Dragonriders of Pern by the McCaffrey family

I have this distinct feeling I missed blogging last week. One day a week and I’m still struggling. Things will improve.

I’ve been doing a lot of rereading as I said the other week. I moved from Robert Asprin to Tom Holt and then to Anne McCaffrey. Reading many in the one series I’m beginning to notice things. I’ve not read the books in any logical order. I started in the middle of the books, working my way to the right then going back to the middle and working my way to the left one book at a time. In there was the second book in The Crystal Singer series. I read this and discovered why I’ve never really liked it. It’s a romance. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s a lot of science fiction in there but the romance overwhelms everything else and I’ve never enjoyed it. If you use this affiliate link to look at the description you’ll understand what I mean.

Anne McCaffrey is one of those iconic authors. Her writing career spans 46 years and she has written many influential books. Her son, Todd McCaffrey, has taken over the writing of the Dragonriders of Pern series.

I’ve just finished Dragonflight. First published in 1967 as Weyr Search and Dragonrider my copy was published in 1984. It’s signed by the author herself when I met her during my lunch hour one day the following year. I was walking through Myer’s shop and saw her standing, by herself, in the book shop. I’ve never worried about signatures from famous people but she looked so lonely just standing there so I bought two books and had her sign them. I wish I’d had more time to have stood there to chat.

What I’m finding interesting about these books is how the series changes and grows the more she writes. And how the information she gets from writing more informs the actual writing. There is a lot of crossover between books. Dragonflight intersects with part of The Masterharper of Pern published in 1998 after another fourteen Dragonrider of Pern books have been published and the differences are palpable.

What is different?

The writing has changed. It has become more mature, more confident. In the later books we can see how McCaffrey has learned to weave the information in more seamlessly. Experience counts for a lot in writing and Dragonflight was one of her very first books.

The setting has changed just a little. Some of the rules of the world have adapted to become more real. In Dragonflight the dragons seem to be able to fly within a few weeks of hatching, and the queen dragon, Ramoth, flies without bothering to strengthen her wings first. I can’t identify which book off hand but it’s certainly one published later and might be written by McCaffrey’s son, Todd. But in this later book all the dragons are given time for their bodies to grow and get some decent strength before being put through an extensive programme of strengthening their bodies and wings before being allowed to just glide off a shelf. This is just one example, though. If I’d been writing them down as I read I could give you several more.

The books have grown. They are now no longer thin novels but quite thick tomes. I can’t decide if this is good or not. On the one hand it’s good to have more, on the other the more pages they have the harder it is for my small hands to hold them.

Lastly

The last thing I want to say is this. In researching the timeline of the books I find that there is a new McCaffrey author in town. Gigi, Anne’s daughter, published her first Dragonriders of Pern book about a month ago. Called Dragon’s Code I find myself eager to find and read it.

Ursula Le Guin – Vale

I’ve written a lot about Ursula Le Guin over the years. What reason could there be to write again? To celebrate her writing in the wake of her death. Considering she died this week I think it only appropriate to start with a photo of the books of hers we happen to have on the shelf.

Just some books we happened to have on the shelf

I’m going to give you a link and let you consider going into the black hole that is my blog. I ran a search for Ursula Le Guin and came up with three pages of results. Some of them are just the briefest of mentions while others have a little more information. I suggest this illustrates how much she’s influenced my reading over the decade.

We’ve only got the first book of A Wizard of Earthsea on hand, I remember reading the entire series so I must have borrowed from the library. There were very few readers in my area when I first read this so borrowing from other people was so unlikely.

I recently studied The Left Hand of Darkness for uni. I find it fascinating that a book written in 1969 can be so relevant for a writing course in 2017. There’s such a degree of difference between those years but this book transcends all. That’s essentially how good Le Guin’s writing was. She put together a novel that can be studied for transgender studies, for writing studies and then again for relationship studies. I’m sure other teachers will find it useful in their courses.

Trying to choose my favourite, the one that will stay with me for always is such a challenge. I think it has to be Rocannon’s World but it’s really hard to tell as they’re all just really well written. I don’t know why, possibly because it has a man who goes native enough to help the natives against an invading force. Maybe because the protagonist is an anthropologist. I don’t know. If I reread it I would probably come up with a dozen reasons.

I couldn’t tell you how much I love Le Guin without giving you affiliate links to a couple of her books. Worlds of Exile and Illusion: Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions is a compilation of three of her books set in the same world. And here’s The Left Hand of Darkness.

Flight 404 / The Hunt for Red Leicester – Simon Petrie

Flight 404 / The Hunt for Red Leicester – Simon PetrieFlight 404 / The Hunt for Red Leicester by Simon Petrie, Edwina Harvey
Published by Peggy Bright Books on September 27th 2012
Pages: 144
Goodreads

Two SF novellas. In 'Flight 404', the search for a missing spacecraft brings Charmain Mertz back to the world of her boyhood. In 'The Hunt for Red Leicester', space-elevator employee and reluctant detective Gordon Mamon must solve a cheesemaker's murder.

Judging by the date of publication this these books have been on my shelf for five years. Not too bad by my standards. I don’t remember where or when I met Petrie and bought some of his books but they’ve proved to be a good buy.

