Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE MASTERHARPER 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 Masterharper of Pern

M: *rubs hands together* I’ve been looking forward to this one since we decided to do this readthrough. And going through all the other books has only heightened my anticipation.

Robinton is one of the longest running Pern characters, and this fills in an incredible number of gaps about his history. Not only that, but this is the only book in the series which concentrates around one person’s story. There’s very little headhopping, no scenes with Robinton not present, and the book shines because of it. This is the meatiest book in the series, and it’s a read of pure satisfaction. Even if his personal life was filled with tragedy.

24870T: I remember when I bought this book! It was on my only international trip ever, and I read it on a plane and it was (and remains) one of my very favourites in the series (partly because of sense-memory, probably!). And my gosh, it’s hard to believe it’s nearly 20 years old!

M: Petiron was a huge surprise in this book. In the Harper Hall trilogy, he comes off as someone who really loves Menolly, and this sort of old man who, despite being a type A stickler, is all right. Now we find out that Petiron, who is Robinton’s father, is a great musician, and a terrible human being. He’s incredibly selfish, and everything in his life revolves around him. I know there’s a huge push for us to see how badly he treats Rob as a baby – doesn’t care about him, pushes him away and ignores him, sees him as competition for his wife’s attention – but I think what really drives home the point is how he treats his wife. She’s his favorite, most precious toy. Virtually all of his decisions revolves around how he can dress her up and show off his prized possession. Getting denied results in sulks and tantrums. About the only redeeming quality to him personally is he will fuss over her if she’s sick. but even then, it’s like his toy has to be brought back to pretty.

T: I found this FASCINATING. Did her death really change him so much? Did he regret his behaviour towards Robinton his whole life, and try to redeem himself in Menolly? Although even then, really, he didn’t actually come into the “modern” world, because he never told the Masterharper that Menolly was a girl. So he changed a bit, but not heaps?

M: The flipside of this is getting to watch the Masterharper grow from childhood prodigy. I’d never really thought about that, but looking back again at things said in other books, it’s clear part of his deep connection with Menolly stems from almost identical pasts – neglect is still abuse, and being a sensitive, prodigal child leaves its own mark in any situation.

T: And he’s so very gifted, which makes it even more sad that Petiron only saw him as a rival for his mother Merelan’s attention. Not even jealousy of his talent (although Merelan clearly did worry that would also be an issue) but literally that Robinton competed for her time.

M: It also clears up why Sebell got picked as Masterharper rather than Menolly, which rather piqued me in previous books.

T: It never bothered me, actually, because Sebell was always presented as older and more, hmm, well-rounded, I guess, in the Harper craft. Menolly has insane talent, but without the full grounding the entire Harper world. But yes, nice to have some explicit explanation of why.

M: Biggest surprise still for me was seeing how much Robinton spoke with dragons. I’d gotten the impression he’d not had many spoken interactions with them in previous books, and re-reading this made me wonder if that was a misunderstanding on my part, inconsistency, or a deliberate misconstrue.

T: It’s really interesting when a person who you know as an older character, with a lot of responsibility from the first moment we meet him, is revealed to us from childhood. It would be a great exercise to have a new reader START with the Masterharper book and read in internal chronology, to see their different responses to characters.

M: And speaking of inconsistency – what the heck was with the big change in the Charter and handling upstart Holders? Reading Dragonseye back to back with this made me feel like I’d lost something. The Charter clearly makes provisions for Holders committing atrocities. Wouldn’t there have been enough between the escapees and not allowing people to learn the Charter? I thought the last book laid out clearly that’s a violation of the people’s rights? Gah!

T: I thought that was cleverly done! The way I read it was the loss of knowledge was accelerating (due to plagues, deterioration of records and the like), so fewer people actually knew and followed the Charter. Maybe that was just my interpretation though…

And it wouldn’t be a Pern book without sobbing – I was beside myself when Robinton walked the tables as a journeyman (even just glancing at the page again now brought tears prickling!).

Previously, in the Great Pern Reread of 2015:

Dragonflight

Dragonquest

The Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums)

The White Dragon

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern / Nerilka’s Story

Dragonsdawn

The Renegades of Pern

All the Weyrs of Pern

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall

The Dolphins of Pern

The Chronicles of Pern: Red Star Rising

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Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: RED STAR RISING (or) DRAGONSEYE

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 Chronicles of Pern: Red Star Rising

T: This was the first time in the reread I felt like I was reading a book for the first time. It’s NOT the first time I’ve read it, of course, but I had so little recollection of the events of the story it was like coming to it fresh. I think that was partly because all of the characters are new, so there was no context for the story outside of Pern itself?

M: I felt the same! The rest of the series really focuses around two different time periods, right around First Fall and ‘current’ era. I really enjoyed seeing the societal changes (and what’d remained the same).

It made me wonder if Anne had had more time if she’d have kept filling in the timeline, or kept with only forward stories.

T: I imagine that would probably have happened, yes. Although there would have been no objections from me if she’d had a brilliant idea for a story about the “next generation” after Jaxom, Lessa, F’lar, Menolly, Piemur etc, either!

McCaffrey_dragonseyeM: Another fun aspect in this book is how there’s more mentions of what happened pre-Pern. There wasn’t a lot in Dragonsdawn, like you’d expect. In particular, there’s a conversation between the what will someday be Harpers regarding professors and instructors only being respected on Earth after allowed use classroom discipline and stunners. It’s one of the only predictive future bits we ever hear about old Earth in her books, and I found it oddly fascinating given the escalating violence concerns in schools now. Perhaps she’ll have the right of it. Continue reading “Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: RED STAR RISING (or) DRAGONSEYE”

Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE DOLPHINS 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 Dolphins of Pern

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.

