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Adequate but still suffering the McCaffrey malaise
on 8 June 2007
Of all Anne McCaffrey's books, the "Talent" ones (starting with Pegasus..) competed with the Pern Trilogy, Dragonflight et al, for my favourites, BUT her quality seems to be fluctuating wildly these days.
The Talent series is comparable to the Pern series. I re-read The White Dragon, and immediately followed that with Renegades of Pern, which was ghastly - turgid verbosity. I was never able to shake off the image of Anne sat in front of her PC writing Renegades with a big black cloud of "contractually obligated to churn out X Pern a year" depression over her head. Then she wrote "all the weyrs" and the magic was back (Skies was ok too, and I liked Todd McCaffrey's sole Pernese effort).
The same thing happened with TT&TH series. Part of the problem is with McCaffrey's proofreader, who wants firing. Leaving aside the blooper that gave us an incestuous relationship by referring to Afra Lyon as Damia's brother not husband, there was also that in The Rowan which gave Rowan parents with entirely different names and occupations barely 10 pages apart. But I did enjoy The Rowan, and Damia, though I felt she got some unfair stick - Rowan and Jeff Raven were simply too career obsessed and selfish to have children at that time and poor Damia was merely unfortunate enough to be a normal baby after they lucked out with 2 "starkids" in Jeran and Cera. (Given Our Author is a mother of 3, one wonders about this portrayal of Damia as a "problem" when she was a perfectly ordinary baby).
I also enjoyed Damia's Children and Lyon's Pride to a certain extent, though again the villain(s) was weak - Sedalla nearly kills Isthian yet gets taken out easily. Likewise when Rojer's Mrdini are murdered by the rogue General, he teleports himself into hiding in anguish, and yet not one of his powerful family of telepaths notices? Or hears his grief? Sorry, but if I were Laria/Thian/Zara and heard my brother mentally scream in anguish I'd have been on that spaceship kicking Dini posterior if I had to teleport across the known galaxy without any "gestalt" backup to do it. of course, the biggest flaw was Dano Kincaid, a relentlessly homosexual politically correct character, who suddenly does a 180 into Laria's lover. Again, I couldn't shake the image of Anne getting to the last chapter and suddenly realising she needed a Love Interest and not being bothered to rewrite the novel properly as she should.
The Tower and The Hive, which I was really looking forward to, has exactly the same problems. Its about the Talents, but, like the most recent "Pegasus" novel, it reads in some places like a High School "dumbed down" textbook on science - and it's not really a coherent narrative, more an anthology/series of vignettes as if McCaffrey had a list of "plot threads" she needed to tie up to finish the series that she just ticked off the list once she'd written a few pages for each. Afra Lyon, who had to leave Capella and his gentle sister Goswina behind because he realised their "Methody" ways were too restrictive, is in TH&TH an interfering Methody father who puts up no resistance to Jeff Raven, who in TH&TH is, bluntly, a sexist bully wanting to turn his children into breeding cattle - a complete reversal of character from the original young, handsome rebel. The Rowan, the tough, sarcastic heroine of the first two books who would never win any mother of the year prizes (remember, she insensitively farmed out her 5 children, Jeran, Cera, Damia, Larak and Ezro onto her mother-in-law Isthia Raven, who had recently lost her husband Josh, several of her 12 children and grandchildren in the first ever Hiver attack) is now a submissive, adoring matron to Jeff's dynastic-ambition obsessed boor.
All 8 of the Lyon kids, plus their cousins (Jeran, Cera and Ezro having churned out dozens of offspring to go with murdered Larak's posthumous son), are slavishly happy to kowtow to Jeff Raven's baby conveyor belt plan to totally dominate Talents forever (and what happened to the powerful Reidinger family?).
The siblings also appear to have none of the normal sibling love for each other or simple pleasure in being with each other - Thian is particularly cold and humourless as the first Naval Prime. The chief villain fades away and then turns white hat, Dano Kincaid gives Laria an insipid, "I'll love you as much as my sexuality allows", at which point any female with the slightest hint of spine would have given him the heave, preferably helped by a sharp-toed stilletto shoe to the ass's ass.
To be honest, given the character reversals and changes, I have to wonder whether this novel was written by Anne McCaffrey at all or whether it was knocked up to meet a contractual obligation by her son Todd who contented himself with getting the "cliff notes" from mum and winged it from there.
Given all the cash Ms McCaffrey had made from her writing, if she really can't find that spark that gave us the gems that are The Rowan and The White Dragon, then I would suggest it be better if she retired. Either that or write Number 6 in the Talent series, in which: Laria gets a backbone and dumps Dano when she meets (a possibly alien?) real male with some testosterone, Rojer teaches his brother Thian and his family about showing affection and care for your siblings (possibly by attempting suicide when nobody realises he's depressed?) Rowan gets her personality back, Jeff Raven apologises for turning sexist, and one of the Raven kids decides against becoming a baby making machine. Since I'm a writer whose hobby is fan-fiction writing, I may have to fix all the above mistakes myself, but why should I have to? I suggest Ms McCaffrey puts her imagination and her writing on a strict diet of David Eddings and Lois McMaster Bujold, with an exercise regime of Christine Feehan and Suzanne Brockmann and Chris Stasheff before she writes her next book, because quite frankly at the moment her imagination is obviously a McFood munching couch potato grown flabby and out of condition from long-term commercial success which means it hasn't had to make an effort.