Dragons of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey
There Be Dragons Here
Science Fiction or Fantasy?
In author Anne McCaffrey's PERN series books, there is some of each genre. Fans of both will be pleased with the way the crossover is handled.
Ms. McCaffrey begins the series in modern times, with a crew aboard an interstellar spaceship traversing the universe. Shades of Star Trek, anyone? From that beginning, however, the series takes a very, very different turn than that explored by Star Trek in any of its incarnations.
In the very first book of the series, Dragons Dawn, the crew of a spaceship carrying colonists, who are intent on setting up human habitation elsewhere in the galaxy, comes upon what they feel is the 'perfect' planet.
The mission was intended as a one-way trip. One of the officers remarks that "PERN," as it is bannered across their worksheets, probably stood for something at some time past. We later discover what that acronym was.
The reader soon realizes that this is actually set in the future, when humans have supposedly mastered the art of interstellar, and possibly intergalactic travel. This had me hooked from the get-go. As a long-time "Trekkie," (as fans of the Star Trek franchise are often called), I love stories that purport to explore other worlds. It is always interesting to see through another author's eyes, what their interpretation of such places might look like.
Overall, I prefer this type of positive speculation about life on other worlds, rather than the dystopian view of some sci-fi authors.
Lions and Tigers and Bears and...Dragons?
Well, no, lions, tigers or bears, but there are...dragons!
Yes, the fire-breathing kind. However, there is something unique and special about these dragons, and they are not to be feared, but actually make themselves quite useful: they can be trained and ridden!
The relationship between the humans and the dragons as it plays out over the entire series is quite fascinating, and a well-done journey into the fantastic.
These dragons are able to take shortcuts to cover vast distances by going somewhere called "between," which most fans of science fiction will probably interpret as being something on the order of a wormhole.
The Whole Story?
No, I'm not going to go into a full synopsis of the entire series--that would be a spoiler for sure. In fact, I cannot, as I have not yet read all of the books myself!
The series is a very interesting exploration, however, into how societies manage their culture, how traditions become entrenched, and in this case, what happens when a modern society reverts back to a pre-industrial culture.
For you see, somewhere along the line, the spaceship became inaccessible, and the explorers became settlers, stranded on Pern. They had to use what resources they still had, and for a time, the computers and data-banks were still operational.
I did find some ambiguity in whether the initial settlers were stranded explorers, or the inbound colonists, who were intended to make the one-way trip, or some of each. Other than that little hiccup, though, the stories are still quite the page-turners.
One of my favorites, though, is titled The Masterharper of Pern. It follows the progression of one individual as he progresses in the society they have created. He comes to have a rather important position as an instructor and valued musician. The character is likeable and believable; the reader is able to empathize with his progress and his struggles.
A Great Loss
As the population ages, and new generations come along, however, they begin to lose their technology, until finally they have none.
The books are worth reading for that alone--it is a lesson for us all--and points up the importance of keeping the schools intact and the young pointed toward the best education and hands-on training they can get.
You just "get" this, without the stories being in the least preachy or lesson-like. They are purely fantasy, and enjoyable on that level alone.
Still, we should pay heed, though, lest we find ourselves in the same boat as the fictional settlers of Pern.
A Strict Series?
No, this is not one of those series the action of which directly follows from the previous book. You can pick up any one of the books and enjoy it on its own merits.
You may prefer to follow them in order, but it is not necessary to understand the characters and the action.
It may be helpful to read Dragons Dawn first, for the general outline of how the people arrived at Pern, and their initial struggles, but after that, you will have enough of the concept to enjoy any of the books in any order.
All of the books in the series are still readily available, and many are also available in Kindle editions.
There May Be More to Come
Though Ms. McCaffrey is no longer with us, having passed on at the age of 85 in November of 2011, she had previously consented to allowing her son, Todd McCaffrey, and her granddaughter, "Gigi," to take up the pen and continue writing Pern stories of their own.
“Anne McCaffrey.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_McCaffrey. last updated, 09 Feb. 2018, accessed 19 Feb. 2018
© 2011 Liz Elias