In this final book in the 9th Pass saga of The Dragonriders of Pern, the story turns to the aftermath of events in All the Weyrs of Pern. At the end of that book, the dragonriders, led by Jaxom and under the guidance of the computer AIVAS move the engines of the three space ships that brought the original colony from Earth into Red Star, exploding to force it into an orbit from which it can no longer drop Thread onto Pern. Following this heroic exploit, AIVAS turned itself off and Master Robinton expired.
The following review contains plot spoilers.
The Skies of Pern brings forward the character of F’lessan, son of F’lar and Lessa, who appeared much earlier in the saga as a boy and a young man. Now, the mature rider of bronze dragon Golanth, with sons of his own, F’lessan looks toward the end of the Pass, contemplating what he will do After. In the previous novel, he discovered the ruins of Honshu Hold deep in the Southern Continent. He has been restoring it. Coming to Landing for the Turnover festivities at the beginning of the 31st Turn of the Pass, he goes to the AIVAS library to do some research and runs into a female green dragon rider, Tai, whose dragon is Zaranth. Making friends with her, they attend the festival, but she disappears when Mirrim and T’gellan show up, she disappears, only to discover Abominators breaking glass at the Healer’s Hall.
The same dumb Abominators from All the Weyrs of Pern are back, wreaking havoc by destroying products that AIVAS showed the Pernese how to create and use. They are working on a large, concerted level. F’lessan finds Tai swimming and shows unusual concern for her welfare, just as Golanth seems to care about Zaranth.
Before their relationship can proceed further, however, a comet fragment bursts through the atmosphere and plunges into the eastern sea, causing massive tidal waves that inundate both the north and south, completely submerging Monaco Weyr.
After a great deal of timing, once again the dragons of Pern and their courageous riders rescue holders and move people to higher ground, exhausting themselves in the process. F’lessan manages to work with Tai and gets her and the other Monaco riders to go to Honshu for rest. After the others have made new weyrs, Tai and Zaranth stay on. When Zaranth rises to mate, Golanth flies her and F’lessan discovers that Tai has never had a good experience with the almost compulsory sex that goes along with a mating flight of dragons. She has been raped over and over by other dragonriders. Showing a great deal of care and concern, F’lessan makes love to her and brings her to love him.
Having served as an assistant to Starsmith Wansor, Tai is well versed in studying the heavens, so F’lessan retrieves what he needs from Landing in order to get the Honshu telescope working again. After a night of stargazing, they swim in the river and then fall asleep on one of the ledges above the pool, with their dragons sleeping just below them. Zaranth wakes up to a feeling of danger just as a large pack of the wild felines attack them. Golanth is closest to them and they do considerable damage to him and to F’lessan, while Zaranth uses her newfound power of telekinesis to throw the felines off. Ruth, Ramoth and Mnementh all respond to Zaranth’s distress call and she shows them how to use telekinesis to destroy the felines.
As F’lessan and Golanth go through a long and difficult recovery, the holders of the planet plan to press the dragonriders into finding a way to prevent future meteorites and comets from attacking Pern. The answer lies in mapping the skies, a concept that F’lessan had previously given to the weyrleaders. With a future in astronomy, F’lar and the others make plans to build more observatories to map the skies and watch for future incursions. With the dragons having telekinesis, they will find a way to deflect future meteorites.
F’lessan and Tai become weyr mates and will be in charge of the Honshu observatory.
Along the way, the Abominators are defeated.
There are a great many delightful things in this novel, but the villains are such minor characters that they really don’t get much in the way of the story, as McCaffrey’s villains do in some of the other books. All of the familiar characters are back, of course, excluding Master Robinton. F’lar and Lessa are considering retirement, but F’lar wants to continue to lead Benden Weyr through the end of the Pass. They are much larger characters in this novel than in some of the other later novels in the series.
F’lessan and Tai are both delightful characters and the attack of the felines is one of McCaffrey’s best written action sequences in any of her books. There is much to love in this novel for the dedicated Pern reader, but I must confess that I felt very sad when it was finished, almost as if I were putting away Pern again for a while.
But the wonderful thing about The Dragonriders of Pern is that it can be started all over at any time and the reader will delight in following through all the books to get to The Skies of Pern. It’s such a wonderful series that it can be read over and over again. You can look forward to the beginning, even as you read through the end.