Published in England as
Red Star Rising

by Anne McCaffrey

Del Rey


353pp/$24.00/February 1997

Cover by Brom

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

After twelve novels and one collection of short stories about Pern, Anne McCaffrey might almost be forgiven for being redundant in his treatment of the planet's history. Several of the more recent books, most notably Renegades of Pern are forgettable, hardly evoking the sense of wonder McCaffrey had in the early novels. Her strongest recent books tend to be those which go back to Pern's earlier history, such as Dragonsdawn and Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, in which McCaffrey can examine the culture before it had a chance to solidify.

Dragonseye belongs to this latter grouping of novels. Set during the time immediately prior to the second Fall, most of the Pernese are expecting the Red Star's pass with dread. A few, notably the penurious Lord Holder Chalkin, ridicule the idea that Thread poses any danger. In fact, Chalkin is reminiscent of many of the characters, such as Lord Holder Fax, who appeared in the original novels. In this, Chalkin is symptomatic of one of the problems with the Pern novels. The characters seem to be getting re-used.

When Clisser is called upon to find a way to impart important knowledge to future generations, he does so with the spirit and ability which one would expect from McCaffrey's Master Harper Robinton or Menolly. Weyrleader K'vin could as easily be F'lar from the first novel of the series. Although the situations are slightly different, the reactions of new characters can be safely predicted based on their earlier literary role models.

Dragonseye's strength comes from McCaffrey's creation, in this novel, of several of the institutions which will become so important in later works. However, knowing these characters will ultimately succeed detracts from much of the anticipation in the novel.

That points out another major problem. The reader knows how a Pern book ends. We know Clisser will establish a new hall. We know Chalkin will get his due. We know dragons will majestically take to the air to fight the evil of thread. Pern has become too familiar. It needs to be revitalized. Although loathe to suggest such a thing, perhaps McCaffrey should consider opening her world up for a one-time anthology of Pern stories, like Farmer did for Riverworld or Asimov agreed to for Foundation's Friends (I hear the cries of heresy, this is not a suggestion I would normally make).

If you are looking for new insight into Pern, I'm not entirely sure McCaffrey is still capable of offering it. If you are looking for an old familiar friend, this book, despite new characters, meets the need.

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