The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

Renegades of PernThe Renegades of Pern does not neatly fit into the pattern of all of the other books covering the 9th Pass of the Red Star.  It is splintered into lots of little stories and covers the time period just before the beginning of the main Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy, running all the way up to the very beginning of All the Weyrs of Pern.  It contains both vital information regarding the main story line and vast amounts of story that just don’t really matter at all.  It is fragmented.  Telling several semi-coherent stories all at once, it covers a vast amount of time and makes for difficult reading.  It is based around some of the characters from the short story, “The Girl Who Heard Dragons,” contained in the story collection of the same name, most notably the girl Aramina and K’van.

The Prologue jumps around, compressing a full eleven years before the 9th Pass begins.  It sets of the idea of holdless men and women, from Fax’s taking of various holds, driving smaller holder into homelessness, to Toric storming out of his native sea hold to make a fresh start, to the artist Perschar’s travels, all the way up to Fax’s death before the real story begins in Chapter One.  The Prologue also introduces a female villain, the older half-sister of Lord Larad of Telgar Hold.  Lady Thella, a headstrong young woman, was betrothed to a lesser holder by her dying father, but she will have no part of it.  When Larad confines her, she escapes, stealing maps, horses, and supplies.

The Lilcamp trading train is surprised by the first fall of Thread as the 9th Pass begins, suffering many casualties. Kimmage Hold agrees to put them up, but only if they work and tithe. Jayge, son of the head trader, accepts the constriction, but his favorite Uncle Readis leaves them and joins Thella’s band of thieves and murderers.  Twelve Turns pass and Thella develops her gang into a cunning and tough, holdless bunch, fugitives sought by both holders and dragonriders.  Masterharper Robinton, at this point, has recruited the artist Perschar to infiltrate the group and draw portraits of the outlaws.  Thella hears about Aramina, a girl in living in the Igen caverns, who can hear dragons.  She plans to capture Aramina and use her to spy on the weyrs, but Aramina’s family leaves before Thella can pull it off.  Her band then attacks the Lilcamp train and a number of people are killed before Jayge can ride for help.  In the aftermath, he finds a roll of portraits drawn by Perschar, but he removes Readis’ picture before turning them in.  Jayge joins Lord Asgenar’s army in Lemos in hopes of exacting his revenge on Thella.  They discover a deeply covered cave system in Telgar and, with the aid of dragonriders, stage a morning attack, but Thella and several of her leaders escape.  Searching for Thella in the Igen caverns, Jayge meets Aramina and falls in love with her, but she is taken to Benden Weyr where Weyrwoman Lessa intends to match her up with a dragon hatchling.  While waiting, she is housed at Benden Hold where Thella finally manages to capture her and whisk her away.  Jayge finds Readis and the two rescue Aramina, but Readis is killed during their escape.  Jayge then gets them an assignment to transport runner beasts to the Southern Continent.  Lost in a storm, the boat sinks and Jayge and Aramina are carried ashore by shipfish (dolphins) to the Paradise River Hold, where they settle down to raise a family.  Their first son is named Readis.

I’ve read this book a number of times and I am now at the point where I completely disregard the entire “renegade” portion of the book and instead concentrate only on the advancement of the main story line, which I think must include Jayge and Aramina’s Paradise River Hold, but does not include Thella or any of the hundred odd pages dedicated to her story.  If you are reading the book for the first, I’d suggest that it be read, but thereafter, it may be skipped with no loss of story at all.

Although many scenes of that story line take place in the Northern Continent, it is Southern that is the main focus, particularly the story of Toric becoming Lord Holder, Piemer meeting and falling in love with Jancis, and further discoveries at Landing, including the Catherine Caves and, most importantly, AIVAS, the artificial intelligence voice address system that will dominate the next book in the series, All the Weyrs of Pern.  Piemer, during his many travels in the south, meets Jayge and Aramina when he stumbles upon Paradise River.  He is fascinated by the many ancient articles the couple have found and use, most of it plastic.  Afterward, Jayge and Aramina become recurring characters.

Many of the events throughout The Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy and The Harper Hall Trilogy are included in The Renegades of Pern, but shown from other characters’ perspectives.  For instance, when Mardra finds the empty sack that Piemer has escaped from, the entire scene is shown from Toric’s point of view as he puts up with the Weyrwoman berating him in front of his holders and craftsmen.  That alone–showing familiar events from different points of view–makes this book worth reading.  If you are a fan of the entire saga of the 9th Pass and can’t get enough of the story, here is a retelling of familiar events from a different perspective!

Those who have already read All the Weyrs of Pern may have been a bit surprised by the sudden intimacy of Piemer and Mastersmith Jancis (granddaughter of Mastersmith Fandarel), but she plays a significant role in The Renegades of Pern.   Piemer meets her after the discovery of the Catherine Caves and she is only a Journeywoman at that point.  In fact, McCaffrey seems to have deliberately created an error in Jancis’ rank.  The end of The Renegades of Pern seamlessly dovetails into the beginning of All the Weyrs of Pern with no time at all allowed for her to suddenly attain her mastery.  Be that as it may, she is a terrific character and a perfect tonic for Piemur’s acidic character.

