Sunday, 5 February 2012

Pern, I love you!

I love Pern.  I want to go to Pern.  I want some fire dragons of my own, of course.  And I really hope that if I went to Pern, I would have more talent for something than I currently do, or I wouldn't even make it to Harper Hall.

I am talking about Anne McCaffrey's Dragon books, specifically Dragonsong and Dragonsinger, which I read last week for the Grandmaster challenge.  My first science fiction author for this challenge, new to me, and I am totally swept away and want to go to Pern. Now.

Dragonsong and Dragonsinger are written for children, older children/young teens.  They are written with a breathless quality that makes them extremely difficult to put down. I devoured them, reading over the dinner table,  reading late into the night, wishing the ride on the bus would go longer each day so I could read just a little more!

Menolly is the main heroine of the two books.  She is the youngest child of Yanus, the head of the tiny village in a far corner of Pern.  They are fishermen, and their lives are caught up in the sea, all except for Menolly, who shows a rare gift and aptitude for music that her family are ashamed of.  There are no female harpers on Pern.  I will admit, that at this point I had a terribly violent reaction to this storyline.  I thought to myself, well, all right, it's written in the mid-70's.  Women's rights were still coming.  But to be honest, if I had found that she couldn't harp just because she was a woman, I was going to put the book down and never come back to it. I am so tired of sexism in books!  In fantasy, in mysteries, in fiction, in real cultures in this world, that women can't do something just because they are women, is tired.  I'm fed up with it.  So, I read Dragonsong with half a sinking heart, afraid to open up entirely to the story, until I got to the part where it is resolved and very satisfactorily, too, I add.  Delightful.

Menolly herself is a resourceful heroine, independent, and when her family refuse to allow her to do any music at all, she runs away.  In running away, she leaves herself open when the Thread falls, which is a kind of silver thread coming from one of the planets in the sky of Pern, the Red Planet.  The thread burns and kills or destroys whatever it comes into contact with.  The only thing that can fight it are dragons.  So people become dragonriders and fight the thread - however Dragonsong isn't about these glorious creatures, but about fire dragons, tiny versions of dragons that are rare until Menolly, in her attempt to run away, discovers a nest as some Thread is about to fall.  She saves the nest, and imprints some of the resultant dragon hatchlings, so that they and she are linked together.  And this is the best, the most delightful, wondrous, magical part of the books for me.  The writing is good, the characters are very well done, the pace is excellent, but above all, are the fire dragons.   I want one of my own!!!

Dragonsinger continues Menolly's story, as she finds herself finally at Harper Hall, where her musical skill and gifts quickly become apparent.  This book takes place over 7 days, and very eventful days they are.  We see Menolly be tested to see what her musical knowledge and aptitudes are, we see people react to her in good and bad ways - anyone who has 9 fire dragons is bound to attract envy! -  and we see Menolly begin to grow up and accept she can have a place here, a rightful place based on her skills and love of music.  It is a  charming novel, and filled with delightful characters.  I can't rate these two books highly enough.  As soon as my daughter is old enough to read them (in about a year or two I think) I will be giving them to her.  They are fabulous, fun, magical, everything science fiction can be when it is done imaginatively.  I am currently reading the third in the Harper Hall Trilogy as it's called, Dragondrums.  In this one the novel follows one of Menolly's new friends, Piemur, who is sent off to the southern continent as a messenger.  He wants a fire dragon too, I might add.

I am really happy I read these books.  I hope the rest of the Grandmasters I will be reading for the challenge hold as many happy surprises for me!

By the way, I love the cover of Dragonsinger, so I went looking to see if  I could find the artist, and I did!  She's here.

Super News - Harry Hole is back!!!!
Many of you know about my ongoing love affair with Harry Hole, chief detective of the Jo Nesbo mystery series.  I am ecstatic to report that there is a new Harry Hole novel coming out, Phantom, which will be released here in Canada on March 12. A new Harry Hole novel!!!  I can read The Leopard now!!!  I was saving it until I couldn't stand to go without Harry any more.  Now I don't have to, I can go ahead and read it. 


