We’re back for the concluding week of the Dragonflight Group Read, put on by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. There was a fantastic discussion ranging across several blogs last week (see my post and long comment thread), so I look forward to seeing everyone’s thoughts on the end of the book!
I gave a plot summary last week, so let’s just jump in today…
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?
I wish we knew more about the Threads. They’re generally treated as though they’re malevolent, and yet not sentient, or even properly “alive.” So I guess the malevolence is mostly metaphorical. At the same time, I wish I had a clearer picture of whether they are alive in a conventional sense, or have any kind of intelligence. I think not–but there are just a few hints that make me think it would be fascinating if they were. But presuming they’re not, I do think they work effectively as the antagonist in a man-versus-nature conflict. They’re the ultimate natural disaster, capable of destroying all life completely, requiring an equally impressive protagonist in the dragons (and their riders) to fight back against them.
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?
I really enjoyed the way the time travel played in, particularly the way Lessa and F’lar went back into their own pasts. The circular nature of the way events played out will make my head hurt if I think about it too much, but ultimately I think it worked. I would be skeptical about no other dragonriders stumbling on this–but I know in Moreta it’s revealed that other dragonriders did know in the past, so I’ll let that one go by.
3. Of the new characters introduced in this second half of Dragonflight, who did you like/not like and why?
I’m glad we have this question, because I really wanted to talk about some of the characters who came in later in the book.
Mostly I wanted to mention that I LOVE Masterharper Robinton! He just has a small part here, but he’s one of my absolute favorite characters in all of Pern. He’s so splendidly charming and just a truly good person and character. Plus the harpers are really the storytellers of Pern, so how can I not love the Master Storyteller? He has a much bigger part in The Harper Hall Trilogy, but his character comes through in Dragonflight too.
I also think Fandarel, the Mastersmith, is just wonderful. He reminds me of Scotty, with his dedication to his craft. He’s such a striking character too. I can see him so vividly, physically looming and so entertaining in his mannerisms.
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?
I read the whole book before answering last week’s question, so the entire course of their relationship was influencing my earlier discussion on this subject. I do think things get better in the second half of the book. F’lar starts treating Lessa with more respect, and there’s more of a sense of the two of them working together on their problems. And then, it becomes clearer that they really both care about each other. I think I can ultimately like F’lar because he’s so devastated when Lessa disappears between times. He does have a heart!
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?
We talked some last week about this being influenced by its time of writing, but it doesn’t really feel like old science fiction to me, the way Burroughs or Asimov do. I don’t know if it’s the style or the writing or something else, but it doesn’t feel particularly like it’s from another time in writing.
As to a recommendation, I probably would have recommended this before rereading…now I think if I want someone to read Pern, I’m going to push the Harper Hall Trilogy on them, and if they like that, then Dragonflight would be a good follow-up. It’s not anything to do with whether it’s classic or not, but I think the Trilogy is a better introduction to the world, even though it’s set chronologically later (and I think I recall spoilers for Dragonflight). Pern is a pleasanter place in the Trilogy, and I feel like I remember clearer explanations on some of the worldbuilding elements.
So I guess the conclusion for this question is that I’m recommending to all in the group-read that they should go on to read Dragonsong!
That actually segues nicely into the one other element I wanted to mention–the poetry! I’m not a big poetry fan, but there are bits and pieces of Pernese Harper songs that have somehow worked into my mental landscape. I really enjoy the peek it gives us into Pernese literature and culture. And it’s often stirring or beautiful poetry! Of course, part of the appeal of the Harper Hall Trilogy is that we get to explore life in amongst the people who write all that poetry.
I think that wraps things up…I really enjoyed revisiting Pern with the group, and I’m going to try to go back to a few other books throughout the year.
A big thanks to Carl for hosting, and to everyone who joined in–I’ve loved reading your thoughts. Go here for everyone else’s posts!