we really *should* have skipped Moreta/Nerilka and Dragonsdawn to come back to later, because Renegades runs concurrently in the chronology to Dragonflight, Dragonquest, the Harper books and The White Dragon (as well as a couple of short stories!) for a big chunk! However, as I read on, I realised that it probably would have been a bit irritating to read the book in too close a proximity, and in fact the break really made this a better read. It also helps one gloss over the little continuity errors…

M: Too much dipping in the same pot, I agree. Even if Dragonsdawn is my least favorite story (so far as I remember). This book is like the book that shouldn’t be. It’s vignettes sliced up over an enormously long time.

T: Renegades certainly has the most ensemble cast of any of the books so far, I think. We get multiple widely varied points of view, with the dragonriders and harpers interesting quite sidelined for most of the story. Quite a fascinating choice McCaffrey made there! Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE RENEGADES OF PERN”

Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: DRAGONSDAWN

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 – Dragonsdawn

T: In my memory, Dragonsdawn was one of my very favourite books. Revisiting it, I realised that actually, I didn’t love it quite as much anymore. Part of that may have been that I just wasn’t as invested in the characters (although Sean and Sorka remain favourites). But a lot of it came down to, I think, the pacing. There were sections I really skimmed over, and I don’t think it was because it was a reread – it was because they were a bit overlong and kind of dull…

asiandragonsdawnM: This is the first book, chronologically speaking, and after reading it I’m reminded why I firmly believe one should NOT read this book first. I’d pick just about any other book before it. It’s a good book overall, but it’s not Pern. It’s Pern Easter Eggs, or the Silmarillion for Pern. The backdrop of how it all began is interesting, but not as interesting as if you know WHY these stories are important in modern day Pern.

T: Heh, good comparison! Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: DRAGONSDAWN”

Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: MORETA/NERILKA

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 – 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.

Moreta-Dragonlady-of-Pern-Anne-McCaffrey-20141220173255 Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: MORETA/NERILKA”

Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE WHITE DRAGON

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 White Dragon

T: So this has always been, in my memory, my favourite Pern book. Reading it again was interesting, because I realised that some of the bits I thought were in it are actually in other books, which was weird, but also, there is so much I forgot! It was like coming at it for the first time, which was fantastic.

M: I had the exact same experience! It’s really again proof of her storytelling power, that that many bits from a character stay with you despite multiple books, usually over multiple years for readers.

T: I love the fact that so much of the story of this book comes about due to the intellectual curiosity of the characters, not just the harpers, but others too, both young and old. The way learning and cross-crafting is so important. And the idea that sometimes, you just have to take a leap to reach the next level! Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE WHITE DRAGON”

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”

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”

Coming soon: Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread

A few weeks ago, at Conflux, I happened into a conversation with the delightful Marisol and we discovered a mutual passion for Pern (among other things, like Doctor Who — Marisol is good people… 🙂 ). When she mentioned she really thought it was time she reread the series, I realised that although McCaffrey and Pern were definitely formative in my early years of reading speculative fiction (I talk about that in the SF Signal post on “The books that made us love science fiction and fantasy”), I hadn’t revisited the world for a really long time. So I suggested that not only should we both reread the books, but we totally needed to blog about that!

In the weeks ahead, Marisol and I will be chatting about our discoveries in the world of Pern as we work our way through the series once more. We’ve chosen to read only the novels (although we may have to take a look at one or two of the short stories, just because…), only the books written by Anne herself, and we’re going basically in publication order (as opposed to internal chronological order), as Anne preferred them to be read.

First up will be Dragonflight — join us so that you, like me, can be stunned by the fact this book was published almost fifty years ago…


The Magic of Romance: Miles in Love

Alex and I delight over Miles finally finding the right woman to fall in love with, with a few pitfalls along the way, in the omnibus Miles in Love, comprising Komarr, A Civil Campaign and “Winterfair Gifts”. We previously looked at Cordelia’s Honor (Shards of Honor and Barrayar), the Young Miles omnibus (The Warrior’s Apprentice and “The Mountains of Mourning” and The Vor Game), the Miles, Mystery and Mayhem omnibus (Cetaganda, and Ethan of Athos and “Labyrinth”), “Borders of Infinity” and Brothers in Arms, Mirror Dance and Memory.