The Renegades portion of the book comes a conclusion when Thella puts together one final band of thugs and sails south to find Aramina and try to kill her, blaming her for all that has gone wrong in her life.  Piemer, Jancis, Jayge, and Aramina fight the band and win.  Jayge gets the pleasure of killing Thella and exacting his revenge at last.  During this trip, Jancis discovers a map at Paradise River, detailing the plan for Landing.  She is intrigued by two sites that haven’t yet been uncovered: Amin Annex and AIVAS.

With Piemur’s help, she begins to unearth them, coming to the solar panels that allow AIVAS to power up.  Jaxom and Ruth join them, then the others and at the end of the book, they find a way in and discover the long abandoned computer that drives the story forward into All the Weyrs of Pern.

In this sense, it is a vital connecting book in the main story line.  The central flaw in the book is the character of Thella.

In my opinion, Anne McCaffrey, for all the wonderful characters and situations that she has created in this saga, has one fatal flaw and that is her villains.  They all come across as one-dimensional characters.  You can see it in Avril Bitra in Dragonsdawn, Fax in Dragonflight, Meron and Kylara in Dragonquest, and fatally in Thella in The Renegades of Pern.  To be effective, readers must understand the central driving force that makes villains perform their evil acts.  If there is not sufficient believable motivation, the character is flat and unbelievable.  I have this problem with all of the above-referenced characters and that is the main flaw in The Renegades of Pern and it is why I always skip over Thella’s scenes when I re-read the book.

Nevertheless, this book is a key connecting the end of The White Dragon with the latter two books in the series and it contains many wonderful scenes and the development of Piemer and the introduction of Jancis.

That part of the novel is wonderful and can be joyfully read and re-read many times.

An Introduction to the World of Pern

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Saga

Pern 01

At first glance, one might assume that the Dragonriders of Pern story is fantasy, not science fiction, but Anne McCaffrey has moved the fantastic concept of fire-breathing dragons onto a firm scientific basis.  Granted, it is far from hard science fiction, but even such devices as faster than light travel and telepathy have some science fiction traction.  There is no magic in the series, nor mythical creatures come to life.  It must be considered science fiction. 

The planet Pern exists somewhere in the Sagittarius arm of our spiral galaxy.  It was originally colonized by members of the Federation who were looking to establish a society based on agrarian ideals.  Pern, devoid of the rich metals that were much sought after by the Federation was deemed a perfect spot for such a colony.  The survey team noted that the system of the star named Rukbat had one wandering planet (the “Red Star”) that didn’t follow a normal orbit, but it was not deemed a threat.  However, the early colonists discovered that when it passed too close to Pern, some kind of ovoid life form was cast off from the planet and traveled the distance between the two bodies, turning from hard spheres into vibrant, life eating “threads” when they entered Pern’s atmosphere.

To fight thread, the colonists genetically altered a unique indigenous life form, the “fire lizard” (a small, winged, telepathic creature who chews firestone to breath flames) into a much larger creature: a dragon.  When these creatures hatch from eggs, they bond telepathically with a human who is destined to be their rider.  These dragons and their riders fly high and fast to char thread from the sky and keep it from devouring all of the biological life on Pern.  The fire they belch comes from eating firestone, which ignites when the gasses come into contact with the air.  Dragons can also teleport, traveling into a realm called between, a cold, dark, airless, and sensationless place between one location and another.

McCaffrey has written a number of prequels, including Dragonsdawn, which tells the story of Admiral Paul Benden, Governor Emily Boll, and the other valiant colonists who had to fight thread, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, and The Masterharper of Pern, but the Saga officially begins with the first novel of the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, Dragonflight.

The dragonriders and their beasts are normally housed in gigantic structures of caves, called “weyrs.”  There are six weyrs (Fort, High Reaches, Ista, Igen, Telgar, and Benden) placed at various distances around the northern continent of Pern, but for some unknown reason five are vacant when Dragonflight begins and only one weyr, Benden Weyr, remains to protect the planet.  Later on, a Southern Weyr is established on the Southern continent.

There are five colors of dragons.  From the largest to the smallest, they are:

Gold (queens, female, always bonded with a human female, a weyrwoman)

Bronze (male, always bonded to male riders, they are the only dragons who can mate with the queens)

Brown (male, always bonded to male riders, they mate with greens)

Green (female, always bonded to a male rider, they mate with all male dragons)

Blue (male, always bonded to male riders, they mate with greens).

When a queen dragon mates with a bronze, she first bloods her kill then flies high as the bronze dragons chase her.  The bronze riders assemble around the queen’s rider and when a bronze dragon finally “flies the queen,” mating with her, the bronze rider also mates with the queen’s rider.  The leaders of a weyr are determined by senior queen, whose rider is the Weyrwoman, and the bronze who flies her, whose rider becomes the Weyr Leader.

Although these heterosexual relationships are the norm, the level of homosexuality or bisexuality among riders is extremely high, due to the fact that female green dragons are bonded with male riders and when they mate with a male dragon, the riders also mate.  This loose sexuality makes the weyr a  social unit distinct from the rest of Pern.

