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Crystal Singer


By Anne McCaffrey

Published by Ballentine Books 1982

Crystal Singer is the story of Killashandra Ree and her quest to be the best of something.

Killashandra devotes her life to music, intending to become a top-rated opera singer. She has an excellent memory, a large repertoire, great musicality, and perfect pitch. After years of hard work, Maestro Valdi takes her hand and tells her that she doesn't have the voice of a top-ranked singer. She should become a choral leader.

Heartbroken and angry, Killashandra walks away. At the spaceport, she meets a crystal singer. All it takes to be a crystal singer is perfect pitch. With only 4425 members, the Heptite Guild is one of the smallest in the galaxy. And most members are not crystal singers. In such a small group, she has a chance to be the best. Ignoring the dangers, the warnings to stay away, even the reputation crystal singers have for being demanding and forgetful, she jumps on the first spaceship headed for Ballybran.

Crystals are cut from the rock face in shapes that ring true on specific notes. Once paired with other crystals, they instantaneously transmit messages across the vast space between planets. But the work requires a sensitivity to the crystals that changes the body and mind.

Although Killashandra grows and matures, that is not the focus of this book. Crystal Singer focuses on the obstacles and challenges Killashandra faces as she learns the skills necessary to find a claim and to cut crystal. There is even a bit of romance along the way.

There are a few exciting moments, but most of the book moves along at an even pace. McCaffrey's writing style keeps it interesting and worth reading.

I did find it hard to suspend my disbelief that crystals could be so connected that they transmit data across vast reaches of space. Or that they can so affect the minds of the singers. As science fiction, this dips dangerously close to fantasy. However, it's a good story, well worth reading. And, there are two more Killashandra novels, which chronicle the life of Killashandra and the crystal singers.

Reviewed by Romana Drew May 31, 2021.
















Killashandra


By Anne McCaffrey

Published by Ballantine Books 1985

Crystal Singer, Killashandra Ree, finds herself broke and despondent. Her very profitable black crystal claim was destroyed by a storm, and she hasn't been able to find any crystal since. The Heptit Guild charges have taken all the credit she had amassed.

When she discovers a vein of white crystal, she cuts as much as she can and barely makes it home before a storm. She needs to get off-planet to ease the crystal resonance in her bones. But the white crystal only gained her enough credit to go to the nearest planet, where crystal singers were not all that welcome.

However, Killashandra cut enough white crystal to repair the sensory organ on Optheria. Lots of people vacation on Optheria, but the locals never leave the planet. Does everyone love their homeworld that much, or are they prevented from leaving - that is illegal? Finding out is the other half of the assignment.

This story takes place on Optheria, not Ballybran. Killashandra is assaulted, kidnapped, and meets the man of her dreams. It's full of interesting characters and intrigue. The comparison of the islanders' free and open society to the mainlanders' repressive and subliminally reinforced subjugation is interesting. It has parallels in the real world.

Killashandra's ability to act whatever part is needed is demonstrated many times, as is her freewheeling personality.

This is a good solid book, well written with good pacing and excellent character development. The societies are realistic and complex. As in other McCaffrey books, many of the character names are locations in Ireland. Killashandra is a town in County Cavan, in northern Ireland.

Killashandra is the sequel to Crystal Singer. There is a third book in the series called Crystal Line.

Reviewed by Romana Drew June 16, 2021.










Crystal Line



By Anne McCaffrey

Published by Ballentine Books 1992

Crystal line continues story of Killashandra Ree..

It's been well over one hundred years since Killashandra met Lars Dahl, but she doesn't remember much of it.

She and Lars investigate a strange artifact or possibly a life form on an airless moon. Then Guild Master Lanzecki dies, and Lars becomes the Guild Master. Killashandra isn't able to accept his death or Lars' new responsibilities. She cuts crystal until she nearly dies, forgetting most of her past life and her relationship with Lars.

For much of this book, Killashandra is like a junkie searching for a fix. It is hard to empathize with her. She goes on a long trip to a tropical world and has relationships not unlike those in Crystal Singer. I found that section of the book a bit tedious.

When she returns, she sees Lars in a more positive light. She even sets her sites on remembering more. But it isn't until she returns to the moon and the odd life form that things get really interesting. And the ending works really well.

Both the crystals' properties and the odd life form on the moon are a bit hard to believe, but the book is well written and easy to read. Except for the bit on the waterworld, it held my interest throughout.

Reviewed by Romana Drew July 27, 2021.













The Rowan


By Anne McCaffrey

Published by Ace Books 1990

When Angharad Gwyn is three, her entire village, Rowan Mining Camp, is buried under a mudslide. She is in a hopper that is carried along by the mud and deposited on an embankment. Her telepathic screams alert all the Talented people on Callisto Prime. Since no one knows her real name, they call her the Rowan child. So she calls herself The Rowan.

The Rowan is a T1, the highest level of telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Throughout her lonely and isolated childhood, she is groomed to become a Prime, the head of a Tower. She spends ten years shifting cargo from one planet to another, a busy but unfulfilling life.