Miles in Love

Lois McMaster Bujold


It seemed logical to do the whole omnibus at once this time. We had both raced ahead of ourselves, more interested in reading the books than reporting on them, and before we knew it, Komarr, A Civil Campaign and “Winterfair Gifts” were all done! These three works are very strongly tied though, with the arc of the love story between Miles and Ekaterin, so it makes sense to talk about them as a whole.

Yes, absolutely. Reading them in the omnibus, I just … kept right on reading…



Now an official Imperial Auditor, Miles tags along with Imperial Auditor Vorthys to investigate an incident on the Barrayaran colony world Komarr, and finds himself imposing on the hospitality of Vorthys’ niece, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, and her husband and young son. The Vorsoisson household is not a happy one, with Ekaterin’s husband Tien hiding a secret. Miles finds himself drawn to Ekaterin, although his honour forbids him ever to act upon this, and Ekaterin, miserably trapped in a marriage she long grew out of, can only dream of a happier life. Despite his change in status, trouble still follows Miles wherever he goes, and the Komarr situation is no different. Balancing a diplomatic disaster in the making with the mystery of the solar mirror accidents, Miles, as always, finds more problems than he bargained for.

And it’s not like Miles doesn’t half COURT danger, let’s be honest. Nosey little git is a NICE way to describe him, most of the time! Anyway, there are indeed two narratives going on her. First, the detective business that the Auditors essentially find themselves in and bring them to Komarr, figuring out what happened to the soletta – deliberate or accidental damage? – which in turn leads to a much bigger issue: someone trying to close Barrayar’s wormhole permanently. I really enjoyed the investigative aspects of the story, and the way in which Miles used and explored his new Auditor powers. Pairing him with Vorthys, much older and much wiser, with different skills and a more relaxed take on life, was clever from the Emperor and from Bujold – it sets Miles up nicely to work the way he works best, as well to continue growing as a character. And I really really liked that the issues at stake got so much bigger from something quite small; it developed over the course of the novel very smoothly.

The second narrative, of course, if Miles falling in luuuurve with Ekaterin – already married, and then widowed, partly through Miles’ own negligence. And doesn’t that play on his conscience…


One very interesting aspect of this book is that it’s the first time we get another point of view character for a big chunk of a Miles story. And this in itself is a dead giveaway as to Ekaterin’s importance to the world. Elli Quinn and Elena Bothari-Jesek were never given the narrative. Obviously things were a bit different in Mirror Dance, when Miles was dead or missing for much of the book, but in this case, it is as much Ekaterin’s story as it is Miles’, if not more, and this is very telling.


I loved that we got Ekaterin’s perspective! I’ll admit that I had accidentally looked over a chronology of Miles’ life and saw “MIles and Ekaterin on honeymoon”, so there was no surprise for me in their relationship developing – although I did wonder what we were going to do with Tien! – which I was a bit cranky about. As you say, that she gets so much personal airtime in the book is indeed a giveaway. The insight into the more domestic side of things, and how Miles impacts on people, was a fascinating one.


I didn’t feel like Komarr was the most engaging of the newer books, but really, that’s a comparative issue – when the two books that precede it are Memory and Mirror Dance, it’s a challenge to stand up and be equal or better! It’s still absolutely solid storytelling, giving us action, drama and mystery, with a little glimpse of love thrown in.


I really enjoyed it! It’s a very different book from either Mirror Dance or Memory, and it benefited from that. There’s a bit less introspection from Miles, and a bit more action, which helps to distance it from Memory in particular. It’s a nice change of pace, given we still get to keep Miles being Miles.


I’m really glad Bujold didn’t leave poor Miles in the lurch again here. It’s really been so unfair that all the women in his life are not interested in being Barrayaran wives, and while of course, happy ever after is not where we leave the book, at least we know the possibility is now open.

