Dragonflight Read Along Part II

You're lucky I could get Streak to hold still for this photo.
You’re lucky I could get Streak to hold still for this photo.

Welcome back everyone to the second half of the read along of Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. Our wonderful host is Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, so make sure to stop by his blog to catch his answers and also links to other participating bloggers. If you have not read Dragonflight, please be aware this post contains major spoilers about the book, especially focusing on the last 2 sections of the book.

1.  The Threads are further explored and become very much the focal point in parts 3 and 4 of Dragonflight.  What are your thoughts on the Threads in general and how do you feel these worked as an enemy vs. the traditional enemies you see in SFF novels?

The biologist in me loves the little tidbits we learn about the Threads. Some kind of mycorrhiza(?), but really, really aggressive. The thought of a spore form traveling through space, such a cold void, to make it to a living, breathing planet. Perhaps. If you have heard of tardigrades (or waterbears), then you know there lies the possibility. Humans struggle against nature, whether here or on Pern, will be our greatest struggle. With that in mind, the Threads serve as a great, mindless antagonist and also to unite the various factions of humans on Pern.

2. The science fictional concept of time travel becomes an important device in the later half of Dragonflight, how do you feel McCaffrey did in working time travel into the plot?

First, let me say I really like that the plot wasn’t so predictable, and the time travel thing I didn’t see coming (not the first time I read it like 20 years ago, and not this last time because I forgot nearly all of it). Second, I think it is very realistic that Lessa would picture her Ruathan home as she remembered it, not as it stood in the present. So, very easy to see how this mistake could happen. But, third, with that said, why hasn’t this mistake happened with other riders recently? I know that F’Lar has a brief conversation pondering that if Lessa stumbled upon it, others probably have at some point. I wonder if this is explored further later in the series.

3.  Of the new characters introduced in this second half of Dragonflight, who did you like/not like and why? 

Let me just say that F’Nor is still one of my favorite characters and I am glad he had a serious role to play in the second half of the book. Next, I seriously like the changes that F’Lar and Lessa make in how the dragons are handled from egg, such as bringing in potential candidates early on so they won’t fear the baby dragons on Imperssion day. It was great to see Robinton – he was one of the characters I remember strongly from reading these books 20 years ago. And dude, many ladies flying queens using flame throwers. Anne McCaffrey is the bomb just for that.

4.  We talked about it in the first discussion and there is no way we can get away from it in Part 2: What are your feelings on the progression of the relationship between F’lar and Lessa throughout this second half of the book?

They’ve both grown, taming each other, and eventually learning to trust and support each other. I am glad they also eventually found some mutual enjoyment in bed too. Lessa has shown the most growth, even risking herself in fetching the dragons and riders of the past. F’Lar had to make some tough choices, such as going ahead with the Southern Weyr, even though he knew his brother would be in danger. Once again, the changes these 2 rulers made to the Weyr in being less secretive with potential riders and the civilian populace are of great benefit. I expect that future Queen riders won’t be surprised during their first mating flight, but rather, will have knowledge of how they will be affected by their psychic connection to their dragons.

5.  And finally, what is your overall assessment of Dragonflight?  How does it measure up against other classic science fiction you’ve read?  Would you recommend it to modern readers, why or why not?

I have greatly enjoyed this reread – Thank you Carl! I remember being perplexed teen that a scifi story had dragons, and yet there was some biological plausibility to these dragons and their fire breathing. Then you throw in the lost knowledge of a time gone by (space colony, anyone?) and time travel and you have some basic scifi elements. I would recommend this story to folks who do not give up on a tale at first blush. If I had simply stayed stuck in the first few chapters, I would have walked away thinking that Anne McCaffrey was really a sexist male using a pen name to appeal to the female half of society. One of the strengths of this story is that not only do the main characters grow, but so does the culture.

26 thoughts on “Dragonflight Read Along Part II”

  1. We had the exact same thoughts about the Thread in that they are a really nice protagonist to unite the people of Pern without it being yet another human-ish or alien “bad guy”. I liked that.

    It may be that the time travel thing happening that way is explored in other stories but I think McCaffrey did a good job of establishing that Lessa is an exceptional person. Her ability to talk to all the dragons, her ability to manipulate others’ mentally including their perceptions of her…all that is there I believe not only as an interesting story device but to tell the reader that her cognitive powers and abilities are special.

    I mentioned in my post that I felt F’nor really came into his own with the second half of the book and I enjoyed that very much. I liked him well enough before but enjoyed that he did not entirely feel like a side character in the second half. All the ladies fighting on dragons as well as men was a great addition by McCaffrey and shows that she either did have a purpose with her early portrayals of women in the story or that she got more bold as her writing went on and trusted that the audience didn’t need helpless female characters to accept the story.