Then aliens attack Deneb, a remote settlement. When Earth refuses to help, Jeff Raven, a roguish but untrained Talent, single-handily defends his world. Then he sets his sites on the Rowan, the woman he loves at first sight, or in this case, first telepathic contact.

The structure of the societies in this book is not clearly defined. It seems, at first glance, that the Primes rule the world. Although they live in Towers and are extremely powerful, they are glorified letter carriers, spending their days pushing cargo and people between worlds. It seems like a rather dull life for someone with such powerful skills.

The characters in this book have varying degrees and kinds of Talent, which they use in many different fields. It is written as science fiction but could just as easily have been written as fantasy, ascribing the traits to magic.

The Rowan is written as a biography. It follows the Rowan from early childhood, through several difficult and exciting transitions, into the powerful and loving woman she eventually becomes. Although it is seldom exciting, it is always interesting.

Reviewed by Romana Drew June 11, 2021.
















Damia




By Anne McCaffrey

Published by Ace Books 1992

Damia is the sequel to The Rowan, and the second in a series of books about these characters and worlds.

The Rowan's third child, Damia, is a powerful talent. Not only can she teleport and telepath, but she amplifies the talents of those around her. Like her mother, she is a bit temperamental and unpredictable.

The Rowan's old friend, Afra, is the first to sense that The Rowan is pregnant again. He and Damia are often in contact, even before she is born. As a toddler, he is her best friend and confidant until she is sent to live with her grandmother on another world.

Most of this book reads as Afra's biography. It does chronicle Damia's life but it is filtered through Afra. Although I enjoyed reading Damia, not much happens plot-wise in the early part of the book. There are a few adventures and misadventures, but mostly Afta works, and Damia grows up.

When Damia is a teenager and runs a tower, the colonies are once again threatened by aliens. Talents must come together to defeat the enemy, much as they did in The Rowan. Instead of being an ending, that event sends the plot in a different, although not unexpected, direction.

The plot is secondary to the character development and worldbuilding in this book. In the same vein, the science and technology are secondary to the characters. They do have mental abilities to teleport and communicate telepathically. Those talents are used throughout the book, but they are not the focus of the story. In the end, Afra's and Damia's lives are the starting place for several more books.

If you want an exciting plot-driven story, this isn't the book for you. But if you enjoy McCaffrey's writing style and want to read about interesting, likable, and emotionally accessible characters, this is worth reading.

Reviewed by Romana Drew July 13, 2021.














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.














Freedom's Landing


Anne McCaffery

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 and 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.

















Freedom's Choice


Anne McCaffery

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 to get supplies for Botany and 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.

















Freedom's Challenge


Anne McCaffrey

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

















Freedom's Ransom


Anne McCaffrey

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, 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, although I doubt I will read and review them in that order.





















Dragonsdawn


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Random House 1988

Main Characters:
Admiral Paul Benden
Governor Emily Boll
Kitti Ping Yung
Sorka Hanrahan
Sean Connell
Sallah Telgar

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 halfway 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 it is a must-read for those already hooked.

Reviewed by Romana Drew May 18, 2020




















Dragonseye (USA)
Red Star Rising (UK)


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Random House 1997

Main characters:
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
















Dragonsblood




By Todd McCaffrey

Published by Del Rey Books 2006

It's the end of the second interval on Pern. Thread is about to fall on the colonists for the third time. A few years back, a plague devastated the people of Pern. Many Weyrs are sparsely populated, and some are empty. There are so few dragons that keeping the world safe from thread will be difficult and might be impossible.

Lorana's two fire lizards, Garth and Grenn, are both sick. Caught in a storm at sea and about to drown, she sends Garth and Grenn away to safety. They go between. Fortunately, dragon riders find Lorana and take her to Bendon Weyr, where she accidentally impresses a queen.

Both dragons and fire lizards are getting sick. Most go between with or without their riders - none recover. Since Lorana can hear and feel all the dragons, each death causes her pain and grief.

Garth and Grenn, both critically ill, end up near Fort Weyr at the end of the second pass. Windblossom contains the disease and determines the fire lizards came from the future. She even cures one of the fire lizards.

Dragonsblood interweaves two stories. Lorana and the quest to find a cure for the dragon epidemic with Windblossom's quest to help the future generations.

Unfortunately, the first two Windblossom chapters did not interest me, and I skipped the rest. I went back to read them after I finished the book. They do contribute to the plot. And, when read all in a row, they hang together as a good story. Although, those chapters telegraph the solution.

Most of the events of Dragonsblood progress logically, except why Garth and Grenn went back in time. Although it was well written, the sea voyage seems a bit contrived. But it does set up the rest of the story.

This is an exciting and well-written book. It adds to the history of Pern and carries on Anne McCaffrey's (Todd's mother) tradition of excellent stories that are a pleasure to read.

Reviewed by Romana Drew March 20, 2021.
















Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1983

Major Characters:
Moreta, the senior Weyrworman of Fort Weyr, Gold Orlith's rider
Sh'gall Weyrleader of Fort Weyr, bronze Kadith's rider
Masterhealer Capian
Berchar, Fort Weyr Healer,
Leri Elderly rider of gold Holth.
Masterharpter Tirone

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
















Nerilka's Story


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1986

Illustrations by Edwin Herder

Main characters
Nerilka
Lord Tolocamp - Fort Hold
Lady Pendra - Fort Hold
Anella - Tolocamp's mistress
Lord Alessan - Ruatha Hold

Nerilka is the unappreciated daughter of 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.
















The Masterharper of Pern


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1986

Main characters:
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 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 continues 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. Nerilka is the unappreciated daughter of 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 25, 2020
















Dragonflight


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1968

Main Characters:
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
















Dragonquest


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1971

Main Characters:

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
















Dragonsong


Anne McCaffrey

Published by Bantam Books 1976

Main Characters:

Menolly, Half Circle Sea Hold
Pertion, 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 are 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, according 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 Harper Hall. And the third, Dragondrums, the story of her friend, Piemur.

Reviewed by Romana Drew July 22, 2020
















Dragonsinger


Anne McCaffrey

Published by Bantam Books 1977

Main Characters:
Menolly, Harper Hold, apprentice
Robinton, Harper Hold, Masterharper
Piemur, Harper Hold, apprentice
Seabell, Harper Hold, Journeyman
Camo, Harper Hold

Dragonsinger covers Menolly's first few tremulous days at Harper Hall. Although there are several female music students at Harper Hall, Menolly is the only female apprentice. Between those who would like to see her fail and her nine fire lizards stirring things up, things don't go all that smoothly. There are jealous roommates, ornery teachers, and even a brawl at the Gather.

In the Pern timeline, this book overlaps Dragonquest as F'nor goes to the red planet in the middle of the book.

Although Menolly is the main character of Dragonsinger, Piemur plays a significant role and adds humor to the book. And, the inner workings of the Harper Hall are covered.

This is an excellent book and a good, fun read. Piemur, Seabell, and Robinton help Menolly overcome her self-doubt and grow into a competent young woman. It is also an introduction to Dragondrums, the third book in the Harper Hall trilogy.

Reviewed by Romana Drew July19, 2020
















Dragondrums


Anne McCaffrey

Published by Bantam Books 1979

Main Characters:
Piemur, Harper Hold,
Robinton, Harper Hold, Masterharper
Menolly, Harper Hold, Journeyman
Seabell, Harper Hold, Journeyman

For three years after Menolly becomes a Journeyman, Piemur sings soprano at the Harper Hall. Then, just before a major concert, his voice breaks. Until his adult voice develops, he is assigned to the Drum Heights, where he outperforms all the other apprentices. But Robinton has other plans for the wily and clever young lad.

Piemur goes on secret missions gathering intelligence for Robinton. He steals a fire lizard egg, has to run for his life, and is eventually given up for dead.

Dragondrums, the final book in the Harper Hall trilogy, features the problems at Nabol Hold, the Oldtimers, and the Southern Continent. It has action, intrigue, and daring escapes. Seabell and Monelly also have interesting roles to play in the story.

Dragondrums is a great ending to the Harper Hall trilogy, but it is hardly the end of the Pern Saga. There are five more books about the ninth pass, all good.

Reviewed by Romana Drew
















The White Dragon


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1978

As a young boy, Jaxom attended a hatching at Bendon Weyr where a small egg lay abandoned, pushed to the side. All the other eggs hatched. While everyone was leaving the hatching grounds, Jaxom kicked and hit the egg until a little white dragon finally escaped. As the future Lord Holder of Ruatha, he wasn't supposed to impress a dragon, especially not a runt no one wanted. That was in Dragonsong.

The White Dragon begins when Jaxom is a teenager, and Ruth, his small white dragon, is ready to fly. Jaxom is as bonded to Ruth as any dragonrider is to their dragon. Ruth commands the respect of other dragons, but there is little hope among the Dragonriders that he will ever amount to much.

Although Jaxom will someday be Rutha's Lord Holder, Lytol, his warder, does not give him much in the way of responsibilities. And yet, Jaxom becomes embroiled in the political turmoil surrounding the Southern Continent and the Oldtimers. While Ruth has, not only a special relationship with the fire lizards, but unique abilities of his own.

This is a wide-ranging and excellent coming-of-age story. Both Jaxom and Ruth grow, mature, and become leaders in the world of Pern. It overlaps many other books about the ninth Pass. Robinton and Monelly and play significant roles. It has exciting adventures, a little bit of a love story, and the setup for the end of Thread forever. But that is another book.