Ekaterin herself plays an important role in Komarr. She’s not there to be Miles’ love interest or complication, although there is that aspect. She plays a big part in the plot as well, but I think the most interesting aspect is her insight into what it means to be a Vor woman. We’ve seen a bit of this with Ivan’s mother and some others, but here, Ekaterin is in the spotlight and she is true Vor. Miles has been our benchmark of Vor, supplemented by Ivan, Aral and many other MEN. now we get the other perspective, one that Cordelia, being Betan, could never offer – that of what it’s like to grow up, and live, as a Vor woman.


The insight into being a Vor woman was utterly captivating – as you say, Cordelia is so totally off the map for Barrayar that she can’t offer this sort of perspective. My heart ached to see Ekaterin’s personal life … and realise that actually Bujold is talking about the experiences of many women today. Her relationship with her son Nikki was interesting too, for being (it seems to me) very real. I was so pleased that she got an action part to play, too – although I will admit that when she and her aunt got nabbed at the station, I had to put the book down and walk away for a little while, because Bujold just KEEPS DOING NASTY THINGS TO HER CHARACTERS. I was fairly sure she’s be ok, but the stress was no good for me. And then Ekaterin destroyed the weapon and it was all ok. Thankfully. Also, I really really liked Aunt and Uncle Vorthys and their relationship – which is developed much more in the next book – that they both have successful, professional careers and have a good marriage says that the Vor aren’t completely and totally useless.

A Civil Campaign




Hell yes!!


I adore this from beginning to end. Bujold once again demonstrates her incredible ability to cross genres, writing a marvellous romantic comedy with intrigue and gender bending and politics and Miles bumbling about! There’s a name for that, right?




There are lots of plot threads crisscrossing this book. Underpinning it all is Miles’s attempts to woo Ekaterin, now living back on Barrayar with her aunt and uncle Vorthys (side note: I ADORE Ekaterin’s aunt – she’s up there with Cordelia for awesome) and Nikki, her young son. We know how well Miles does in the romance stakes, so his concerted efforts go rather awry – he really must get used to the fact that his vision is not always the same as the vision of those around him!


Oh heck, that dinner party!! That was another moment when I just wanted to crawl under the carpet on behalf of Miles and his shame. But honestly, why the hell did he go around talking about her?? I guess I understood, a bit – hard to keep your trap shut about being in love – but at the same time, he was telling himself so firmly that he had to WAIT … and then it got out of hand … and then it all came good! Hurrah! I think this is one reason why I don’t tend to read or watch romantic comedies, actually; I do not enjoy other people’s embarrassment; I feel it too keenly myself.

Once again I enjoyed Ekaterin’s perspective – that she is coming to understand herself so much more, in particular with how she treats her would-be suitors and her relatives. That she is still trapped to an extent in Barrayar legalities and expectations is excruciating. I also really enjoyed her love of gardening – it’s nice to have at least one person expressing an appreciation of the native flora, rather than just wanting to totally terraform the place. On the Miles front, being privy to her turmoil in thinking about him was very cleverly done. Also, it ends up giving us a whole new insight into Miles himself – and finally a proper tour of Vorkosigan House!


But the side plots are such fun. The butter bugs, brought to Vorkosigan house by Mark, under the erstwhile care of the mad professor (that’s totally what he was, right?), and Mark’s own love affair with the wonderful Kareen Koudelka gives us a madcap zaniness, which while often under the surface in the Vorkosigan saga, is rarely so overt. And seeing Mark really becoming a person, with a girlfriend and a business, is just lovely. Lady Alys is still organising that darn imperial wedding, keeping everyone, particularly Ivan, hopping. And poor Ivan, now left on the shelf, thinking he might have a chance with a three-time widow who goes and has a sex change in order to take legitimate success of a District … well, that’s just typical for Ivan, isn’t it? I do love that Ivan gets a chance to be a hero here though – without him, the outcome of the meeting of the counts would have been rather different. And you know I’ve always had a soft spot for Ivan 🙂


BUTTER BUGS!! So gross. And Mark turns up, hurrah! I like Mark – the sub-plot with him and Kareen was also a very interesting one, with Kareen paralleling Ekaterin in some ways, with her trying to figure out how to be herself with her parents as well as with Mark. I love Mark for his love of her – and I really love the way Cordelia deals with Kou and Drou, dragging that couch out of the attic!! Ivan … see, Ivan lost some of my goodwill, for trying to be nasty to Miles in upsetting the Ekaterin applecart somewhat. Grrr.


