Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight has been on my mind for a long while now. It’s been recommended to me by myriad people and is widely recognized as one of the essentials in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Canon. Currently, it holds a place as #33 on NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy List, #34 on Fantasy 100’s list, as well as many other lists. I’ve been pretty staunchly opposed to dragon books for awhile now, mainly since Eragon. There have been some exceptions: Smaug from The Hobbit, and the dragons from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.
Summary from Goodreads:
HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?
To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.
But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .
Overall this was good! I readily stepped into McCaffrey’s world, Pern, inhabited by a hierarchical civilization centered around the Dragonriders who protect Pern from the evil Threads. Her characters can often ring a bit hollow, with the exception of F’Lar, the leader of the riders, and Lessa. At first, Lessa seems to be nothing more than a ratty waif who hides out at Benden Weyr. In fact, she’s incredibly intelligent, willing to manipulate those around her in order to get what she wants. Once she achieves it, she continues to move forward with her typical headstrong nature, doing her best to lead her people to safety while continually butting heads with the cocky F’Lar.
This is a very practical, logistical book, filled with strategies and numbers, plans and preparations. McCaffrey seems to delight in identifying a problem, then examining it from every single angle, and finding a solution. This deals with some interesting notions of time and space, dealt with quite practically. This actually works well as a part of the tension, with time running out and options being exhausted. Unfortunately, it ends a bit abruptly, for all of the buildup. I wonder if the sequel picks up immediately (literally, in mid-flight).
As for the writing style, it’s a bit clunky and could use a bit more depth. There were some descriptions that were overused, while others were sorely lacking. At the same time, McCaffrey is a little too forgiving with some institutionalized rape, glossing over that fact and moving cleanly on to a relationship of near-equals. There could be some diversity in the different forms of weyr. There were wherries, weyrs, weyr-women, in every combination. I feel like the vocabulary could have been extended just a bit.