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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dragon Harper by Anne and Todd McCaffrey

Dragon Harper by Anne McCaffrey and Todd Mccaffrey. New York: Del Rey, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-345-48031-6

This is the newest (but one) of the new Dragons of Pern novels, written in collaboration between the progenitor of the series, renowned science fiction and fantasy author Anne McCaffrey, and her son, Todd. Diehard fans of the series will definitely want to read it.

Counting myself among their number, I have done so. While I have no regrets about that, I do have to say that Todd doesn’t have quite the deft touch of his mother when it comes to characterization, plot development, and the like.

His story lines are compelling enough. This one being an example: a flu pandemic sweeps throughPern and kills one in three or so of the general population, hitting the young and active the hardest. The dragon riders are only able to provide limited assistance, due to the imminent arrival of threadfall (well, only a decade or so out), so that they cannot afford to lost a third or so of their numbers, which would leave Pern unprotected.

So there is plenty of drama and angst in the story line. But when reading one of Anne’s books, every aspect of the story as it develops seems almost fore-ordained, completely logical, as though it couldn’t possibly happen any other way. You don’t get that feeling in Todd’s writing. At times things that are happening seem a bit confused, and even arbitrary.

Likewise with character development. With Anne’s characters, you invariably relate to them, and identify with them almost immediately. With Todd, it takes longer. You do eventually get there, but it takes time.

There is also one major plot flaw (in my view). Why is our hero, young Kindan, immune to the flu? Why is he the only major character who never catches it? There is no rationale provided for this so far as I could tell, other than pure chance. That hardly seems fair, when almost everyone else we care about succumbs.

Even so, I probably shouldn’t complain. If I didn’t have the master storyteller, Anne McCaffrey, to compare with, I’d probably be perfectly happy with Todd’s writing. Fans of Pern will definitely find this worth the reading.

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