Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

Dragonflight Book Cover Dragonflight
Dragonriders of Pern
Anne McCaffrey
Fantasy, Science fiction
Transworld Digital: New Ed Edition
first published 1968

I'm not crazy about dragons.  For a long time, I considered dragons on the cover of a book to be a sure sign it was the type of fantasy I would be terribly bored by.  Of course, I've been proven wrong on many occasions now, but I think it might be relevant here, because Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight was probably always most popular among readers inclined to dream of bonding with a dragon of their own.

See, I struggle to see any other reason this novel would still have an audience.  I feel apologetic about this; I know it's a beloved classic of the genre and all that.  I learned while reading that the book Dragonflight is actually a few stitched-together parts written at different points in the author's career,  which goes a long way toward explaining why I spent the first half generally bored and annoyed, while the last, oh, forty percent was noteably better, in both plot and prose.

Young Lessa, with a grand background of her own, is taken from dreary surroundings into the Dragon Weyr, chosen along with other girls as a candidate for the traditional impression on the new dragon queen, who is bursting out of her egg just then.    Once a dragon has chosen, impressed, a human, they are a close unit until death - a telepathic connection, friendship, understanding.  A dragon rider need never be alone.

Oh, and the dragons have a few other useful abilities, especially when it comes to fighting enemies from a neighbor star.  (I understand that at the time of writing, science fiction was the "respectable" genre, which I think at least partly explains the genre overlay.)

My main issue with the book is that there aren't really any obstacles.  Or, they're there, but they're overcome with the bat of an eye, a hint of magic powers, a timely discovery of a new trick.  Obstacles are held up and pointed at, but then quietly put down and taken off scene.   It might matter less if there was anything else to hold my attention, but the characters are mostly two-dimensional, and the main character is - to me! - simply unlikeable.   The author decided to have her think certain things and act certain things with the reason because I am a girl, after all.   Huge red flag! Eek.    Additionally. there is a problematic romance scene,  and it's all really just very far from how I prefer my fiction to work.   (McCaffrey was a romance writer: I respect that, and recognise that a lot of my reaction here is a huge genre mismatch.)

The good thing about reading Dragonflight is knowing what everyone else is talking about when they mention Dragonflight,  and sooner or later they will, because of the whole classic status thing.  I now know what it is,  and I understand how the story probably had a bigger impact nearly fifty years ago.   (But Ursula Le Guin wrote in the same time period, with a very different take on girls. Time isn't an auto-excuse.)   I know from discussion threads about the book that the following Pern books are considered to have vastly improved characters and interesting stories,  which I'm inclined to believe, but I have so much epic fantasy on my to-read list, I prbably won't see any reason to spend any more time with these dragons.

(But hey,  science fiction fantasy is always fun in combination.  I can't actually think of any good examples except perhaps Richard Morgan's fantasy books - but I suppose most of the dying Earth trope is like this.  I've been promised I'll find what I want when, finally, I read Gene Wolfe. Which I've pledged to do this month, but on Monday I will be close to sharks, so my attention span may be compromised.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *