Much as I have hugely enjoyed the evolving story of Pern over the last three decades, there is something profoundly unsatisfying about Anne McCaffrey's short stories. I have puzzled long and hard about this, and believe it is a matter of characterization. She writes characters that you can grow to love (or hate) and about whom you crave to know more - F'lar, F'nor, Lessa, Robinton, Mellony - and few of her short stories give time for this essential identification to form. This is exacerbated when the stories are set around the start of Pern, a period with characters whom I have never been able to form the same closeness as the later inhabitants.
Although there is a linking, developmental theme within the stories, this is still a book really only for the Pern devotee; filling in background and historical detail of the rich tapestry that McCaffrey has woven over a lifetime of writing. As such, it is essential reading for the hardcore fan; for the more casual reader it certainly helps pass the time: worth the money, but unlikely to end up as well-thumbed as Dragonflight et al.