Reviewed by Romana Drew August 5, 2020
















The Renegades of Pern


Anne McCaffrey

Published by Penguin Random House 1990

Main characters
Thella
Robinton
Jaxom
Piemur
Jayge
Toric

Set in the same timeframe as The White Dragon, The Renegades of Pern shares the same cast of characters. Thella flees an arranged marriage to seek her fortune as a holdless renegade, recruiting the dregs of Pern to raid and pillage. She wreaks havoc on Jayge's family and searches the world for Aramina, the girl who hears all the dragons.

Piemur explores the southern continent and discovers the original landing site.

Toric expands his hold, begrudging any who might settle on the Southern Continent.

The Renegades of Pern spans many years and several different stories, following different characters at different times. It begins with a recap of the events covered in earlier books. The overview may be a bit too much to remember for someone who hasn't read those books.

It begins with the misfortunes of Jayge's family, then moves on to Thella and her misdeeds. After a while, it leaves Thella and follows Jayge and Piemur and the discovery of the original landing site, returning to Thella in the end.

All this moving around makes it hard to latch onto one character and develop an emotional connection. Of course, Thella is a disaster of a person, so making an emotional connection to her is next to impossible. But for readers of and The White Dragon, it is great to learn more about Piemur, Jaxom, and their girlfriends. And Robinton has a role to play in the last third of the book.

This is probably not the best book to introduce someone to Pern, but it fills in a lot of gaps and fleshes out the lives of many characters.

Reviewed by Romana Drew August 30, 2020
















The Dolphins of Pern


Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballentine Books 1994

Maian Characters
Readis
T'lion
Lessa
F'lar
Robinton
Menolly
Alemi
Armenia

Seventeen turns into the Ninth Pass, Uncle Alemi takes Readis fishing. A storm destroys the ship. They are about to drown when shipfish come to the rescue, swimming them safely to shore.

Enamored of the shipfish, or dolphins as they are properly called, Readis wants to be a dolphineer, like the ones AIVAS talked about. But his mother, Aremina, forbids him to have anything to do with shipfish. She doesn't even want him to swim.

The Dolphins of Pern explores another intelligent species found on Pern. Whereas the dragons were bred from native fire lizards, the dolphins were deliberately brought to Pern by the original settlers.

Set a little after the Renegades of Pern, The Dolphins of Pern shares much of the same cast, although the characters are a little older. AIVAS is well integrated into the society at this time, and the political problems of the Southern Continent have not yet been sorted out.

Although the book does wander around, it spends enough time with Readis to give him the feel of a main character. He must overcome a debilitating injury, break free of his parents' hold, and become a leader in his own right.

The concept of intelligent dolphins is interesting. I just can't quite believe that you could travel along by holding onto a dorsal fin. Human bodies really drag as they are pulled through the water. I would take a mighty grip and strong shoulder muscles to hang on.

This is a fine, well-written book, but the dolphins didn't interest me as much as other aspects of life on Pern. However, this book sets up All the Weyrs of Pern.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 11, 2020.
















All the Weyrs of Pern


By Anne McCaffrey

Published by Ballentine Books 1991

All the Weyrs of Pern picks up after the Renegades of Pern. AIVAS continues to help Pern recover some of their ancestors' technology, such as plastics and electricity. Although this benefits Pern, AIVAS has a greater plan. The AI intends to end thread forever.

Some people on Pern feel threatened by all the changes. They can't destroy AIVAS by direct assault, so they kidnap Robinton in the hopes of trading his life for AIVAS. The elderly harper is nearly killed and never fully recovers.

Although the Pern books are usually described as fantasy, there is quite a bit of hard science fiction in All the Weyrs of Pern. The dragons must get the atmosphere reestablished in three long-abandoned spaceships. Then the drive engines are used to create explosions that alter the orbit of the red planet.

Although the dragons have the ability to travel in time and space, which borders on fantasy, everything is either science or mechanics.

Although this story doesn't have a solid main character, it does have a compelling and interesting plot. It is the end of an era, and life on Pern will never be the same.

The death of both AIVAS and Robinton seems like a sad but fitting way to end the story. Now, Pern can change from a society build around surviving thread into one that looks toward a brighter and more complex future.

However, this isn't quite the end of the story. There are still a great many disgruntled and disillusioned troublemakers to deal with. Their story is told in The Skies of Pern.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 28, 2020.










Through Hell and High Water


by Victoria Liiv

Published November 7, 2020.

An ensemble cast of magical creatures attends Volo Noscere University in Rome to advance their education. Vampires, fairies, elves, orcs, werewolves, even demons populate the story.

Although a few students do have adventures outside the classroom, most of the story takes place at the school. Students attend classes and get to know each other. This is a bit of a Harry Potter spin-off, but Volo Noscere isn't Hogwarts, and the characters aren't human.

As the students develop friendships and even a few romances, their differences and similarities are explored. They must eventually team up to face great dangers, where their unique skills usually complement but sometimes hinder each other.

"Through Hell and High Water" is a fast, easy read, and a fun story. But be warned, it is the first of a series and doesn't come to a solid conclusion.

