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Review: The Skies of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

August 23, 2011 1 comment

The Skies of Pern is the last Dragonriders of Pern novel chronologically, a direct sequel to All the Weyrs of Pern and The Dolphins of Pern.  As such, Anne McCaffrey had to tie up some loose ends and provide a satisfactory yet open ended conclusion to the 2500+ year history:

  • What will the dragons and dragonriders do once thread no longer falls on Pern?
  • How will the technological advances offered by AIVAS be integrated into Pern society without losing the uniqueness of the colony?
  • How will the author treat F’lar and Lessa’s lives through the end of the current Pass?

All told, the book is satisfying, although I’d argue that the plot thread of the Abominators was rather weak and fizzled toward the end. Very anti-climatic.

I found that the fate of F’lessan and Golanth was one of the most moving of the series (along with the end of Moreta’s ride and the passing of Robinton and his fire lizard).  I thought it was dealt with very well and was somewhat overdue (the roles of the dragonriders are dangerous!).

I’m now curious to read the books that Anne McCaffrey and her son Todd McCaffrey wrote about the earlier Passes and Intervals. I think they’ll be interesting because I’ve now seen the dawn of the dragons in the early years of Pern’s colonization and the latter years when thread is eradicated; how effective can the writing be if the results have little to no impact on the future?

4  out of 5 stars (finished August 23, 2011)

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Currently reading:  The Clones of Mawcett by Thomas DePrima

Review: A Galaxy Unknown by Thomas DePrima

August 22, 2011 4 comments

I had an opportunity via the Lendle service to borrow A Galaxy Unknown by Thomas DePrima.  I had seen the book on my Amazon recommendations several times, probably due to the Space Opera novels that I’ve rated there.

The book has many elements that I have enjoyed in many other series — for example,  the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber, the Seaforth Saga by David Feintuch, the Horatio Hornblower age of sail novels by C.S. Forester, and the Lost Fleet series (my review) by Jack Campbell —

  • An individual suddenly catapulted into command.
  • Having to lead by his/her wits, intelligence, motivation, daring, more so than by brawn.
  • Loneliness of command.

The difference between the above novels and A Galaxy Unknown is the former books’ strength of writing style and plotting.  This book seems still unpolished and too linear.

The first issue is the extreme “Mary Sue” nature of the main character, Jenetta Carver.  The skills she gains are more than convenient and unreal:  extreme beauty, a reshaped perfect body, enhanced longevity, quick healing, and pain becomes a non-issue (virtually a pleasurable experience.)

Another oddity:  the character is disqualified from command during her time in the Academy.  Her instructors find that she is indecisive and is unable to make the quick decisions required of an officer.  The author describes a single incident in one of her courses where she fails a critical engineering test and feels somewhat scarred.  However, once revived from a 10-year sleep in ship escape pod, she immediately becomes both creative and decisively competent.  Without much explanation.

In the Academy, Jenetta excels in the sciences.  I do think that it would have been more natural for some of her later command decisions to include her strengths in astrophysics or computer sciences to resolve the issue.  Perhaps the crew wouldn’t understand how exactly she was intending to get them out of the mess, but she’d come through anyway.

Other Oddities:

Weird stilted language.  I appreciate that the author suggests that books shouldn’t be dumbed down to the lowest level, but I suggest that many of the 50 cent words were contrived.

I think there were several jarring editing flaws:

  • insure vs. ensure
  • it’s vs its
  • innumerous vs innumerable

Virtually every character is described by height as if this were some magical characteristic that defines them.  It became a bit distracting.

Despite its flaws, I did enjoy the adventure and have picked up the second book in the series to see how the character grows and whether the plotting becomes tighter.

3 1/2  out of 5 stars (finished August 14, 2011)

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Currently reading:  The Skies of Pern by Anne McCaffrey & Valor at Vauzlee by Thomas DePrima.