It’s been a long time since I read any Anne McCaffrey, so I thought I’d go back to the first novel of hers I’ve ever read and see if I still enjoyed it as much as ever.
Dragonflight is a light, soft sci-fi novel about Pern, a long-held and lost colony planet of Earth that has reverted over thousands of years to a more primitive and pastoral state. The premise is that Pern suffers occasional break-outs of “Thread” – an invasive life form from a nearby planet that proves to be incredibly destructive. While the technology was still available, the colonists design dragons from an indigenous life form known as “fire lizards,” basically little dragons. “Modern” dragons are many yards long, and on them fly the heroic dragonriders of Pern. Thread is burnt in mid-flight by the flaming breath of the dragons, who imprint on their riders at hatching. The Dragonriders of Pern series contains a number of volumes covering the history of Pern and the colony.
This particular volume is the first in the series, and introduces us to Lessa, the last blood relative of a betrayed and murdered Lord, who plots her revenge against the usurper. Before her vengeful plan can be fulfilled, however, Lessa is swept away to become the Dragonrider of the last queen dragon on Pern. Pretty heroic stuff, huh? The kind of stuff of legends that promises a tale of growth, magic, denouement, and elevation.
This book is well known and well loved, and Anne McCaffrey can boast generations of devoted fans, and In this day and age of amazing CGI, you might wonder why there have been no awesome Pern movies made yet. I suspect the main problem is the leading lady and her squeeze.
The problem is that Lessa is probably one of the most unlikeable protagonists in the history of fantasy and science fiction ever. (Including Alex from “A Clockwork Orange.)
Really. In fact, Lessa is petty, cranky, boring, and really hard to root for. She’s not even interestingly bitchy, she’s just bitchy. Where she isn’t a completely entitled little rich girl twerp, she’s mind-numbingly dull. Which is kind of hard to pull off when you ride a cool dragon and save the world twice a week.
And her boyfriend isn’t any better, even if he’s like, the coolest guy with the best car (dragon) in high school and the leader of the pack. Hanging out with Weyrleader F’lar is like watching paint dry, without the joy of potential fume huffing.
They’re basically Ken and Barbie with dragons.
Lucky for us (and McCaffrey), we have dragons. And they’re not just fire-breathing, flying to all heights dragons. They aren’t just instantaneously transporting, time-traveling dragons. They’re not just saving the world, telepathic dragons.
The dragons are utterly and completely charming.
In fact, after reading the first handful of Pern books, it’s pretty obvious that except for some of the youngsters and the MasterHarper, the dragons are really the only likeable creatures on the whole planet.
In fact, I suspect that the Pern colonists didn’t really boldly go so much as got kicked off the planet because they harbored a boring, stuffy, and officious gene that couldn’t be eradicated.
The dragons save the day, though. They’re that good. That sweet. That amusing. They make up for an entire planet full of telephone sanitizers.
Read about the dragons on Amazon.