    There is a tremendous amount of growth shown in this novel, both with the characters but also with McCaffrey as an author. There was only a 2 month period between which each of the two original short stories were published but I wonder how much time had passed between when McCaffrey actually wrote them.

    1. That is a great thing to ponder – did McCaffrey writer these 2 novellas years apart, but finally got them published, or did she get 1 published and folks hooked on the characters and then she busted out with truly amazing characters in the 2nd novella?

      And I agree that F’Nor really came into his character in the second half. I think I remember him in other Pern books, but my memories are vague. I think I will have to continue on with Pern books.

      1. And of course it is still entirely possible that her choices of presenting females in very stereotypical roles in the early story was done as a set up to contrast how different Lessa was from the start and also to set expectations at a certain level only to blow them out of the water in the second story.

        1. Or perhaps she was somewhat restricted by the publications that would publish the stories? Although, if that was the case, I would have liked her to alter them a little once she converted them into the novel.

          1. That might be the case, although they were published in book form not long afterwards so if she did feel restricted those same restrictions were probably present at the time.

  2. So I basically agree with you on all points 😀 I love the concept of Thread and really like the later novels where they and the reader learn more about it in an effort to fight back better. I also really love how Lessa discovered time travel, though you’re right, I’m sure others had realized it before hand. Maybe they were just afraid of getting in trouble? 😉 Or sometimes they wouldn’t realize it if they went to a fairly underpopulated place and didn’t stay for long enough to see small differences.

    Yey! Are you going to keep reading more Pern books now??

    1. That’s very true about folks possibly already doing some minor time travel, but not realizing it because of minute changes.

      Yep, i plan to read further Pern books this year. I already dug out Book 2 of this trilogy. I use to have this book about the world of Pern full of maps, art, and recipes, especially for Bubbly Pies which were featured int he Harpers of Pern books. I am not sure I have it anymore; I was looking for it last weekend and failed to find it. sniffle….

        1. I’m seriously planning to replace it if my old copy is no longer in my keeping. Even my man was sad I couldn’t find it on a casual look, as it is the only Pern book he has read.

  3. I agree about the threads also – I guess they wouldn’t be able to survive long in the cold which is why they don’t drop until the two planets are a lot closer??
    I like your round up sentence about if you’d stopped after the first few chapters. Very funny and made me laugh but she proved us all wrong. She drew us in and lulled us into a false sense of security – then she made Lessa totally the hero of the piece – while the man stayed at home bereft about her disappearance! Love it.
    I’d totally forgotten about Lessa’s other ability to sway people’s thoughts and emotions until Carl mentioned it above – she seemed to stop using that once she was in the Weyr – or maybe she only stopped because F’lax had figured it out.
    Anyway, really enjoyed the second half.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Her tendency to use her powers was sort of dropped abruptly. Okay, she was told in no uncertain terms not to use it on the dragonmen but I am surprised it didn’t crop up again.

    2. I find the Threads fascinating. The more we learn about the universe, the more we learn that the phrase, ‘That ain’t possible,’ is not only grammatically questionable but also outmoded. Like the tardigrades (link in the post), we find them all over the Earth, have put them through incredibly harsh environments, and then stuck them in the void and cold of space, where a certain percentage of them survived.

  4. An actual scientific theory on what Threads could be. That’s so cool! I always figured they were completely invented with no connection to reality.

    And I’m not at all surprised that Robinton stayed in your memory. 🙂

    1. I’m fascinated by the tardigrades. Supposedly, they do quite well in ponds. I think I should dig out the microscope in the spring and go find me some pond muck.

  5. First, and most importantly: another cute kitteh!!! 😀

    1. My husband on tardigrades: “They are really cool and simply laugh in the face of any biological danger, even the vacuum of space on one of the shuttle missions!”

    2. I always like a good surprise in a plot: there is nothing as dull as predictably! I suspect that you are right, and that it is easy for people to accidentally jump back to a significant event in their life. I would guess that this has happened quite a lot, especially with young riders, but that it is something that is kept quite because of the dangers of messing with the time line.

    3. I just loved the idea of F’Nor trying to avoid sex Kylara! 😀

    4. Yeah: why does nobody explain what will happen with the first mating flight? It might not make the situation any less icky, but it might have been less of a shock.

    5. Good point about the fire breathing: I loved the fact that it was not some mystical ability, but something based on real biology . . . we are such nerds! 😀

  6. That is so true about the tardigrades – laughing in the face of biological danger.
    I find it interesting that several of the men a) didn’t want Kylara or b) tired of bedding her quickly. You would think these macho dragonriders would enjoy a sexually aggressive, somewhat egocentric woman…..Oh wait, that mirrors the men a little too much for them to be comfortable with it. Hehe!

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