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.