Anne McCaffrey Book Reviews
Overall Impressions of the Cattani series
Kris and Zainal are dropped on an uninhabited planet along with many other humans and other species. They must survive, gain their freedom, and build a self-sustaining world.
The general writing and story-telling are excellent. McCaffery creates complex and believable words and characters. However, there are a very large number of characters, so it can be hard to develop an emotional connection to them. Even Kris and Zainal are written in a somewhat distant style. They have plenty of adventures and challenges, but they never leap for joy, or cry, or tremble with fear or anger.
These books are good fun reads with plenty of plot but lack emotional depth.
Copyright 1995 Ace Books
When the Catteni invade Earth, they Capture Kristin Bjornsen and take her to Barvi. Disliking life as a slave, she commandeers a flyer, escaping into the jungle. There, she rescues a Catteni from certain death, which may not have been the wisest thing to do. They both get captured and dropped on an uninhabited planet along with a few hundred other humans and aliens.
Sergeant Chuck Mitford takes command and turns the ragged band of strangers into a self-sufficient colony. They name the planet Botany. Even the rescued Catteni, Zainal, manages to fit in. And every few weeks, Catteni ships disgorge more unwitting settlers. It is their way of disposing of trouble makers and colonizing new worlds.
Although there aren't any people, sentient beings, native to Botany, someone has taken a great deal of effort to farm the world. It is covered with fertile fields of grain, herds of overly tame mammals, and a few predators to keep the place clean. It is one giant farm managed by machines.
As more humans and aliens are dropped, more experts are added to the population. Soon the colony is dismantling the mechanized farm machinery to make useful items, like comm units and transport vehicles. Just when life is getting almost comfortable, the Catteni return for Zainal. But he gives them a piece of his mind and stays on Botany.
Although Zainal is Emassi, a high ranking Catteni, his people do not rule the galaxy. They are slaves of the Eosi.
Zainal and Kristin's team find a building that looks like a planetary HQ. Mechanical genius, voyeur, and general pain in the ass, Dick Aarens launches a homing beacon, or maybe it's a torpedo.
At first, few trust Zainal. After all, he is Catteni, enslaver of worlds. He proves himself to be useful time and again, and more of Botany's population come to respect and trust him. Kristin even falls in love with him.
Freedoms Landing is a story about survival and determination. There are plenty of dangers, unique characters, and interesting aliens, both good and bad. Master storyteller Anne McCaffery, takes the reader through many adventures and discoveries with consummate skill.
This is an excellent book even though I don't think the settlers could have solved the basic survival challenges in so little time or quite so successfully. It doesn't really have an ending. Which is a bit disappointing. I like a good ending that wraps up a real challenge. Freedoms Landing solves many basic challenges but leaves the end wide open for a sequel. Since it is the first book in a four-part series, that isn't surprising.
Reviewed by Romana Drew July 2, 2019.
Copyright 1997 Ace Books
Kristin Bjornsen and Zainal continue their adventures on Botany.
Mentat Ix, the Eosi who was supposed to subsume Zainal, took his brother instead. He knows Zainal escaped and is on Botany, so he sends ships to capture Zainal. Instead, Zainal captures the ships. This infuriates Ix, and he comes after Zainal again.
The farmers return and enclose the planet in a protective bubble, which further angers Ix. He uses a mind probe on humans looking for anything that might explain the bubble, although it isn't all that logical to do so. He finds little, but the mind probe leaves its victims traumatized into a stupor.
Zainal has a plan, not just to get supplies for Botany, but to free his world and the galaxy from the Eosi. However, the farmers forbid any "species injury," so he can't just kill the Eosi, but that is for a later book. Right now, the colony needs supplies and Kristin is pregnant - not by Zainal, of course.
Freedoms Choice takes the colony further into self-sufficiency and sets up for the next story. There is plenty of excitement and good storytelling, but this is a middle book. It also holds up as a stand-alone story.
Reviewed by Romana Drew on July 28, 2019.
Published 1998 Ace/Putnam
Kris and Zainal continue their efforts to make Botany a successful colony, raise a family, and free the galaxy from Eosi domination.
Botany now has several ships. Humans can pass as Cattani, given enough makeup, contact lenses, and language lessons. So they visit several planets picking up supplies, information, and more dissident Cattani. Zainal has a plan to rid the universe of the Eosi but lacks the means until he meets a group of rescued Massi.
In Freedom's Challenge, the third book in the Freedom series, the characters take charge of their destiny, contacting other planets, and directly challenging the bad guys.
The two previous books in this series had huge casts. Freedom's Challenge adds several more characters making it hard to remember everyone.
As the colony expands, and skilled people join the gang, the technology improves, sometimes in very logical ways, and sometimes a bit unrealistically. Although the glass blowers are unable to make perfect drinking glasses, they somehow make colored contact lenses. That's a bit of a stretch. They also invent gray hair die, which is a serious bit of chemistry.
Cattani eyes are black with yellow pupils. Having an opaque spot in the middle of the eye makes for a complex bending of light around that spot to get it to light receptive cells. I can accept that in an alien species. However, a human wearing a contact lens with a yellow spot covering the pupil would be blind. Perhaps the yellow spot could be such that it only looked opaque and the wearer could see through it, but that is a serious bit of technology.
Freedom's Challenge is a fun story full of interesting characters - well worth reading.
Reviewed by Romana Drew August 9, 2019
Published 2002 Ace/Putnam
Zainal has a plan to contact the Farmers, but first, he goes shopping. Kris, Zainal, his sons, and a few other colonists travel to Earth, pick up supplies and then head off to Baveri.
Lots of Cattani need dental work, and they like coffee. So our heroes need dental equipment and coffee to bargain with the Cattinai on Baveri. They already have a dentist.
This is the last book in the series, which is unfortunate because we never get to meet the farmers. That would have been a much more interesting story. Since this book starts out talking about plans to find the farmers, then goes on a shopping spree, it is a little disappointing, I kept waiting to find the farmers
Even so, it is a good read. The worldbuilding is excellent, and the plot keeps moving right along.
Reviewed by Romana Drew August 9, 2019
Overall Impressions of the Pern series
Pern is an amazing and complex world full of well developed characters. I intend to reread and review the Pern books written by Anne McCaffrey first and then move on to books she coauthored or written by her children. I will keep this listing of books in chronological order by Pern dates, althought I doubt I will read and review them in that order.
A Del Rey Book Published by Random House 1988
Admiral Paul Benden
Governor Emily Boll
Kitti Ping Yung
Three spaceships full of colonists, the Yokahama, Bahrain, and Buenos Aires, land on a planet in the Sagittarian Sector. The only unusual sighting is an Ort cloud, a nebulous mass of frozen meteorites, surrounding Rukbat, the system's sun. The third planet in Rukbat's system had been surveyed two hundred years ago and deemed habitable. The colonists found no reason to doubt that Pern would become the paradise they had traveled half way across the galaxy to build.
After only a few years, a rogue planet with an unusual orbit swung closer and closer to Pern. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and extreme weather followed. Soon the colonists were forced to flee to another continent to escape the volcanos. Then thread fell, killing everything in sight.
The story of Pern begins with Dragondawn. Not only does it tell the story of the first settlers, but also how the dragons came to be. Unlike most of the Pern books written in the 1970s and '80s, this book doesn't really have a main character. It follows several different people. However, it never stays with one long enough for the reader to develop a strong emotional bond. But, it moves right along and is never dull.
This may not be the book that will hook a reader on Pern, but is a must read for those already hooked.
Reviewed by Romana Drew May 18, 2020
Red Star Rising (UK)
A Del Rey Book Published by Random House 1997
Clisser - head of the college at Fort Hold
Chalkin - Bitra Lord Holder
K'vin - Telgar Weyrleader
Zulaya - Telgar Weyrwoman
Iantine - Journeyman artist
Debera - Telgar green rider
It has been 200 hundred years since thread fell on Pern. The old science warns that thread will fall again and even predicts when. But Lord Chalkin refuses to believe or to prepare. He rules Brita Hold with an incompetent iron fist.
K'van, the new Weyrleader of Telgar, believes thread will fall and that Pern is not prepared.
Clisser heads up the education department at Fort Hold. His computers have failed, and the old ways of teaching are also failing. No one wants to learn the history of Earth, they need information that will help them succeed on Pern. They also need a way to predict threadfall.
Dragonseye fills in several gaps in Pern history: how and when were the Star Stones built, what happened to the original technology, and how did such a feudal society develop. It also gives a look into the life of green dragon riders.
This book is well worth reading, but it is not as engaging as most of the Pern books. The main fault lies not in the writing or the story, but in the lack of a clear main character.
The most interesting character is Iantine, the artist who gets trapped in Bitra Hold. He tries desperately to satisfy Lord Chalkin without his living accommodations costing him more than his commission. As interesting as that is, it is just a way for Telgar to learn of the horrendous conditions in Bitra Hold.
Just as I develop an emotional attachment to one character, the book moves on to a different place and different characters.
This is a good book but not a great one. It shows life on Pern in ways that lovers of the Pern series will enjoy. But the storytelling is a little distant.
Reviewed by Romana Drew May 22, 2020
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1983
Moreta, the senior Weyrworman of Fort Weyr, Gold Orlith's rider
Sh'gall Weyrleader of Fort Weyr, bronze Kadith's rider
Berchar, Fort Weyr Healer,
Leri Elderly rider of gold Holth.