The graphics in this book were great, but I found the formatting disconcerting. Paragraphs are both indented and separated by a blank line. In books, a blank line signifies a change in place, time, or point of view. Having every paragraph separated gave the writing a disjointed feel. It bothered me throughout the book.

Separating paragraphs is necessary for emails and web pages because the coding needed to transfer text between computers doesn't handle indents well, if at all. But it is unnecessary and distracting on the printed page.

If you are looking for a light read, this is a good book to try.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 3, 2021.










Mission to Moulokin
By Alan Dean Foster

Published by Ballantine books 1979

Mission to Moulokin is the sequel to Icerigger.

In Icerigger, salesman Ethan Fortune crashes on Tran-ky-ky, a frozen ball of ice, along with an oddball group of passengers. They make friends with the Tran, build a huge ice sailing ship, the Slanderscree, and travel toward the Human settlement of Brass Monkey, hoping to go home.

Mission to Moulokin picks up at Brass Monkey. After discovering that the Tran are being treated unfairly by the Humans running the outpost, Ethan and Skua September set out to establish a planet-wide government. The rest of the Humans take the opportunity to leave the frozen world.

The Tran are well adapted to their cold world. They have thick fur and claws on their feet that curve backward to form natural ice skates. They also have a thick fold of skin from wrist to ankle that they use as a sail. Since the wind on Tran-ky-ky is seldom less than gale force, they are well equipped to travel across the ice.

The Tran live in small settlements spread out across the world, misstrust each other, and have feudal governments.

Although this is an interesting exploration of the Tran society and history, it is basically a journey story. As the Slanderscree goes from one settlement to another, the crew meets both hostile natives as well as natural disasters.

I originally read this book on a long car trip. I read it out loud to my husband as he drove. He read another book to me while I drove. I don't remember what book he read, but neither of us can ever forget this book. Science fiction books often have strange character and place names. This one is no exception. Stavanzer and Belavere Longax are not too hard. But Malmeevyn Eer-Meesach, megorph, Poyolavomaar, Elfa Kurdagh-Vlata, are problematic. Every time I read them, I had to remember how I had pronounced them or confuse my husband. It disrupted the smooth flow of the words, especially during exciting battle scenes.

This is a fun book with great characters and lots of exciting problems to solve.

Reviewed by Romana Drew July 28, 2021.










The Deluge Drivers
By Alan Dean Foster

Published by Ballentine Books 1987

The Deluge Drivers is the sequel to Mission to Moloukin , and the third book in the Tran-ky-ky series.

In Icerigger salesman Ethan Fortune crashes on Tran-ky-ky, along with an oddball group of passengers. They make friends with the Tran, build a huge ice sailing ship, the Slanderscree, and travel toward the Human settlement of Brass Monkey, hoping to go home. In Mission to Moulokin Ethan, Skua September, and Milliken Willams set out to form a planet wide government.

The Deluge Drivers picks up at Brass Monkey. The Tran are well on their way toward forming a planet wide government so they can join the commonwealth and gain access to advanced technology, and maybe live in peace.

Ethan wants to leave for warmer climates, but his employer traps him on Tran-ky-ky. Then a group of scientists commandeer him to take them to the southern hemisphere. A large area is too warm, according to the limited satellite data they have.

There's nothing natural about the warmth. While the humans find above freezing weather a change for the better, is spells doom for the Tran and their world.

Although there are long passages of journey aboard the Slanderscree, much of the story takes place in Brass Monkey or in Yingyapin, a settlement in the southern continent. There they meet gullible Tran and evil humans.

This is a story of exploitation. The Tran of Yingyapin believe the humans with all their magical technology, are bringing great change to Tran-ky-ky - that warmer weather and unfrozen oceans will bring wealth prosperity. When, in fact, those changes will doom the Tran, destroy their way of life, and maybe even exterminate them. But what a wonderful world a warm tropical Tran-ky-ky will be for human settlers.

Alan Dean Foster does a great job of playing different characters off each other. Keeping each true to their values and personalities, while furthering the story. Even the ending brings in a character from Icerigger for a bit of a surprise at the end.

Reviewed by Romana Drew Aug 25, 2021.










Ringworld
by Larry Niven

Published by Ballantine books 1970

Nessus, a two-headed, three-legged coward, recruits Speaker To Animals, a huge carnivore, Teela Brown, a vacuous young human woman, and Louis Wu, a human man of means to travel to Ringworld. Nessus' race has manipulated both the humans' and Speaker's species for generations. Now he needs Speaker as a worrier, Louis as a problem solver, and Teela as a good luck charm.

Ringworld is a ring around a sun, a million miles wide and 600 million miles in circumference, spinning fast enough to simulate gravity. The edges turn up a thousand miles tall to form a broad U shape, which keeps the air from blowing away. It is sculpted and covered with dirt, plants, animals, and advanced civilization. Or it was at one time.

When Nessus, Speaker, Teela, and Louis crash in the middle of the ring, they must find some way to get free and go home.

Not only is the story set far into the future, but every form of technology is explored. This is hard science fiction at it technical best. However, the characters leave a bit to be desired.

