Dragonflight Read Along Part I

Waffles interrupted from her nap; she was curled around her favorite heater.
Waffles interrupted from her nap; she was curled around her favorite heater.

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.

18 thoughts on “Dragonflight Read Along Part I”

    1. I really enjoy read alongs and I think it is because of the shared experience and the dialogue they promote among book bloggers, which can be more than a simple book review.

      1. That has been my experience as well. I actually didn’t realize I would enjoy them quite as much until I participated in one. Never have really done an official, in-person “book club” and this has been great to do this the past few years.

  1. I do like that both characters have obvious flaws, rough edges. It makes them much more enjoyable to read as they are not perfect stand-ins for characters but are instead characters with some depth.

    I did like that Lessa felt some regret for her treatment of Gemma, that softens her character somewhat. I agree that F’lar seems to be better and biding his time with certain things and get I think each character has a tendency that goes so far to an end of the spectrum–Lessa being too rash, F’lar being too cautious–that they are great together as their presence in each others lives balance that out.

    I mentioned on my post that I too like a world to be *revealed* rather than all spelled out but I do think this one suffers to some degree with many of the terminology not being adequately revealed in-narrative vs. having to go to the glossary to find out what things are. Or, perhaps they are revealed in the second half of the book but that is a long wait for something like the Threads, for example, to be better explained. None of the characters seem to be wildly in the dark about what they are and so the reader shouldn’t be either in my opinion. Just a minor complaint.

    I love the complexity, as you put it, of the relationships between the humans and the dragons and how that is more than just some owner-pet relationship but is instead a powerful companionship. I think that adds so much more to the story, makes me feel more invested in both species and the way in which they work together to deal with the menace threatening their planet.

    1. By turns, I was irritated and routing for the characters – because they are flawed and make mistakes and behave unwisely at times. I like it when a book has me engaged like that. Add to that the complexity of the human-dragon relationship and things get really interesting.

      Sometimes the story seems to jump ahead a bit in time and I feel a bit of a lurch, and that is when I wonder if McCaffrey originally wrote the story that way, or if some editor pulled out some good stuff to shorten up the book. Still, a minor complaint, as I am quite enjoying this book.

      1. It could have been editing but it also could have been those points where McCaffrey was writing bridging pieces, trying to pull her two novellas together into something coherent for the novel.

  2. Mwahaha, the southern hemisphere indeed….. I’m so excited for you *goes off dancing*

    Hehe, as a teen reader I was also very interested in the mating flights of the dragons and the effect on the humans >.> Oh teens 😉

    1. Ah yes, as a teen I was curious by the ‘adult mystery’ but now…. well, I look forward to those complex parts of human interaction in my books. I always find it interesting to what level of detail an author will take those scenes versus the level of detail in violence or in mundane everyday chores.

  3. I really appreciate what you said about F’lar and Lessa’s growth. I think it’s very true, and something that helps me reconcile some more distasteful parts of their characters with the overall fondness I have for them.

    1. I like that we learn pretty early on that the characters can and will grow in this book and in the series. If the book stayed with the beginning male/female roles and interactions, I think I would have disliked this tale even as a teen.

  4. I love your answer to the second point and think it’s spot on – not to mention a lot better articulated than I seemed to manage!
    Funnily enough I’d forgotten about F’lar’s contempt for Lessa’s watch weyr – I thought that was so sad and such a shame it had to die! I also love the human/dragon relationship – there’s a real sort of equality going on there that’s fascinating.
    Lynn 😀

    1. I had totally forgotten about the watch weyr’s death until I reread it and it was so sudden, unexpected. This weyr had been Lessa’s friend for years, her protector, and for him to exit the story in such a way was both inevitable and sad.

      1. It’s funny, what struck me about that scene was Lessa’s compassion for the watchweyr. I thought it made her much more sympathetic. She’s so ruthless towards Fax (justifiably) and anyone else in the way of her revenge (more and less justifiably). I think it’s a powerful note to have her express caring for a creature who is viewed with contempt by the rest of society. I guess I saw F’lar’s attitude as the “normal” one and was touched by Lessa’s emotions.

  5. Great post and excellent points. I love your answer to question #2 — flawed characters with growth potential. Yes!

    I also like that the people of Pern have forgotten about their history and now have to figure things out for themselves. I love the introduction where she begins by asking questions about facts becoming legends, myths or fairy tales.

    1. That intro was perfect. I can think of so many myths and legends in our world that it can apply to. I’m looking forward to what the second half of the book holds for us.

    2. Yes! Very powerful questions about history and legend. I find it so interesting that some of the books are set much earlier in time and look at the process of losing their history; and others are much later, as they begin to discover some of it again. It’s definitely a topic that continues throughout the series in different ways.

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