Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Discussion: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (Parts III & IV)

We had an absolute blast during the first part of our Group Discussion of Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I loved everyone's different perspectives as well as our shared views of the questions provided by our host Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. Most of all I love everyone's enthusiasm! Here is the conclusion to our discussion.

1. The Threads are further explored and become very much the focal point in parts 3 and 4 of Dragonflight. What are your thoughts on the Threads in general and how do you feel these worked as an enemy vs. the traditional enemies you see in SFF novels?

Threads are and are not what I expected. They provide a bit of that science fiction flavor that I missed during the first section of the novel, and as an alien enemy Threads are not what I think of as traditional. I think of them as a silent, non-aggressive or non-threatening enemy that in the end proves to be deadly to the planet's environment and therefore to its people. In a way they remind me of acid rain (remember acid rain?).

I'm still hoping that the why behind the Threads or the reason they fall on Pern from the Red Planet will be explained at some point in this trilogy.

2. The science fictional concept of time travel becomes an important device in the later half of Dragonflight, how do you feel McCaffrey did in working time travel into the plot?

Now, the time travel device really caught my attention in this second half of the story. I love how McCaffrey takes that one moment, a discovery made as a result of a mistake, and develops it into a thread with such grand possibilities! It absolutely works for me. There was fear on my part that McCaffrey would come up with a deus ex machina type of solution to resolve the Threads crisis faced by Pern and Weyrleader F'lar, but I found her solution to be both creative and well woven in with the world-building.

3. Of the new characters introduced in this second half of Dragonflight, who did you like/not like and why?

My favorite character(s) from the second half of Dragonflight are Masterharper Robinton and Mastersmith Farandel. They both contribute much as secondary characters to this section of the story. Robinton won me over with that speech to the Holders during the Counsel meeting and Farandel's single minded focus on finding an answer to the demise of the fallen Threads was both amusing and admirable. F'nor, however, continues to be an overall favorite character for me. His loyalty and willingness to do whatever is necessary for the Weyr and F'lar further won my admiration, as did his warmth and connection with Lessa.

4. We talked about it in the first discussion and there is no way we can get away from it in Part 2: What are your feelings on the progression of the relationship between F'lar and Lessa throughout this second half of the book?

I can't help but admit that even through much of this second half of the story I still had issues with F'lar's character. I think that has a lot to do with the "mating" scene featured in the first half of the book which, although quickly glossed over by McCaffrey, has a strong 'no-consent' bitter flavor. Having said that, there is measurable growth for F'lar and Lessa as characters as well as in their personal relationship.

Lessa learns how to use her strength of character and power to become an intrinsic part of the Wyer and a contributing partner to F'lar as they each separately and together figure out how to fight the threats expected by Pern, and F'lar learns how to accept and appreciate Lessa as a smart, viable partner. They both come to love each other as mates and lovers exhibiting passion and tenderness. This surprised me a bit after the beginning of the relationship, but in the end it worked.

5. And finally, what is your overall assessment of Dragonflight? How does it measure up against other classic science fiction you've read? Would you recommend it to modern readers, why or why not?

Dragonflight has a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde feel to it. The first part is quite spare in characterization and world-building, with a lack of flow and cohesiveness alleviated as the story moves along, and gender issues that push buttons and then some, while the second half of the story is all action adventure, bright and shiny with action. The world-building is expanded and the characters grow enough, with those worrisome gender issues shrinking until there is hope and an expectation of more from the author in the second book. As I mentioned in my first post, I do believe the fact that the first part of Dragonflight was first edited as a novella and later incorporated with other novellas to create this book has a lot to do with this inconsistency.

As a classic science fiction yarn with gender issues specific to the times Dragonflight was written, it is always tough to judge how modern readers will interpret a book like this one. It all depends on the reader. I personally find the book light on the science with more of its strength geared toward fantasy. Regardless of its weaknesses and/or strengths, I do believe that the old world atmosphere of Pern with its dragons, dragonriders, and craftsmen is one that appeals to me today, and I believe will continue to appeal to modern readers in the future.