This book shows Barrayar itself growing up too. The count with the replicators, the one who finds he has Cetagandan heritage, and the Donna/Dono subplots demonstrate ways in which Barrayar is becoming more galactic, and how well her people are, or are not, dealing with this change. I think it’s a very important change Bujold is making here, because while Barrayar has been so set in its cultural ways for many generations, things HAD to change (and it’s a nice tip of the hat to Aral and Cordelia’s own efforts to bring about change).


The Donna/Dono plot was AWESOME. I had so not expected that, and it was a marvellous challenge to the stuffy Counts! I did get a giggle out of the fact that they were, in the end, more scandalised that one of their own could attempt an assault – and worse, fail – than by the sex-change. Additionally, Gregor and Laisa finally get married (with almost no problems!), which provides a nice bit of development/improvement for Barrayar as a planet too; ties to a colonial possession at a very personal level certainly help.


This book is full of misunderstandings, miscommunications, missed opportunities and mischance. It’s surprisingly long, but is the most amazingly quick read. The characters are so dryly funny, even in their utter despair, and the story absolutely belts along in pace, weaving the myriad plot threads into a gorgeously fun tapestry of a book. I think this has to be my favourite book, for the sheer fun of it (with its underlying serious elements), despite my adoration of Memory and Mirror Dance. I can’t imagine being like Tansy and STARTING with this book, because the back story adds so much more depth, but I can see how it would provide a brilliant introduction to the madness of Miles!


The idea of starting with this book makes my head HURT. This is indeed a whole lot of fun, but it can’t rate as my favourite, I’m afraid; there were too many cringe-moments!

“Winterfair Gifts”


While not next in the publishing schedule, “Winterfair Gifts” is a neat little tie up of the events of A Civil Campaign. Miles and Ekaterin are finally getting married, and this sweet little tale tells that story. Again we switch point of view, this time to the young armsman Roic, who gives us a fresh perspective into what being around the Vorkosigans is like. Naturally, nothing is easy on Barrayar. Sergeant Taura comes to the wedding, shocking Barrayar with her fearsome appearance (but the Lady Alys handily takes her under her wing and helps Taura understand her own beauty) and uncovering a nasty plot that would destroy not only the wedding, but Miles himself, by killing Ekaterin. In a fairly short piece, all is resolved and tied up in a bow of the beautiful winter wedding.


It was nice to have this next in the omnibus – although I did wonder at Ekaterin’s nerves and whether Bujold was going to actually make Miles WORK in this one! It was awesome to get Roic’s point of view, this time – his discomfort at not being from the military was sweet, and his reaction to Taura was awesome – as was Taura’s reaction to Lady Alys! But, a winter wedding in the garden? The man is crazy.


If I have one disappointment it was that we didn’t see any more than a brief glimpse of Elena and Baz and their baby, and more of Ekaterin than as a plot device here. That said, Taura and Roic were lovely, if sad, and I liked that it showed the backwater boy learning to understand a bit more that looking different doesn’t mean being different. I don’t know that we had to have “Winterfair Gifts” to complete the Miles/Ekaterin love story, but it’s a nice touch.


True. I was a bit sad Quinn wasn’t there, but I guess having one old flame and one old lover in the place for the wedding was enough for Miles’ potential discomfort…


Onwards, to Diplomatic Immunity where Ekaterin once again gets to demonstrate why she really is a great match for Miles and we run across some old friends!