HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Book Review: Anne & Todd McCaffrey – Dragon Harper

Posted by HelenEdith on July 27, 2009

It seems that Anne & Todd are continuing to collaborate rather than Todd being set loose alone again in Pern after his one solo foray in Dragonsblood. The collaboration yields novels which are nearer to the original style of a Pern novel than Todd’s single solo novel was.

The thing about Pern is that it has Intervals which last for 200 Turns between the Passes when Thread falls; and there are Pern books set during a number of different Passes. There aren’t so many set during the Intervals, although as with this book, some are set as a Pass approaches. Anyway, it means that there are huge time periods which haven’t been explored in any Pern novels so far, and therefore new novels can easily be created, either by Anne & Todd collaborating, as here, or by either alone. A complete new set of characters will exist in a novel set in a time not yet explored, so there isn’t a huge problem with continuity, although I was a little surprised by the presence of fire lizards in Dragon Harper. I thought that they had ceased to be kept as companions 500 Turns after Landing, and were not rediscovered until several more Passes had been and gone.

The fire lizards in the story are useful, but are not the main plot of the story. The plot is one which Anne & Todd must have dreamed up a couple of years ago, but it’s a very topical one right now, as it concerns an Influenza epidemic which is spreading through Pern.

The main character in the story is Kindan, who also appears in Dragon’s Kin and Dragon’s Fire, the other two novels in which mother and son have collaborated. Kindan is now resident at the Harper Hall, where he is an apprentice. He is desperately searching old Records for mention of earlier Plagues, when a mishap with a torch results in a fire among the Records. Kindan is expelled from the Harper Hall and banished to nearby Fort Hold, where the Influenza epidemic is taking a terrible toll. With the Healer dead, it falls upon Kindan to do the best he can for the sick of Fort Hold.

The dragons pop in and out of the book, but they are more out than in, due to the risk of infecting the Weyrfolk shortly before a Pass. Kindan takes on Harper duties not usually expected of an apprentice as Pern faces the twin perils of the Influenza and starvation caused by having no-one to gather food. Kindan tackles both problems, and all comes out right in the end.

This was a good read in the usual McCaffrey style. One wonders how much longer Anne will exercise a certain amount of control over her son’s Pern efforts in a bid to keep him conforming to the original style of the books.

It also occurs to me that I would be interested to read something by Todd McCaffrey alone set somewhere other than Pern. I’d like to know whether he’s got what it takes to build his own universe, and what his style would be like when unconstrained by previous books written by his mother. I suspect that he may not have quite the same interest in anthropology and music as his mother obviously has, so any solo books he produces might be quite different.

Actually, I’d probably read the books if Todd would write about the Brain & Brawn ships or the Crystal Singer universe (which are connected) as those are two series for which I would love to have more episodes to read. Bearing the potential differences in his style in mind, however, I don’t guarantee that I’d like them as much as what his mother has already produced.


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