In the middle of the sixth pass, fifteen hundred years after the settlement of Pern, an epidemic ravages the land.
Moreta, Weyrwoman of Fort Weyr, flys her pregnant queen, Orlith, to a gather at Ruatha Hold. There, a new, and very sick, animal from Ista is on display. Soon, both runners and people get sick and die. Even the Weyr Healer has the disease and must be quarantined. This complicates fighting Thread.
Masterhealer Capian manages to develop a vaccine. But there aren't enough needle thorns and no way to get the vaccine to enough people in time, even if they can manufacture sufficient amounts of vaccine.
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern is a complex and somewhat technical story. It follows Moreta, Capian, and Sh'gall as they try to stop the epidemic before it devastates their world.
Like so many of the Pern novels, there is a huge cast. This is a little easier to take with books set during the ninth pass, as many of the characters are the same in different novels. Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, like Dragondawn and Dragonseye have casts unique to their time. So the reader must keep track of a large and ofter confusing number of characters. Note a minor character named, Nerilka. Her story is told in another novel.
This is a fascinating story of a low tech solution to vaccinations, one that is still in use.
This should be a fascinating, feel-good novel. So many problems are solved by teamwork and ingenuity. However, the ending is not only depressing but in my opinion, unnecessarily so.
I was never able to develop a strong emotional connection to Moreta, but her death seemed needless.
Still, the writing is excellent and the characters are complex and well developed. Tragedy is a time honored form of storytelling. Although, this isn't my cup of tea, it is well worth reading.
Reviewed by Romana Drew May 27, 2020
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1986
Illustrations by Edwin Herder
Lord Tolocamp - Fort Hold
Lady Pendra - Fort Hold
Anella - Tolocamp's mistress
Lord Alessan - Ruatha Hold
Nerilka is the unappreciated daughter or Lord Tolocamp and Lady Pendra of Fort Hold. She is pointedly not invited to go to the Gather at Ruatha, which is fortunate. Disease breaks out at that gather and spreads across Pern. Lord Tolocamp returns to Fort Hold but leaves his wife and daughters to die at Ruatha.
Lord Tolocamp isolates himself with his mistress, Anella, and refuses to provide supplies to other holds. When Anella takes charge, things deteriorate at Fort Hold. Nerlika, well trained in healing techniques, takes supplies and leaves. She ends up at Ruatha, where her life changes forever.
Nerilka's Story is intertwined with Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. It gives a deeper look into how the epidemic affected the people of Pern and the difficulties of dealing with not only the victims but those leaders who refused to help.
It is also a powerful coming of age tale. After Nerilka leaves her home in fear and in disguise, she travels to several places before her skills are recognized and appreciated. In the end, she makes a new life, in a new home, one of success and reward.
It also shows how Alessan, with Nerilka's help, recovers from Moreta's death.
Although Nerilka's Story doesn't have a simple or easy ending, it does have a happy and satisfying one.
Reviewed by Romana Drew June 1, 2020.
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1986
Robinton, Harper Hall
Gennell, Harper Hall, Masterharper
Petiron, Harper Hall, Mastercomposer, Robinton's father
Merelan, Harper Hall, Mastersinger, Robinton's mother
F'lon, Bendon Weyr, Weyrleader, bronze Simanith's rider
L'lar, Bendon Weyr, bronze Mnementh's rider, F'lon's son
F'nor, Bendon Weyr, brown Canth's rider, F'lon's son.
The Masterharper of Pern opens with the Robinton's birth, which nearly kills, Merelan, his mother. His father, Petiron, concerned only for his wife, ignores his son.
By the time he is five, Robinton's exceptional musical talent is apparent for all to see, except Petiron. He refuses to have anything to do with his son. Merelan fears that, should Petiron find out, he would force Robinton into composing complex music, robbing him of his childhood and perhaps turning him against music.
Masternarper Gennell encourages Robinton's musical growth, protects him against any harm his father might do, and eventually sends him to every weyr and hold on Pern.
The Masterharper of Pern is a little different from all the other Pern books because it is a biography. After Robinton's difficult birth, the story's focus is a bit muddled. A lot happens in the Harper Hold, but Robinton is a small child and stays mostly in the background. When he gets older, the writing follows his activities, and the book picks up.
The Masterharper of Pern reveals Robinton's love, his child, and his rise to Masterharper. He continue to grow, mature, and make life long friends, as he travels to different Holds and encounters all manner of problems.
In the Pern chronology, The Masterharper of Pern begins several years before Dragonflight and overlaps the first part of that story.
This book is a little slow in the beginning but hang in there. It gets better as it moves along, and it has an exciting ending.
