Cover: my book is in Dutch, and I do like my editions cover a lot.
Deadly spores threaten the human colony of Pern unless the colonists, with help from geneticist Kitti Ping, can develop fire-breathing dragons to combat the menace.
Those who have followed my blog for a while, know that I am a huge Anne McCaffrey fan, and that her Dragonriders of Pern are my favourite series. I have re-read Dragonsdawn for the umpteenth time now, and was surprised that I had not yet written a review about it.
This book explains how the humans travelled to Pern, a 15 year journey, with most of them asleep. They brought everything they would need to build a low-tech society, the animals and plants thought compatible with the Pern soil and environment. And dolphins to guide their ships and help map the coastline. It was a one way journey, with no way back.
The first eight years went well, they build a society, and farms, and everyone could earn a big piece of land after working hard on the colony’s behalf. The story follows a few people, but for me the focus is on two children, Sorka and Sean, who are the first to make contact with the little firelizards and imprint them, and that will be of major importance for the continued existence of humans on Pern.
The strange hobo planet in the Rukbat system has been closing in on Pern for the past few months, but it will pass harmlessly. Or so they thought. The strange trajectory of the planet brings it through the Oort cloud, and in its tail it brings a deadly Thread to Pern. It eats everything alive. The little firelizards have been trying to warn their people, getting them and the animals inside, but the humans did not understand. Until the first threads fell, eating them and their crops and animals. The firelizards breathing fire are the only things saving them, and the stone roofs of their houses.
When the people understand what it is, and where it is coming from, and that it will fall for 40 to 50 years, they need to make plans, and fast. They need to come together, back to Landing, and fight this stuff with fire. But the airsleds were not built for such extensive use, even if they have enough HNO3 to fight with. The only possible solution, is to make the little firelizards bigger, and able to communicate with humans. In their midst is the ancient biologist Kitty Ping, who has studied with a very advanced race, and she agrees to try to alter the little firelizards to their needs. It takes a lot more time for them to succeed, and then for the dragons and their riders to grow up.
I really enjoyed seeing Sorka and Sean grow up, and learn their way around Pern. Sean is from a gypsy family and they don’t really like him socializing with Sorka, but they stay friends. Sorka teaches him the rules he did not bother to learn before he skipped school, and together they explore the beaches. I loved it when Sean earned his horse, and how the biologists and vets were able to design it exactly as Sean wanted. Both Sean and Sorka become apprentice vets, and they both imprint one of the dragons Kitty Ping has designed. Together they will lead the dragonriders of Pern in their battle against thread.
Of course not everything is going allright, there are some dissidents and other stupid people on the colony. Avril Bitra thinks she can escape Pern after mining some of the precious black diamonds and other valuables, and she doesn’t hesitate to kill to get her way. But the brave Sallah Telgar is on to her, and at the cost of her own life, stops her, while helping her planet by providing some extra helpful data.
Then there is Ted Tubberman, a very unhappy man, and after the dead of his children in the first Fall, he has gone mad with grief. Against the colony’s wishes he sends out a distress signal asking Earth for help. Of course it will take 10 years to reach Earth and there is no guarantee at all that they will come to their aid. And at what cost? But he also starts tinkering with lethal earth animals and that will leave a legacy not easily forgotten or killed.
In the end they will have to flee the Southern continent and move up north, where they will have to live in extensive caves but with all the luxury of home. There has to be room enough for the dragons as well ...
It is a very engaging read, and it makes me wish I was living in the future and able to go to a new planet to start a new community with likeminded people. It sounds like hard work but very rewarding and I would love to be the first one to see or do things. Of course I want a firelizard of my own as well.
I do recommend this series. A note of warning: lots of books are stand alone, jumping hundreds of years through time and give us new heroes and heroines and stories. Some books are connected though, following the lives of a few people. I just love them all.
From moderate technology, they will become more middle ages without much technology as the machinery they brought with them becomes irreplaceable and knowledge is lost because of plagues and accidents. But slowly they relearn things, and when they discover their ancestors Landing and the spaceships they left behind, they will finally be able to fight the planet that brings them Threat every 250 years.
Anne McCaffrey has written many engaging science fiction and fantasy series, and I love most of them. I will re-read those often. I have most of her books, and hope to find the missing ones someday.
© 2014 Reviews by Aurian