Book Discussion: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (Parts 1 & II) 

Thank you Carl for hosting this fun discussion. I've had a wonderful time reading the book and participating in the discussion.


  1. I agree, the enthusiasm has been the best part of the discussion! That, and the remarkably deep and complex analysis...

    1. Yes, excellent analysis along the way during this discussion. I need to make my rounds this morning to check everybody else's posts about this second section. :)

  2. I've also really enjoyed all the discussion that this novel has provoked.
    I thought that the invention of the threads was a great idea by McCaffrey - it's as though she was thinking of environmental issues and it's a different kind of adversary - not something that I can remember seeing before in a novel like this.
    I also wasn't enamoured with the 'mating' scene. F'lar even admits later in the novel that he as good as raped Lessa - which is pretty horrendous really not to mention the way he'd casually assumed that she wouldn't have been a virgin because of living in the castle with lots of males around! It was like he was really only feeling guilt over the fact that she was a virgin. However, I'm trying to think of it as a part of their culture or more to the point a demonstration of how different their culture is from ours, certainly Lessa didn't seem to dwell on it in the same way as I would have! I did come to like F'lar more as the book continued - he came across as sensible, moderate and devoted to his Weyr. He also eventually managed to get a bit more in touch with his emotions - which I suppose was fairly unique in the macho environment he was living in.
    Lynn :D

    1. Lynn, the environmental angle used by McCaffrey for the Threads as the "alien enemy" was rather subtle. It did surprise me!

      Sigh... F'lar! His musings about the 'mating' scene brought it all back to me and made really, really tough for me to like him even as his character grew and the couple adjusted to each other. He was just so cavalier about it (except as you say for the fact that Lessa was a virgin). The fact that Lessa doesn't "dwell" on the event was not realistic to me even with the differences in culture. Lessa is not portrayed as the easily "accepting" type. I don't know! But I like that McCaffrey had growth in store for F'lar's character. That change is enough to make him somewhat acceptable as Lessa's partner by the end.

      I'm a romance reader as well as a science fiction fan, and frankly I didn't think the romance was well executed in this story --- it was not enjoyable for me. But, I did enjoy the fantasy aspect of it and the science fiction flavor that McCaffrey weaves into her world-building. I want to continue reading the trilogy to see what happens to these people and in this world. McCaffrey got me there! :D

    2. You are so right about Lessa. I was a little surprised that she allowed him to shake her and that she accepted the 'rape' with no retaliation. I think a scene where he had to apologize and express regret that she wasn't warned and that it was her first time would have been a massive improvement. It would have made F'Lar much more sympathetic and been much more in keeping with the Lessa that we saw in Ruatha. The early Lessa would have ripped his bits off and fed them to Mnementh! :D

    3. Sue, that's exactly what I thought Lessa would do based on her early characterization!

  3. 1. The Analogy to acid rain is excellent! It is especially apt because it is produced by one nation and then drifts over totally 'innocent' countries to destroy their environment. The same could be said of radioactive clouds as well: the Chernobyl disaster polluted the uplands of most of the UK and some areas are only now becoming free to sell their lamb for human consumption again, 20+ years later. This is why I love Read Alongs!!!! :)

    2. The great thing about the Thread and how it is fought is that there is no simple answer to it . . . how irritating is it when aliens invaders do stupid thing like ignoring our microorganisms or build their Death Star so that it has a convenient way to blow it up . . . TWICE! :D

    1. 1. Exactly! We are on the same wavelength regarding those threads. I loved your take on them! I'm taking your thoughts on them with me when I read the next novel. :)

      2. Yes. That's why for me they are and are not what I expected. On the surface they are simple enough, but when begin thinking about them they become... more. An interesting and rather unique enemy.

  4. if you read the rest of the trilogy you will find out much more about threads and the red planet. Robinton, Farandel and F'nor stay in the story more and more.. and by book 3 you finally find out how Jaxom turns out!

    1. DesLilly, I am planning to read the rest of the trilogy. I already have the books! It's great to know that both the threads and the Red Planet are further developed throughout the trilogy. And now I'm really looking forward to more of my favorite characters. Jaxom... huh! You've peaked my curiosity. :)


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