Reviewed by Romana Drew June 25, 2020
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1968
Lessa, Benden Weyr, Weyrwoman, queen Ramoth's rider
F'lar - Benden Weyr, Weyrleader, bronze Mnementh's rider
F'nor, Benden Weyr, brown Canth's rider
Lytol, Ruatha Hold, Lord Warder
All the Weyrs are empty except Benden. Nemorth, the only queen dragon left, lays one final clutch before her rider Jora dies. Then Nemorth goes between forever.
There is only one queen egg in the clutch. If that egg doesn't hatch, or if the dragonette fails to impress, the dragons of Pern will go extinct. Wingleader F'lar and his brother F'nor, search for a new queen rider.
Lessa's family, the rightful rulers of Ruatha hold, were executed when Fax, of High Reaches Hold, invaded. Lessa stayed alive by pretending to be a drudge, biding her time until she could take back her title and rule Ruatha.
Instead, F'lar and F'nor come riding in on their dragons, stirring things up, and searching for someone to impress the queen egg. They ignore Lessa, until Mnementh, F'lar's dragon, captures her. She may be a filthy drudge on the surface, but she can talk to any dragon.
Not long after arriving at Bendon, the eggs hatch, and Lessa impresses the queen.
But the story doesn't end there. Thread normally falls every two hundred turns. It hasn't fallen for four hundred terns. No one is prepared, and too few believe it will ever fall again. All the Weys except Bendon are empty. Pern will need at least a thousand dragons when thread comes, but only a handful remain.
Dragonflight is how the world first learned of Pern. (Note the story, "Weyr Search" was published in Analog a year earlier.) Dragonflight is an excellent book to begin reading about the complex world of Pern. It is also an excellent book for reading anytime.
Lessa grows from an angry and lost young woman, hiding in the shadows, into a powerful leader, innovator, and savior of the world. F'lar also grows from a caviler young man into a world leader.
There are nine more books about Pern during the ninth pass. All, very much worth reading.
Reviewed by Romana Drew July 5, 2020
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1971
Brekke, Southern Weyr, queen Wirenth's rider
F'nor, Bendon Weyr, brown Canth's rider
Jaxom, Rautha Lordholder (underage)
Lytol, Rutha Hold, Lord Warder
Robinton, Harper Hall, Masterharper
L'lar, Bendon Weyr, bronze Mnementh's rider
T'ron, Oldtimer Weyrleader, bronze Fidranth's rider
Kylara, High Reaches, Weyrwoman, queen Prideth's rider
Lots of things go wrong in Dragonquest. F'nor is injured in a silly brawl and goes to the Southern Continent to recover. Then T'ron wounds F'lar in rather stupid a duel. The Oldtimers are banished to the southern continent. Queen dragons fight to the death. F'nor tries to stop thread at its source.
At its core, this is a love story between Brekke and F'nor but spends most of its time on politics. There are dozens of characters and many political and practical complications to read through. Although the oldtimers saved the day when they came forward in time, they don't fit well into present-day Pern society and refuse to respect F'lar's leadership. The holders call for an end to thread forever.
Readers who love the intricacies of Pern society will enjoy every word. Those seeking more emotional engagement or action may end up speed reading some passages in the middle. But the last third of the book is hard to put down.
Reviewed by Romana Drew June 26, 2020
Published by Bantam Books 1976
Menolly, Half Circle Sea Hold
Petiron, Half Circle Sea Hold, old Harper
Yanus, Half Circle Sea Holder, Menolly's father
Mavi, Half Circle Sea Hold, Menolly's mother
Alemi, Half Circle Sea Hold, Menolly's brother
Robinton, Harper Hall, Masterharper
Elgion, Half Circle Sea Hold, new Harper
T'egllan, Bendon Weyr, Wingleader, bronze Monarth's rider
At Half Circle Sea Hold, elderly Harper, Petiron, dies before his replacement can arrive. Without Petiron to intercede, Menolly must face her parents' disapproval, alone. They forbid her to sing, play, or compose. Then she injures her hand preparing fish.
Menolly's talent and love of music is apparent for all to see and hear, except her parents. Their condemnation shatters her self confidence. Unable to bear a life without music, she runs away. When thread falls, she hides in a cave full of fire lizards.
Back at the Harper Hall, Robinton tries in vain to find the student Petiron wrote about, believing he is searching for a young man. Menolly's parents intentionally lead the searchers astray.
If you want to fall in love with Pern, Dragonsong may be the best place to start. The plot is straightforward and rather simple, but the character development is superbly crafted. Menolly is clever and resourceful, able to live off the land, and even make music without any help.
As an aside, accoring to the Masterharper of Pern, Petiron is Robinton's father, but that book was written long after Dragonsong. There is no hint in this book that Robinton and Petiron are related.
Dragonsong is the first of three books, which are best read in order and one right after the other. The second, Dragonsinger, is the story of Menolly's life at the Harperhall. And the third, Dragondrums, the story of her friend, Piemur.
Reviewed by Romana Drew July 6, 2020