Over 2,500 years have passed since the original colonization and humans have lost their memories and records of the past.  They have descended into a feudal state, residing exclusively on the northern continent, where individual political units are called Holds, each governed by a Lord Holder, and most of the skilled occupations are called the Crafts, each governed by a Master.


Major Holds, governed by a Lord Holder.

Far West:

            Tillek, High Reaches

Mountainous Area West:

            Crom, Nabol, Ruatha, Fort, Southern Boll

Moutainous Area East:

            Telgar, Lemos, Igen

 

the_northern_continent_of_pern__labeled__by_oracle_the-d5jkkk9

Map of Pern

Island:

            Ista

Far East:

            Bitra, Benden, Keroon, Nerat

The Major Crafts, governed by a Craft Master

Harper, Smith, Miner, Weaver, Tanner, Herds, Farmer, Forest, Healer

Other crafts are created as needed, including study of the Stars, Printing, and Wood crafts.

Normally, the planet goes through a 250 year cycle with the Red Star; the threads appear every two hundred years, then the pass lasts fifty years, but at the beginning of Dragonflight, the erratic orbit of the Red Star has missed one pass so four hundred years have passed since the last thread incursion.  This has led the people to believe that there will be no more threads.  Many of them have stopped giving their tithes to the weyrs and dragonriders have fallen into disrepute.

The normal rule is one hold to one holder, but a greedy warrior, Lord Fax of the High Reaches, has taken over a number of holds when the saga begins, including the historically rich Ruatha Hold.  In a surprise attack, he killed every member of the Ruathan bloodline, except for one, a girl named Lessa.  When F’lar, a virile young dragonrider from Benden comes in search of a rider for the new queen about to be hatched, he must confront Fax in order to get to Lessa.

CHRONILOGICAL ORDER OF STORIES

The following chronological order of the story only lists the books in the main series as written by Anne McCaffrey.  A second series of books, written by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey cover the period of time after the first Thread incursion.

MAIN STORIES

“Survey: PERN” a short story included in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.  This story details the original Federation survey of the planet.


dragonsdawnDragonsdawn, the story of the original colonization of Pern.


“The Dolphin’s Bell,” a short story about the evacuation of the Southern Continent, included in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.


“The Ford of Red Hanrahan,” a short story about the creation of Ruatha Hold, included in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.


“The Second Weyr,” a short story about the founding of Benden Weyr, included in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.


“Rescue Run,” a short story about a Federation ship that responded to the call for help issued by rebellious colonists, included in The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.


“Ever the Twain,” a short story from A Gift of Dragons.


Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern, the story of “Moreta’s Ride,” the ballad that is frequently cited by harpers and plays a major role in Dragonsinger.


Nerilka’s Story, a novella that occurs sometime during the Moreta tale.


The Masterharper of Pern, the story of Petiron and his son Robinton, both Masterharpers of Pern.


“Runner of Pern,” a short story from A Gift of Dragons.


THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN TRILOGY

DragonflightDragonflight, the story of how Lessa and F’lar came together to unite Pern and bring the five lost weyrs forward in time to fight Thread after the four hundred year interval before the 9th Pass of the Red Star.


Pern 01Dragonquest, the story of how F’lar and Lessa united the weyrs, how F’nor went between to investigate the Red Star, and how they opened the Southern Continent.


White DragonThe White Dragon, the story of how Jaxom became both a dragonrider and the Lord of Ruatha Hold and how he courted and won Sharra.  It also tells the story of how the Oldtimers were ultimately defeated and the Southern Continent retaken.  Jaxom discovers the site of the original colonial landing.


THE HARPER HALL OF PERN TRILOGY


The first two novels of this trilogy occur during Dragonquest, the second novel of the first trilogy.  The third novel begins before and then overlaps The White Dragon.

McCaffrey DragonsongDragonsong, the story of how Menolly escaped her abusive father and mother at Half Circle Sea Hold, how she impressed her nine fire lizards, and ended up at the Harper Hall.


DragonsingerDragonsinger, the story of how Menolly became a Journeywoman of the Harper Hall.


dragon-drums-det_0Dragondrums, the story of how Piemer got himself a gold fire lizard and permanent became a part of the Southern Continent.


OTHER STORIES IN THE TIMELINE


 

“The Smallest Dragonboy,” a short story included in A Gift of Dragons.


 

“The Girl Who Heard Dragons,” a short story included in A Gift of Dragons.


 

Another novel overlaps the entire time period of the two trilogies:

Renegades of PernRenegades of Pern, the story of Holdless Thella and her attempts to kill the girl who heard dragons.  This novel also dovetails with the end of The White Dragon and contains important information about the relationship of Piemer and Jancis. 


All the Weyrs of PernAll the Weyrs of Pern tells the story of the intelligent computer, AIVAS, who helps the people of Pern finally defeat the Red Star.


The Dolphins of Pern.


Skies of Pern Les EdwardsThe Skies of Pern, the story of F’lessan, son of F’lar and Lessa and his love for Tai, the Green Rider, this book also explains what the dragonriders will do now that there will no longer be Thread for them to fight.