Bookshelf spotlight: Dragonriders of Pern

Welcome to the first instalment of Sci-Fi Saturday. I have no planned order to post these in, but this first one is the first Sci-Fi I bought, and read.

Some disagree that the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey is Sci-Fi, arguing that it is Fantasy. Sure, it’s on the softer side of Sci-Fi, but these are genetically-modified organisms, that can travel through time and space, and their fire is produced by “eating” phosphorus. Sounds like Sci-Fi to me 🙂.

The first book (Dragonflight) was formed from I think 3 novellas. I had read the first novella in a compendium when I was in high school, so when I was looking for some books to read during my gap year living in Germany, I jumped at this series. It was a slow read to begin with, but that has more to do with the fact that my German was still developing during that first book. It got much easier after that. I was living in Germany in 1996, and I think I bought all of the books that were available at the time – the next two had probably been translated by then, but they weren’t available in the small bookshop that I found these in.

German translations of Dragonriders of Pern. Sorry about the glare, didn’t notice until I uploaded the pic. For the sharp eyed, yes, The White Dragon is a different printing – I found it second hand a few years ago to replace the copy that I leant to my German teacher in Australia and never got back.

While I enjoy the German version, translations can introduce subtle differences, so in 2020 I started collecting English copies. I’m missing the last three from the German versions above, but I did pick up the next two (which is also the point where I had chosen to end my reading of the series). I think lockdown and all the subsequent disruptions stopped me getting these last three, and then I forgot that I hadn’t until I took them all out to take this photo.

Dragonflight, Dragonquest and The White Dragon are in the “now” and follow on from each other. Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums occur at the same time as Dragonquest and The White Dragon. Moreta and Nerilka are in the past, both happening at about the same time, and Moreta is giving the truth to myth that you have heard about in the earlier books. Dragonsdawn takes us all the way back to when Pern was colonised, the discovery that all is not well in this new home planet, and the genetic modification to create the dragons to fight the danger and protect the settlers. If I remember correctly, The Renegades of Pern is back to after Dragondrums. And I can’t remember if I have read All the Weyrs of Pern yet. But I think it is the latest in the timeline.

I love this series. Some books I like more than others, but I love the story as a whole that is covered by all of these. And I’ve always been a fan of series where later books jump back in time, filling in gaps and enlightening us on things we were wondering or things we thought we knew.

For those who haven’t read these, here’s basic info about the series. Keeping it spoiler-free.

The history of Pern tells of the red planet coming close to Pern every 200 (I think) years and resulting in the fall of Thread, a corrosive, invasive organism that will eat through all organic material. However it has been almost double that time since the last fall and most people think that the red planet is not returning. F’lar, a dragon rider in the last remaining weyr is certain that it is returning, and is one of the very few that still follows the old ways in preparation. The last remaining queen is aging and there is a new queen egg. He knows that Pern needs a strong partner to bond with the new queen and goes in search at a hold once known for having produced queen-mates (I can’t remember the actual term). But even if he finds the right person, how will Pern manage in the Thread Fall that he knows will be starting soon, with only a fraction of the dragon riders that fought it in the past. Read the first book to find out. Then stay for the ride (sorry for the pun) as there is a whole lot more that happens afterwards.

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