The entire story is told from Louis's point of view. He is intelligent and a good problem solver but too distant to make an emotional connection. Speaker and Nessus are equally hard to connect to. That may be because all their thoughts and actions are filtered through Louis.

First published in 1970, it has the feel of a much older book in some ways. The females of Speaker's race are not sentient. Nessus doesn't seem to have females. And Teela doesn't do much at all. She doesn't make decisions or drive the action. Although she is Louis's lover, there isn't much emotion in the relationship. When important things happen, she is often not in the scene.

Even when she is in danger, the men are not concerned. When they believe her dead, they don't care that she died.

Another female character, Prill, isn't treated much better.

Ringworld has excellent worldbuilding and great imagination. It's an adventure story with many different problems to be solved, imaginative characters, and fantastic technology. But it is rather sexist. Even though both female characters have some positive traits and successes, there is an underlying current of misogyny, which is not uncommon in books of this era and earlier.










Defy the Stars
by Claudia Gray

Published by Little, Brown and Company 2017

Noemi will die in twenty days. As Genesis solder, she volunteered for the Masada Run, a desperate, suicidal attempt to shut down the gate between Genesis and Earth long enough for Genesis to rebuild their fleet and continue to hold back Earth's invading forces.

During a firefight in front of the gate, Noemi gets stranded on a derelict Earth ship. There she inadvertently frees Abel, a mech from Earth. Stuck in an airlock for thirty years, Abel finally has duties to perform, but killing Noemi isn't one of them. Noemi wants to save her world, and Abel's programming impels him to return Earth to his creator, the man who built him. But neither can do it alone.

Noemi and Abel roam through Earth's colony worlds, each with their own problems.

This book creates a rich and complex society. Both Noemi and Abel grow and develop as they go from world to world. Abel's creator isn't what he expected or wanted, and closing the gate isn't the best way to save Genesis.

Defy the Stars is captivating and exciting if a little formulaic. Every time Noemi and Abel attempt to do something, it always goes south. No problem is solved without creating a new problem. That does keep the book moving along, but it is also predictable.

Both Noemi and Abel are enjoyable characters, people you would like to meet and care about, which makes the ending less satisfying than I would like. After the exciting conclusion, the story peters out a little. The ending isn't bad. In fact, it is a fine ending. I just wanted Noemi and Abel to get a little more. Still, it is nicely set up for sequels.

Reviewed by Romana Drew July 26, 2020









Artemis


By Andy Weir

Published November 14, 2017

Crown

Born in Saudi Arabia, Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara has lived on the moon since she was six. Now in her twenties, she works as a porter and smuggler. When Trond Landvik offers her one million slugs (moon money) to destroy some mining equipment, she takes it. Then things go wrong. She almost gets killed, people get murdered, and she still has to finish the job, not just for the money but for the sake of everyone on the moon.

This is a great book with a few not-so-great bits. Andy Weir is a superb storyteller. The plot is exciting and moves along at just the right clip. It seldom strays too far from plausible science. Artemis, the first city on the moon, is quite believable.

There are a few things that didn't ring true. I don't think you could enjoy a cigar in a pure oxygen atmosphere. Wouldn't it burn too fast to smoke? Chloroform might be the least of the harmful chemicals produced in the explosion. And I doubt that enough would be produced to have such a widespread effect. But, it all seemed quite reasonable while I was reading.

My one real complaint with the book is that I didn't like the main character very much. She has an unrepentant criminal mindset. There's nothing sinister about Jazz. She is willing to die to save the city, but she has little respect for other people's possessions. That made it hard for me to really care for her.

Artemis is a good fun read. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Romana Drew on August 30, 2019.









Of Men and Monsters


By William Tenn

Copyright 1968 This edition published in Great Britain, 2011, Gollancz, Orion Publishing

Monsters have taken over Earth, huge six-legged gray creatures that have tentacles instead of arms and hands. Humans live in their shadow like mice, burrowing inside the walls of the Monster's buildings.

Eric the Only is about to embark on his first Theft, the right of passage into manhood. If he succeeds, he will be known as Eric the Eye. Then he can find a wife. If he fails, he will be dead or relegated a lonely life as an outcast.

Eric must venture out of the safety of Mankind's burrows and into Monster territory. He has a choice. He can steal food, or useful items, or Monster souvenirs. The first is easy, the second possible, the third is nearly impossible and very dangerous. His uncle persuades him to go for the third category and tells him just how to do it.

On his quest for a Monster souvenir, Eric the Only, not only meets another tribe of humans but learns how to move about in Monster territory. However, while he is on his quest, his tribe is invaded and his world destroyed. He joins another tribe on their quest to destroy the Monsters, or so he thinks.

In this upside down world, there are wild humans living outside as animals, without culture or education. There are tribes that practice religions based on Alien-Science or Ancestor-Science, though neither is based on science. Both think of the other as heretics. Only the Aaron People have any real science.

