Revisiting Pern, the great McCaffrey reread: THE CHRONICLES OF PERN: FIRST FALL

Tehani and Marisol bonded over Pern (and Doctor Who) at a science fiction convention, decided that it was time for a reread of the series, and really, they should blog about that. They are reading in Anne McCaffrey’s preferred way, which is basically publication order.  

gl49of4nx3uzug5weu1fPern Series – The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall

T: Well it turns out that most of what’s in this book is basically half of what I (mis)remembered as being in Dragonsdawn. Even the first story, “The Survey: P.E.R.N.”, which is about the survey ship that first found the planet, could have been a prologue in Dragonsdawn. The last piece, “Rescue Run” in which a ship comes across the distress beacon Ted Tubberman sent out and finds a despotic Stev Kimmer still alive and awaiting rescue, reads as a final epilogue to that same book. The other three pieces, “The Dolphins’ Bell”, “The Ford of Red Hanrahan” and “The Second Weyr” honestly read to me like they were edited out of Dragonsdawn for length!

M: I wondered the same thing – were these all edits taken out, or afterthoughts she’d never been able to put in? Some of the detailing, like with Tillek and the dolphins in “The Dolphin’s Bell”, would have dragged the book out, I suspect. Then again, “The Second Weyr” wouldn’t have really fit the arc in Dragonsdawn. I actually would have loved a dragon-focused book based on that time period rather than more survivor-based, as my love of Pern comes from the dragons and the way that impacts everything.

T: I agree they wouldn’t have fit in to Dragonsdawn but you can certainly see where they could have gone. And I agree that we got a bit shortchanged on the first dragons – there was so much potential to explore there!

220px-TheChroniclesOfPernFirstFallM: This was my first time reading these stories, so I had no idea that Kimmer lived. What a jerkoff! I mean, the whole story was great, because it was like reading a what-if, post-apocalypse spin-off. The idea no one else survived except Kimmer and his small harem is both a great what if and a bit of a trainwreck read. All of these emotions came pouring out for me as I relived his part in the betrayal of the first colony, and quite a bit of sadness as I realized Benden, Admiral Bendon’s survivor, would never have a chance to find out that he did survive, do all of these great things, and Kimmer was wrong.

T: Maybe I didn’t want to look too closely at it, but I couldn’t quite figure out the family generations of the little lost colony – a bit ick to say the least! I had read it before, more than once, and it still surprised me! I’d forgotten entirely.

M: Plus, there is that deeply delicious I wish slice of revenge pie. Kimmer would have an apoplexy if he saw what happened to the colonists. Then again, there’s a part of me that has wondered if he lied so well about them dying that he believed it, too… He’d be the sole survivor with Avril’s plan to leave with riches galore. Smart tactic. For a jerkoff.

T: I think it was clear in Dragonsdawn that he was smart (cunning, perhaps?) but I didn’t peg him as being *quite* that selfish and self-centred. I guess thinking you’re the only survivors of the apocalypse wouldn’t have helped his mental state.

96463M: “Survey” was short and sweet; and really, it had no place here. It would have been a better read as a prologue or first chapter in the last book than the rehashed synopsis we received in Dragonsdawn. I felt like the information about the survey came up an awful lot in the book, and I think this would have done a better job cementing the idea than the rehashings.

T: I was a bit disappointed in “Survey”, because it contradicts information about Avril that we get in Dragonsdawn. That should have been fact-checked! Although I like the idea that part of the reason the survey was incomplete was the shortage of qualified team members.

M: Confession time: I have a super large love affair with The Dolphins of Pern. Something I’m wondering if I will cringe at as I read it for the first time in, oh, ten years? Probably longer. I read it in middle and high school, when I dreamed daily of being taken away by talking animals to any place that didn’t include football and cheerleaders. Coming from that love of dolphins and that book in particular, I found myself much less enthused reading the short story. It was far more interesting to read about Tillek and Theo, and that development than the dolphins.

61935T: “The Dolphin’s Bell” is probably more interesting read with The Dolphins of Pern in your head, though, because it’s absolutely fascinating to see how that group maintained their societal structure through the centuries! Theo and Tillek were interesting, yes, but why did there have to be such an age difference? She’s VERY young for him!

M: True, but seeing an age gap couple that no one put down was refreshing. Although I would have enjoyed a role reversal. Seems people always ok the older man with younger girl, but not the reverse. I guess that wouldn’t work well for their populating ways though, haha.

In my dream world, if we’d had “The Ford of Red Hanrahan” and “The Second Weyr” put in a book, I could have had that dragon story post settling the north. It’s enough to make me wistfully sigh, because you know even back then publishers didn’t appreciate what an amazing story world (aka moneymaker) they had in Pern.

T: I agree – more about the first Benden Weyr team, and the expansion of the weyrs in general, would have made a great book. More Sorka and Sean! More about how the Weyr society evolved! Because that’s a quite thought-provoking element of the books, the fact that Weyr life is rather different and generally more open than Hold life. More needed!

I think “The Ford of Red Hanrahan” is my favourite story in the book. I’m a Ruatha fan, as we’re positioned to be as readers, and I really do love this story about its origins.

M: It’s funny, because I love sci-fi stories, and I love the sci-fi elements to Pern, but reading the previous book was the most tedious still, and reading these non-dragon stories was not a favorite. I mean, I love story backgrounds and flavoring as much as the next nerd, but because so much of this was well intoned in the first books, I felt like I didn’t learn enough that was ‘new’, as ridiculous as it may seem.

T: Not ridiculous! It was a fleshing out of backstory, with only a few surprises, which can be a problem of prequels, I guess. And it’s also the contrast of a novel to a bunch of loosely connected stories – a different reading experience. I enjoyed revisiting it, but I definitely wanted more depth for most of the stories.

mccaf1rlPreviously, in the Great Pern Reread of 2015:

Dragonflight

Dragonquest

The Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums)

The White Dragon

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern / Nerilka’s Story

Dragonsdawn

The Renegades of Pern

All the Weyrs of Pern

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