The Skies Of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Hardcover - 384 pages (April 3, 2001) 
Ballantine Books; ISBN: 0345434684
Review by Sharon Archer

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The skies are once again filled with dragons, dragonriders and more in this Anne McCaffrey’s fourteenth novel set on the wondrous world she has created, the third planet of the Rukbat system in the Sagittarian Sector, known as Pern.

Twenty five hundred turns around this sun ago three shiploads of colonist from Earth traveled across the vast void of space with the hopes of finding a fertile and welcoming world to settle.

Working together the colonist succeeded in establishing flourishing communities in their new home. Then disaster struck. A wandering planet swinging around in an erratic elliptical orbit approached close enough for the indigenous life form, a space-traveling mycorrhizoid spore which voraciously devoured all organic matter, to traverse the distance from the “Red Star” to Pern.

Silver strands of “Thread” destroying anything it touched rained down on the unprotected planet. Only rock, metal and water could withstand it. There were staggering initial losses and during this time of chaos contact with the mother planet was broken. Using genetic engineering the colonists were able to breed a highly specialized variety of life form resembling dragons, telepathically attuned to their riders able to burn the devastating Threads from the skies. Mankind survived. Society on Pern evolved a complex inter-relationship among Dragon Weyrs, Holds and Crafthalls to ensure its continuing welfare.

Beginning in 1968 with Dragonflight Anne McCaffrey has detailed the exploits and adventures of the Dragonriders of Pern often delving into the carefully constructed societal balance of Holders cultivating the land, Craft halls providing the myriad services and products needed for society to function and the Weyrs nurturing the dragons and their riders who provide the protection of Pern from the ravishes of Thread.

The story arc has followed the course of life on Pern throughout the current Pass – the fifty-year cycle when the Red Star’s orbit brings it within range of Pern.and Threadfalls. Each novel has advanced the story of how the Dragonriders have rediscovered and reclaimed their past, shaped and defined their future. The stories have dealt with a progression of concerns – re-establishing Weyrs following an extended Interval (time of no Threadfall) of four hundred years, restoring the technological knowledge of their colonist ancestors, reestablishing a relationship with the dolphins, and ending the ongoing threat from the Red Star permanently.

 The Skies of Pern examines the question of what role will dragons and Dragonriders have in the future? What will their function in Pernese society be? The answer, as always, is in the skies of Pern. Dragonriders are assumed to be the caretakers of Pern’s skies - responsible for anything that falls from it and Thread is not the only danger.

Although there is a returning cast of favorite characters Lessa and F’lar, Jaxon and Lytol, Menolly and Sebell, emphasis has shifted somewhat to the next generation and it is the Weyrleaders of Benden’s son F’lessan and his weyrmate Tai who hold the key to the Dragonriders future. Tai’s dragon, green Zaranth pocesses an ability which will further enhance the value of all dragonkind in their quest to protect their beloved planet beyond the time of the threat of Thread.

While the dragonriders are preparing to deal with the many changes they are facing there are others who are unable to accept the changes that have already taken place. They present a threat to Pern from a completely different source. These Abominators, a fanatic band of discontents wish to destroy the recent advances in knowledge and technology Pern gained from Avias (Artificial Intelligence Voice-AddressSystem) the reactivated dormant computer system which had in the recent past revealed the long lost secrets of the original colonists. These zealots’, vision is to return to the pure life before the wisdom of their forefathers was rediscovered and they will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.. They are afraid of what they don’t and won’t understand and retaliate with mindless destruction.

The dragonriders must protect Pern from both Thread and Abominators while forging a future for themselves.

I enjoyed The Skies of Pern as I have every other Pern novel I have read. The story moves along at a good pace, the characters are engaging and the plot interesting and cohesive. It is always a pleasure to witness the special bond that exists between rider and dragon and, to revisit with old friends. The maturation of the relationship between F’lessan and Tia provides a personal emotional counterpoint to the overall storyline of the issues facing Pern and its inhabitants.

While previous books usually ended on a finite note (although they proved to be far from the last word) The Skies of Pern definitely begs a sequel, leaving at least one of the storylines unresolved, awaiting further development in a future volume sure to be eagerly anticipated by McCaffrey’s many fans..