The human cultures are well developed, but the Monster culture is glossed over. Since the story is told from Eric's point of view, that isn't surprising. The Monsters do trap, kill, and study the humans, much as humans do mice. As satire, this almost works.

Mice don't wear clothes nor do they carry weapons, but the humans in this story do both. The humans are obviously sentient, far evolved from wild animals. Even if the Monsters have no regard for other life forms, their treatment of humans, and their failure to recognize the human's intelligence, doesn't ring true. That, and a tendency to be a bit longwinded and preachy, make this not quite a grade A novel.

But it is definitely a good fun read. The characters are well developed and believable. The descriptions of burrow life and Monster territory, are quite believable. The Monster technology is creative and unique. And the conclusion, although not what Eric envisioned, is great. There is more than one way to explore the galaxy and settle new planets.

Reviewed by Romana Drew June 27, 2019.









A Spell for Chameleon


By Piers Anthony

1977 Ballantine Books & Del Rey

Bink will turn twenty-five very soon. If he doesn't figure what his magic talent is, he will be banished to Mundania, where the non-magical live out their boring lives. In Xanth, every living thing is magical or has magic. Bink knows he isn't magical. He is a normal human. But all humans in Xanth must have magic.

Every person's magic is different. Some can make a pink spot on a wall, others a blue spot, useless but magical. Some can make a pit appear in the ground or cast a clear shield to trip up any unsuspecting creature, useful if something is chasing you. The really powerful magicians can whip us storms or transform anything into anything else. They are the rulers of Xanth.

Bink travels to the good magician Humfrey's castle to find out if he has magic even though the price to ask a question is a year's service to Humfery. On the way, he meets the stunningly beautiful but intellectually vacuous Wynne and the absolutely average Dee. Humfrey tells Bink that he has magician strength magic, but it can't be identified. Unable to demonstrate his magic, Bink is banished to Mundania. He doesn't get far before the evil magician Trent intercepts him, and he meets the ugly but brilliant Fanchon.

The three of them, Bink, Trent, and Fanchon, break back into Xanth, each with their own agenda. Trent wants to take over Xanth. Fanchon, who cycles into Dee and Wynn every month, wants to find a spell to make her normal. And Bink wants to find his magic talent and stay in Xanth.

A Spell for Chameleon is a well-crafted story that takes the reader on a journey through a land of the impossible and makes it all seem plausible. As the first of the Xanth novels, it doesn't have as many puns as I remember the later stories, but there are still plenty of fascinating dangers such as sneeze bees, talking trees, hawk moths, healing springs, and love potions.

Reviewed by Romana Drew January 1, 2019











The Molecule Men (and the Monster of Loch Ness)

Two short novels by Fred Hoyle and Geoffrey Hoyle

1971 Harper & Row

The Molecule Men

The Molecule Men is the story about an alien invasion by a shape-shifting creature, but nothing is quite what it seems. First, the main character, Dr. West, encounters an odd passenger in the airport, R. A. Adcock. Later he meets Adcock again in a courtroom. Adcock can barely talk. Then, in the middle of the trial, he hurls himself through a window and turns into a swarm of giant bees. From there, things get even stranger.

It's a little hard to believe that Dr. West, a university professor, has such easy access to the Prime Minister of Great Britton or that the PM spends so little time actually being Prime Minister. Also, the disappearance of all the cabinet members doesn't seem to cause much of an upheaval.

From the language to the setting, this book is uniquely English with lots of details of London. Although The Molecule Men was published in 1971, it feels as if it were written in 1951. This is a man's world. Not in a macho superman kind of way, but simply by the invisibility of female characters.


The Monster of Loch Ness

There is something at the bottom of Loch Ness, according to Tom Cochrane and the Loch Ness Researchers. Both the turbidity and temperature readings are impossible. There has to be something either stirring up the lake or heating it. There is even a credible sighting and photographic proof of a flat-headed monster with a long neck and humps on its back.

A trip through the Loch Ness Visitor's Center will dispel any lingering doubts you might have. No monsters live in Loch Ness. Also, it assumes the temperature gradient and deuterium levels in the lake remain stratified and constant, yet lakes typically turn over every fall. As the weather cools, the surface water sinks to the bottom, and the bottom water rises to the surface, mixing everything. This makes the story was a bit hard to believe, but never fear. Nothing is quite what it seems.

This is hard science fiction. From water temperature readings to deuterium levels, the author uses science to explain the abnormal findings and freak storms plaguing the area. As it turns out, something does live in Loch Ness, something alien.

The book has excellent descriptions of Scotland and a very British, or Scottish, use of language. For an American, some of the word usage may seem odd, but rather than distracting from the story, it adds character to the writing style and flavor to the setting.

The Authors

Fred Hoyle (1915 - 2001) is a well-known astronomer and Cambridge professor who wrote many nonfiction books and coauthored several science fiction books, most with his some Geoffrey.

Geoffrey Hoyle (1941 - ) coauthored most of his father's, Fred Hoyle's science fiction books. He has also written a couple of books on his own.

