Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting this month a read along of Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonflight, volume 1 of The Dragonriders of Pern series. Part I of the read along covers sections I and II of the book. Carl has provided the questions and over on his site are not only his entertaining answers but also a list of other participating blogs. So make sure to stop by his site to continue the fun.
1. I (Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings) have hosted SFF-related group reads for books by Asimov, Herbert, Sanderson and Gaiman. This is our first group read by a female author. What are your thoughts on McCaffrey’s handling of the male and female characters in Dragonflight? Feel free to compare and contrast male and female characters and/or discuss various male and female characters in relations to others in the book of the same sex.
As I often find with female writers, McCaffrey treats both males and females as humans first and then throws in any sex-based differences secondly. Both Gaiman and Sanderson are also good at this skill, while Herbert and Asimov create distinctly female characters in positions of power (equal in importance to the story but lacking equally interchangeable roles with the males of the story). I enjoy all 5 of these writers immensely.
2. F’Lar and Lessa are an interesting pair of protagonists. What do you like and/or dislike about their interactions thus far? What things stand out for you as particularly engaging about each character (if anything)?
They are both driven and both have a strong need to be in charge. I think F’Lar has learned to hold his desire for power in check and await the right moment, while Lessa is still hasty in her decisions and is definitely driven by her need for revenge. Lessa’s callous behavior toward’s Fax’s wife Gemma came back to bother her, which showed me that Lessa can grow as a character. Yet, then we see F’Lar’s callous behavior towards Ruatha’s watch weyr as he dies trying to protect Lessa. I like that these main characters are not perfect heroes from the beginning with polished feelings and the ability to intuit others on a moment’s observation. They are rough, and perhaps that is what Pern needs right now.
3. How do you feel about Pern to this point in the story? For those new to Pern, you may want to discuss your speculations/thoughts on the Red Star and on the between here. What are your thoughts on McCaffrey’s world-building?
I like how there are small indications that the current civilization has lost some knowledge to the past. I study maps in books, so I was quite pleased there was one at the front of this book. In looking at this map and counting all the Weyrs in the northern hemisphere, I have to wonder why there is only 1 in the southern hemisphere. I read this book when I was a teen, and I am happily surprised at all the details I have forgotten, including the mystery of the southern Weyr. I enjoy how McCaffrey shows us her world of Pern and doesn’t simply lay out all the facts for us in some boring internal monologue or narrative. With that said, there are times when I feel that perhaps the editors pulled out too much and could have given McCaffery another 50-100 pages to play with.
4. For those new to Dragonflight, was their anything that particularly surprised you with the narrative choices, etc. thus far? For those who have already read Dragonflight, how do you feel about your return to Pern? What stands out in your revisit?
As I read through this tale for my 2nd time at roughly 20 years apart, I can look on with amusement at how I used this book as a vocabulary lesson in my early teens. Various words stick out now as they did then, and I remember making a long list to go look up the next morning in the 30 pound dictionary we kept in the living room. Incumbent, midden, legumes, gravid, indolence, etc.
Many of the details of the story I have forgotten. I do remember my excitement of riding flying dragons, the curious nature of the Threads, Lessa’s temper and courage. All those things are still there. I do find myself wishing for more details here, or further character development there – things I didn’t notice missing as a kid.
5. Discuss anything else that you feel passionate to discuss that wasn’t included in your responses to the above questions.
Back when I read this book in my early teens, I was fascinated by the references to ‘dragon roused’ and the mating flight and what that meant for the humans. Now, as an adult with a full understanding of such human relations, I can look at those sections without the mystery. Yet they still add to the overall story and the worldbuilding of Pern and life with sentient dragons. Truly, this is about the survival of dragonkind as Pern knows it and of carrying on the dragonrider livelihood. I am glad that Anne McCaffrey did not gloss over this significant part of human complexity.