Author: Anne McCaffery
Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Edition Later Printing edition, 1986
ISBN 13: 978-0345335463
by A.E. Hellar
When I was researching into the first woman to win the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, I came across the name Anne McCaffrey. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I came across her name, but this time, my interest was piqued to read a book written by her. I decided to go with Dragonflight because it is the first in a series and, when possible, I like to read the first book in a series. As soon as I was able to download a copy from my local library, I dived right in–and diving really is the best verb to use because once you get started, it moves quickly from one big drama to the next. Dragonflight is a socially conscious adventure/romance science fiction story.
Anne McCaffrey was an American-Irish author who lived from 1926 to 2011. She is best known for her Dragonrider series that takes place on Pern, a planet that is colonized by humans in the future. The original Dragonflight is the merging of two novellas “Dragonrider” and “Weyr Search.” “Weyr Search” was originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine in October of 1967. It won the Hugo Award in 1968. “Dragonrider” was published in December of 1967 in Analog Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine and won the Nebula Award in 1969. Dragonflight as we know it now was published in 1968 by Ballantine Press.
I’m a sucker for a heroine that is both smart and romantically handicapped. Lessa, the heroine of Dragonflight, is just that type of character. Lessa is a smart, bold, passionate woman, with a warrior’s heart and mind. These characteristics stay with our heroine through the story and prove to be her biggest assets and weakness. Her warrior heart gives her the strength to forge a complicated plan of revenge against the evil lord Fax, an individual who took over her home and killed her parents. Yet, this same warrior heart of hers makes it difficult for her to let down her guard and be with F’lor, the leader of the dragon riders. Over time, with gentile care from F’Lor, her character grows and she is able to open up and form a bond with F’lor–a bond which allows them to defend the people of Pern against internal threats.
Dragonflight is science fiction not fantasy, even though it has dragons. When I started the story, I thought it was a fantasy story because it has dragons. It turns out that if a dragon is genetically altered, it is considered science fiction. Dragons and their ability to connect with humans telepathically are essential to the plot. Also, time travel is an important part of the plot, since it provides the heroes with a way to save the day. Mccaffrey gives a very good explanation about how it happens and even plays with the idea of crossing time lines. This story takes place on a distant planet called Pern, far in the distant future when humans have been forced to vacate the earth. The language and culture are similar to that of Europe in the middle ages with the feudal systems creating the template for their social structure.
Because Dragonflight is two novellas put together, the flow of the story is different–but still thrilling. A novella by nature is a longer version of a short story but not as long as a novel, so the main action will come sooner. By combing two novellas there are two main action sequences, so the story has two times the intensity. Two of my favorite scenes from the first part, or “Weyr Search,” are the fight scene between F’lor and Flax for its vivid language and the scene when Lessa connects with Ramoth for the first time. In the second part, or “Dragonrider,” there are several important firsts such as Ramoth’s and Lessa’s first flight and the first fight against the threads. Talk about action packed.
Unfortunately, I did not like the ending to the second part. I like clear endings. Yes, I like a cliff hanger to keep me coming back to the next book, but I didn’t feel that this story “ended”–at least I wasn’t expecting the ending that it had. The current story between F’lor and Lessa comes to a conclusion and the problem of how the people will fight the threads is resolved, but the story ends as they go off to battle. I would have preferred an ending where they weren’t about to go off to battle.
Overall, I recommend this book. McCaffrey’s word choice creates vivid images of the people and places. The story moves along quickly so you don’t even notice the number of pages. The idea of being able to telepathically connect to a dragon and create a bond for life is an interesting idea. And for those that aren’t sure how they feel about science fiction but enjoy fantasy, this is a good book for trying out science fiction and vice versa.
About the Author
Anne Inez McCaffrey (1 April 1926 – 21 November 2011) was an American-born Irish writer, best known for the Dragonriders of Pern science fiction series. Early in McCaffrey’s 46-year career as a writer, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 2005 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named McCaffrey its 22nd Grand Master, an annual award to living writers of fantasy and science fiction. She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on 17 June 2006.