Both The Molecule Men and The Monster of Loch Ness are well-written and entertaining stories. Although a bit out of date, they are worth reading.
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The Flying Sorcerers

by David Gerrold and Larry Niven

1971 Del Rey Books

The Flying Sorcerers is the story of two sorcerers, or one sorcerer and one hapless human, depending upon your point of view. A researcher from Earth visits a primitive planet and gets stranded. He is determined to get back to his ship and go home, that is if Shoogar, doesn't kill him first.

His translator tells the natives his name is as a color a shade of purple-gray, so they call him Purple. His technology looks like magic to them. That is a threat to the reigning sorcerer, Shoogar. So, of course, Shoogar must duel with Purple for the right to be the town sorcerer.

Although there is much talk of magic and spells, this is hard SciFi. Shoogar may think he is using magic, but the descriptions suggest that he relies on basic chemistry and physics to make his spells work. On this pre-industrial world, Purple must build a flying machine to cross the ocean. In doing so, he restructures the entire society. It is a fascinating look at problem-solving, sometimes farfetched, but always interesting.

I read this many years ago and had forgotten most of the story. I did remember Purple and was delighted to find that this is his book.

The Flying Sorcerers is a somewhat silly story told in a unique and fascinating way. However, the treatment of women is abysmal. And the names get a bit old. They are all 'in-jokes,' such as Wilville and Orbur, the bicycle makers who build a flying machine called the Cathawk. This is called Tuckerization. I think David Gerrold and Larry Niven have carried the idea about as far as possible.

This is not a great masterpiece of literary fiction, but it is a good, fun read. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 2, 2018










Sixshooter

A Horizon Crossover Novel

by Lyndi Alexander

Published by Dragonfly Publishing, Inc 2021.

Valeni Pascual carries cargo between different worlds in her ship, the Tiburon. Her crew consists of Nikki and Nicholas, a Destachen shapeshifter that can be either male or female. Between Agency fees and fines, making a living ferrying cargo is nearly impossible. And her brother is being held hostage by parties unknown.

She meets Garrett Rawls, a cowboy type from Earth who got stuck in this part of the galaxy by inadvertently flying through a wormhole. His ship is called the Sixshooter and gives the novel its name.

The majority of the story is quite believable science fiction. But, I find it hard to believe that the casual open carry of weapons is permitted in a highly technological and rather paranoid society that actively scans every passerby by to see if they are a Destachen in disguise.

There are a few other places where the book reads more like a wild-west story than a space adventure. But the scenes are well written and fun. Even though part of my mind says this doesn't ring true, it didn't stop me from enjoying the scene.

As aliens go, the Destachen are quite interesting and engaging. Their society is fleshed out enough to be believable. Their healing ritual reminds me of the Nox from Stargate SG1.

In true space opera fashion, Valenti and her friends travel to many worlds and have adventures. On the way, each of the characters grows emotionally, forming lasting bonds and gaining greater understanding of each other.

This is a well-written and engaging space opera with interesting characters and exciting action.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 18, 2021










The Secret In The Enchanted Forest



By Lydia Hussein

Forever Enchanted Writer Publishing 2021 A fairytale for 6 to 9-year-olds

Before Prince Robert can be crowned king, he must find a woman to be his queen and bring peace to the forest. This is no easy task. There are monsters, giant hairy frogs, and evil friends. There are also pixies, and magic mushrooms, and strangers who turn out to be allies.

The book is beautifully illustrated by White Magic Studios. The drawings are colored in line drawings, which are just perfect for this story.

This isn't my typical fare. The author asked me to read and review it. I enjoyed the book and think it would be a great book to read to young children.

Reviewed by Romana Drew September 28, 2021.














Asteroid Gambit



by Steven Fritz

Copyright 2021

Ellen discovers that her mining partner, Harriet, has an illegal A-bomb stashed away. That can't be good, so she finds her ex-partner/lover and asks for help. Harriet wants to bury the bomb on an asteroid and ship it to Mars. Then she can use it as leverage during a rebellion.

Asteroid Gambit is well written and moves right along. Both the mining operations and the Mars settlements feel real. The characters are easy to get to know and to care about. However, there are a few places where this book isn't as believable as it could be.

The rebellion is all about improving the lives of the terraforming workers, who are abused by Earth's government. But they aren't the ones who rebel. It is also hard to see why limiting the food supply and threatening to nuke the Mars settlement would benefit the Martians. Why don't they threaten to nuke Earth?

I also found it hard to believe that small tactical nukes are an effective way to change the orbit of large asteroids. One massive burst of energy will definitely change the trajectory of an asteroid if it doesn't shatter it, but I doubt it can be controlled.

The running, hiding, avoiding capture, getting rescued, etc., are well-paced and fun to read.

I very much enjoyed Greta, the ship's IA.

The story holds together quite well and is rather enjoyable. If you overlook the above issues, this is a great book.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 7, 2021.