Beloved bestseller McCaffrey has joined forces with her son, Todd, to produce another delightful entry in the Pern series, which began with Dragonflight in 1968. The action here centers on Camp Natalon, the site of a coal mine. Now that the surface seams of coal have begun to run dry on Pern, it's imperative to start extracting coal from deep underground, despite the increased danger. Some of the miners rely on the expertise of the watch-whers, smaller versions of dragons, to help keep them safe in the mines. As Kindan, blind Nuella and master harper Zist puzzle out the lore, habits and abilities of these nocturnal creatures, they find out more about the watch-whers (and themselves) than they thought possible. Fans who have become comfortable with McCaffrey's smooth trademark style over the years will notice no seams-which bodes well for any solo novels her coauthor, the heir apparent, may contribute to the Dragonriders saga.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The latest Pern novel is something of a family affair, with the creator of one of sf's most splendid and longest-lived sagas collaborating with her son on the latest installment. The story takes place during an unexplored period in the history of Pern, before the coming of the Thread. The watch-whers are already playing a prominent role, however, keeping watch at night at the holds and weyrs and helping in the mines. The protagonists are Kindin and Nuella, young people living in a mining camp. A cave-in wipes out Kindin's father and brothers as well as the old watch-wher, and Kindin moves in with camp Harper. There he learns the skills of being a Harper, including discretion and mediation. Eventually, he and Nuella learn the secret of how watch-whers see in the dark, and about their communication with dragons, which opens a wholly new range of capabilities for the dragon-riders. What with sound narrative technique, above-average characterization, and several of the Pern fans favorite ongoing saga themes, the new book is a guaranteed pleaser as well as a harbinger that Pern, an enduring monument for two generations of sf readers so far, will continue after its originator's departure. Roland Green
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