I read a few Pern books in my teen, I thought they were readable but at the time I was not all that taken with them. At that age I was not too discerning, I cared nothing for characterization, dialogue or prose. I read only for fun and escapism, not for the artistry of the works. Well, I am way out of my teen now, and I have cultivated an appreciation finesse
to compensate for my own deficiency in that department.
Since her recent passing tributes have been pouring in for Anne McCaffrey from numerous quarters, including major sf/f writers including Neil Gaiman, David Brin, Lev Grossman, and Vonda McIntyre. These tributes reminded that I never really gave Anne McCaffrey's books a fair chance. Now is as good a time as any to start exploring them in earnest.
When I first heard about this series decades ago the idea of fighting threads did not fill me with enthusiasm, I mean fighting threads
? May as well fight balls of yarn! I thought. Ah, but then there are threads and there are Threads
, these things are more menacing than I ever gave them any credit for. They are basically mindless, true, but so are zombies and the threads are even more deadly. They burn and they burrow and they are of course relentless
This is not a YA book, it is not action packed, those looking for heart pounding scenes of dragon conflagration are not likely to be satisfied. The major strength and enduring popularity of this book - and I imagine the entire series - is the immersiveness of Pern. The slower chapters depicting day to life on Pern is what makes the world realistic, after all life is not full of nonstop action on a daily basis. The author wants you to live with her characters not go on missions with them. That said she really makes you wait for the threads to make an appearance though! The author's meticulous attention to details is awe inspiring.
This is also not a fantasy book, not in the sense that Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time are. Anne herself has always been adamant that she is a science fiction author, no disrespect to the wonderful fantasy genre of course, but she deliberately backed the Pern fantasy tropes of dragons and medieval life with science. Pern is a planet, the dragons are genetically engineered and the lack of technology is due to some event that caused a fall of technological civilization. So no magic, no elves, no unicorns and no Dark Lord with a funny name (thank gawd!). Any way, what label you stick on a book does not matter, especially for a book of this calibre.
Anne's prose style is - as her legions of fans would attest - is beautiful, clean, clear, concise and literary. The main characters are skillfully fleshed out, unfortunately my one complaint is that the protagonist Lessa is unrelentingly ill-tempered and willful to the point of being a pain in the posterior. I am looking forward to many more visits to Pern."That was well flown, I say. Well flown".