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Latest Pern book is worth the wait for fans
on 7 February 2001
With Skies of Pern, Anne McCaffrey pushes into uncharted depths of her world's history, providing a long awaited sequel to Dolphins of Pern. For those people who have not yet met Pern, Skies of Pern is the 16th in a series about a planet where dragons are an important part of human society. For fans who have long since fallen in love with the world, Skies of Pern has a lot to live up to. Happily, it does so.
Set several turns after the events of previous books, the main character is F'lessan, who has featured frequently in earlier books, along with a new face, greenrider Tai. Both can hold their own in the vast array of characters who have featured on Pern, but even more of a treat for me, was revisiting characters we've met before. There's a lot of nostalgia here for fans: watch out for names featured in previous books--in and around the plot, Anne reveals the fates of more than a few loved and unloved inhabitants of Pern.
Those longing to learn how Pern itself has advanced since we last saw it won't be disappointed either: female greenriders have become more common and almost every rider is focusing on what they will do after this last pass is over. Moreover, Pern's technology is increasing, something that isn't being taken well by everyone: a new wave of Abominators has arisen to threaten what advances Pern has made. I sometimes feel like a closet-abominator myself, begrudging 'gadgets' on the agrarian world of Pern, but fortunately Anne seems to have no intention of making it just another hi-tech science-fiction series.
And for those who simply want another good read, this is one of the most action-packed Pern stories for a long time. As well as violence from the abominators, there's a natural disaster as evinced by the cover, and that's still not the most harrowing part of the book! I won't spoil it, but make sure you have the hankies nearby for the last quarter.
Let-downs? As a purist, I'm uncertain about the new ability which manifests itself in the dragons. After so many books, I can't help but feel that the dragons are as they are and that's how I like them--is this extra power really necessary? The ending too, seems a little abrupt and not quite as definitive as I'd like. Fortunately, Anne has left enough loose ends for us to be sure that a 17th book is on the cards.
Perhaps the greatest problem with the book is that it cannot really stand alone. It is very much part of a series, and even a Pern fan should read All the Weyrs of Pern first if they want to appreciate this one fully. Those who have not yet met Pern, will most likely find themselves confused. Still, this is one of those books that is worth reading an entire series for.