Jeane said...

Oh, these are my favorites! I was introduced to Pern when a friend gave me Dragonquest for my birthday, but it wasn't until I read this little trilogy that I really fell in love with the place.

Cath said...

So glad you've read your first Pern book at long last. The Harper Hall trilogy is just wonderful. I've read them several times and am about due a reread I think. I know how you felt about the women not being allowed to be harpers thing. It annoyed the heck out of me too but luckily it all came right in the end. Are you planning to read the main Pern books at some stage? I would recommend Dragonflight, Dragonquest and then The White Dragon. There are many more after that, not all of which I've read. But those three are the 'must read' Pern books, imo.

Looking forward to reading about your other sci-fi reads for your challenge.

Kathleen said...

I've heard that this series is great and it sounds like you agree!

DesLily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DesLily said...

DesLily said...
great post!! how exciting to read a post of someone who just discovered PERN!!!! I hope you finish out that trilogy and read Dragon Drums also.. they were a "mini trilogy" she wrote after Dragonflight/ Dragonquest/ and The White Dragon. those six books will never leave me..never!!!I am so happy for you because she wrote about 26 or 27 pern books in all *grin* but only Harper Hall and the first trilogy were "trilogies". and to think they are all old enough that you can get them as "used" books!!!

I hope you read more, and love more because you will love F'lar and Lessa, their dragons and the others as well...and it helps that Masterharper Robinton gets his foot in the door with them too!

Susan said...

Jeane: they are so delightful and fun, aren't they? I really like the character of Menolly too.

Cath: Yes, I own Dragonflight already, but haven't picked up Dragonquest or The White Dragon yet. And yes, I do plan on reading them at some point! I'm very curious how the 'adult' ones read compared to the younger adult ones.

I'm just about to write about some of the science fiction books I've read so far :-) Is it wrong of me to want to finish Dragondrums really quickly so I can get to another science fiction book? lol

Kathleen: Have you read this series? It is very enjoyable.

DesLily: I was thinking of you when I wrote this post, and how much you love Pern! I'm reading Dragondrums right now, to finish the trilogy properly. Like I said to Cath above, I will read the other trilogy too at some point, when I get the other two. I'm just so thrilled and delighted that I do like Pern so much! Especially as sometimes we don't all agree on a book, it is wonderful to know that one day when you and I meet/chat, we can talk about these too!

If Master Robinton is in the other trilogy (Dragonflight etc) then I'm there! He is such a great character, isn't he? I like Sebell too. I want to know more about the big dragons as well, now that I love the little fire dragons so much.

GeraniumCat said...

Goodness, how lovely to be reading them for the first time! So much more to enjoy - I love the way that later books fill in some of the detail from the earlier ones, and what happens later. But I really don't recommend the most recent books that her son has written: Dragonsblood made me completely miserable, I had to keep reading because I had to find out what happened, but it left me bleak and depressed.

Kailana said...

I have these. One day I might even actually read them!

Susan said...

Geraniumcat: it has been quite an adventure reading these for the first time! I'm almost done Dragondrums, and it's just as good. I am so happy I finally read them! This is what that Grandmaster challenge is for, people like me who missed the classics! lol I don't know if I will read beyond the next trilogy, though I will definitely read those as well at some point - I have to find them all first :-)

Kailana: LOL! You sound like me!! They are worth reading, they really are. They deserve every rave Pat has given them!

E. Chin said...

I would recommend reading "The Big Pern Book". It is a collection of the bulk of Anne's Pern series. However it links all the books together by weaving the narratives into chronological order. I for one enjoyed it immensely and I am sure you will too. It begins with the birth of the future Masterharper a of Pern Robinton and culminates with the eradication of Thread.