9781423357421T: *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”

Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE CHRONICLES OF PERN: FIRST FALL

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 Chronicles of Pern: First Fall

T: Well it turns out that most of what’s in this book is basically half of what I (mis)remembered as being in Dragonsdawn. Even the first story, “The Survey: P.E.R.N.”, which is about the survey ship that first found the planet, could have been a prologue in Dragonsdawn. The last piece, “Rescue Run” in which a ship comes across the distress beacon Ted Tubberman sent out and finds a despotic Stev Kimmer still alive and awaiting rescue, reads as a final epilogue to that same book. The other three pieces, “The Dolphins’ Bell”, “The Ford of Red Hanrahan” and “The Second Weyr” honestly read to me like they were edited out of Dragonsdawn for length!

M: I wondered the same thing – were these all edits taken out, or afterthoughts she’d never been able to put in? Some of the detailing, like with Tillek and the dolphins in “The Dolphin’s Bell”, would have dragged the book out, I suspect. Then again, “The Second Weyr” wouldn’t have really fit the arc in Dragonsdawn. I actually would have loved a dragon-focused book based on that time period rather than more survivor-based, as my love of Pern comes from the dragons and the way that impacts everything.

T: I agree they wouldn’t have fit in to Dragonsdawn but you can certainly see where they could have gone. And I agree that we got a bit shortchanged on the first dragons – there was so much potential to explore there!

220px-TheChroniclesOfPernFirstFallM: This was my first time reading these stories, so I had no idea that Kimmer lived. What a jerkoff! I mean, the whole story was great, because it was like reading a what-if, post-apocalypse spin-off. The idea no one else survived except Kimmer and his small harem is both a great what if and a bit of a trainwreck read. All of these emotions came pouring out for me as I relived his part in the betrayal of the first colony, and quite a bit of sadness as I realized Benden, Admiral Bendon’s survivor, would never have a chance to find out that he did survive, do all of these great things, and Kimmer was wrong.

T: Maybe I didn’t want to look too closely at it, but I couldn’t quite figure out the family generations of the little lost colony – a bit ick to say the least! I had read it before, more than once, and it still surprised me! I’d forgotten entirely.

M: Plus, there is that deeply delicious I wish slice of revenge pie. Kimmer would have an apoplexy if he saw what happened to the colonists. Then again, there’s a part of me that has wondered if he lied so well about them dying that he believed it, too… He’d be the sole survivor with Avril’s plan to leave with riches galore. Smart tactic. For a jerkoff.

T: I think it was clear in Dragonsdawn that he was smart (cunning, perhaps?) but I didn’t peg him as being *quite* that selfish and self-centred. I guess thinking you’re the only survivors of the apocalypse wouldn’t have helped his mental state.

96463M: “Survey” was short and sweet; and really, it had no place here. It would have been a better read as a prologue or first chapter in the last book than the rehashed synopsis we received in Dragonsdawn. I felt like the information about the survey came up an awful lot in the book, and I think this would have done a better job cementing the idea than the rehashings.

T: I was a bit disappointed in “Survey”, because it contradicts information about Avril that we get in Dragonsdawn. That should have been fact-checked! Although I like the idea that part of the reason the survey was incomplete was the shortage of qualified team members.

M: Confession time: I have a super large love affair with The Dolphins of Pern. Something I’m wondering if I will cringe at as I read it for the first time in, oh, ten years? Probably longer. I read it in middle and high school, when I dreamed daily of being taken away by talking animals to any place that didn’t include football and cheerleaders. Coming from that love of dolphins and that book in particular, I found myself much less enthused reading the short story. It was far more interesting to read about Tillek and Theo, and that development than the dolphins.

61935T: “The Dolphin’s Bell” is probably more interesting read with The Dolphins of Pern in your head, though, because it’s absolutely fascinating to see how that group maintained their societal structure through the centuries! Theo and Tillek were interesting, yes, but why did there have to be such an age difference? She’s VERY young for him!

M: True, but seeing an age gap couple that no one put down was refreshing. Although I would have enjoyed a role reversal. Seems people always ok the older man with younger girl, but not the reverse. I guess that wouldn’t work well for their populating ways though, haha.

In my dream world, if we’d had “The Ford of Red Hanrahan” and “The Second Weyr” put in a book, I could have had that dragon story post settling the north. It’s enough to make me wistfully sigh, because you know even back then publishers didn’t appreciate what an amazing story world (aka moneymaker) they had in Pern.

T: I agree – more about the first Benden Weyr team, and the expansion of the weyrs in general, would have made a great book. More Sorka and Sean! More about how the Weyr society evolved! Because that’s a quite thought-provoking element of the books, the fact that Weyr life is rather different and generally more open than Hold life. More needed!

I think “The Ford of Red Hanrahan” is my favourite story in the book. I’m a Ruatha fan, as we’re positioned to be as readers, and I really do love this story about its origins.

M: It’s funny, because I love sci-fi stories, and I love the sci-fi elements to Pern, but reading the previous book was the most tedious still, and reading these non-dragon stories was not a favorite. I mean, I love story backgrounds and flavoring as much as the next nerd, but because so much of this was well intoned in the first books, I felt like I didn’t learn enough that was ‘new’, as ridiculous as it may seem.

T: Not ridiculous! It was a fleshing out of backstory, with only a few surprises, which can be a problem of prequels, I guess. And it’s also the contrast of a novel to a bunch of loosely connected stories – a different reading experience. I enjoyed revisiting it, but I definitely wanted more depth for most of the stories.

mccaf1rlPreviously, in the Great Pern Reread of 2015:

Dragonflight

Dragonquest

The Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums)

The White Dragon

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern / Nerilka’s Story

Dragonsdawn

The Renegades of Pern

All the Weyrs of Pern

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.  

gl49of4nx3uzug5weu1f

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”