What you’ve got here is two books in one. They’re in the old-style science fiction type I have on my shelf. If you hold it one way you get one book and if you flip it the other way you get the other. I should pull them all together and do a video so you understand properly. This is the first I’ve seen in a long time, I suspect they went out of fashion.

I found Flight 404 to be rather stolid fare. I persevered and the rewards came in the last few pages so I can’t tell you anything for spoilering type purposes. This was one of the books I almost put down unfinished. I persevered only as the protagonist is trans and I’ve not read many novels with trans characters. I’ve read a few autobiographical books by trans people and while they’re good an interesting it’s not quite the same as fiction. It turned out to be worth it in the end.

And as for The Hunt for Red Leicester? I do love a good Gordon Mamon Mystery and this one almost had me rolling down the hill just as they’ve been doing in Gloucester for over 200 years. My Dad would have loved it and would have repeated the puns to us ad nauseum.

Puns abound, if you don’t believe me buy it here and read it for yourself. The end was a surprise to me but it turned out I was distracted by figuring out the puns and forgot to keep an eye on the clues.

An Eclectic Collection of Stuff and Things – Edwina Harvey

Another of the books I was sent a while ago with the hope I’d give a review. I’ll try to be comprehensible or even understandable.

This is a series of short stories written by Australian writer, Edwina Harvey. As always she aims to write an ending we’re not expecting. Not only that but she seems to also write stories we’re not expecting, forget about the twist at the end but it’s the story that is different. I feel some of them are here to make us think about what’s really happening in the world.

Let’s look at the some of the first few stories. I don’t want to tell you everything so I’ll just look at a handful.

Chippies

Where vaccination has been taken to the nth degree and you can’t get a housing loan without a completed immunisation certificate. And you’d think this would be the punch line but you’d be entirely wrong. It might be the aim of the story but it’s not at all the punch line. I can’t say any more for fear of spoilers. Nicely written. I read this book a few weeks ago when things got really mad in my life. When I picked it up again today to scan through a little I needed to read more not just as a reminder but also because I got hooked (I wouldn’t dare say I’d forgotten the twist at the end).

No Pets Allowed

Of dragons and kings. One of those is correct and I’m not saying which for spoilers. I did enjoy this one though. It made immense sense, although the twist at the end could be interpreted a couple of different ways.

Where the Last Humans Went

This story paints a bleak picture of the future. I’m not sure Harvey feels the internet is worth the while. I’ve been reading a number of stories recently about humanity, this is just one and it’s colouring my thinking.

Teach Your Children Well

Short and sweet but oh so hard to swallow. There are some decisions we need to make in life which are very hard cope with. As parents we get to help our children make them, doesn’t make them easy. No sugar added to this one, medicine is expensive enough as it is without adding anything extra.

Only Women Bleed

I loved this story, except for the love interest. It’s got vampires, it’s got employment, it’s got a murder. It’s the sort of story that only a menopausal woman who understands what it feels like to get past that stage in life can write. And you’re thinking you know what it’s about? You need to read it first.

Essentially (my most overused word of the week) I loved this book. It has all the elements I love about short stories. Words in the right order, suspense, twists at the end and all by an Australian author. It also illustrates why writers should just keep writing short stories throughout their lifetime. Some of these were written 30 years ago while others are much newer. You get to republish them and get paid again, it may need a little polishing but most authors feel their work continually needs polishing until the publisher drags it out of their cold, dead hands….hang on, Harvey’s still with us, what am I saying.

I’m sure you want to go out and buy it straightaway so here’s a link for it. I wouldn’t mention Christmas stockings, much.

Randomly Shelves or Something

My brilliantly aptly named new series continues. Where I randomly select two books from my shelves and attempt to find a link. I do not promise it will be a good link, only that it will be a link. It might be anything at all. One thing I do promise is that the link will not be due to the books both containing words such as ‘and’ or ‘the’, although having said that it’d be really awesome to now find two books totally missing both of those words.

The books I chose last week were The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin and Two Joans at the Abbey by E. J. Oxenham. Stay tuned to find out if I’ve actually got a link.

The Books

One of those wonderful books about colonial exploitation by the brilliant Ursula Le Guin. Can you tell I like her works? Is it obvious yet? Maybe I should use some more adjectives?

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin

Two Joans at the Abbey is one book in a series of books about being nice and looking after people. I did try to put this in the op shop box but it didn’t manage to make it there, somehow it found itself back on my shelf.

Two Joans at the Abbey by E J Oxenham

The Link

At first glance these two books are nothing alike. Yes, they are both ex-library books with all the stamps you’d expect to find on an ex-library book. But that’s a rather trite answer and it’s not what I’m going to mention today.

Both of these books are about getting along with people and not exploiting others. Le Guin says it using a new world and shows us how people exploit the people who lived there first. Oxenham does it the other way round by showing us how it should be done. The people who live at the Hall and the Abbey are constantly bringing in people who are in need and helping them.

Next Week!

Next week we have some interesting books. The Joys of Engrish by Steven Caires and Nose Tone Unturned by Afferbeck Lauder. I have ideas already, the challenge will be to remember them for a whole week.