Pern Books – part 1
Starting At the Beginning…
Last time I gave a brief introduction to the series of 16 Pern novels, plus some short stories, and gave a list of the books in my recommended reading order, which differs from the published order. So we’re following the chronological order of events on Pern. Just a reminder I am not including those books coauthored by Anne and Todd McCaffrey, nor those written solely by Todd McCaffrey, as I consider them inferior to the Anne-only works. Also last time I reviewed, as best I could without giving spoilers, the first book on that list, Dragonsdawn. Now on to next book. This one takes place shortly before the second incursion of Thread on Pern, the Second Fall.
It has been over 250 years since the last Threadfall on Pern and there is no one alive who was alive the first awful onslaught. Many don’t even believe the legends about the deadly silver thread except the dragonriders. For two centuries they have been faithfully practicing the manuevers that Sean O’Connell, the first Weryleader (in Dragonsdawn), had developed to most effectively fight Thread. Now the signs of Threadfall are appearing: violent winter storms & volcanic eruptions, as well as other, more subtle signs. But one stubborn Lord Holder, Chalkin of Bitra, refuses to believe. It’s all twaddle, he says, a fantasy to force the holds to tithe to the weyers so the dragons and dragonriders can have an easy life.
Chalkin also refuses to let his people prepare for Threadfall or to let dragonriders patrol his holdings. The Lord Holders must band together and find a way to deal with Chalkin before it is too late.
Chalkin isn’t the only problem; Pern is slowly losing it’s technology. This is the Pern book that portrays the death of the last vestiges of tech still available on Pern; solar panels, computers, printers, digital records storage. There is a huge danger that all the knowledge which came to Pern may be lost, while students are taught useless – to them! – facts about early Earth governmental policies, history of ancient wars, alien cultures. Clisser, who is in charge of teaching (what will become the Harper Hall), is forced to deal with these problems. He and his fellow teachers must make the tough decision as to curriculum changes – do they begin teaching at the beginning of Pern’s history and focus on the here and now or do they continue to teach their students to try to see beyond their own planet?
Artist Iantine, a fine painter and a genius at sketching, is caught up in Chalkin’s evil wake when he accepted Chalkin’s patronage and agreed to paint portraits of his children and his wife. Little did Iantine realize he would become trapped in the hold by the penurious Holder. When he was finally able to escape, he recorded the horrific circumstances of Chalkin’s luckless people and played a critical role in influencing the Lord Holder’s council to act.
If you have read other Pern books already, you may see the theme of it can’t happen here as familiar, but this book takes a different point of view, since the times are very different and a dependence on technology still exists but that tech is fading fast. The real question here isn’t so much will the dragonriders be able to meet the threat of threat, as what will Pern do to pass this critical information on to future generations when there is no technology to store it?
Some have wondered how civilization on Pern sank so low, this will answer many of those questions, while also explaining many of the traditions which later become iron-bound rule. It also shows for the first time how the constitution of Pern was used to the good of all. Well worth reading, regardless of how much you may want to go on to the most popular books.
Next time: Contagion!: Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern and Nerilka’s Story.