(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In a galaxy far, far away, some fifty-five hundred colonists perceive an end to their fifteen-year journey away from Earth. Pern seems to be the ideal solution for a group of people who wish to construct an agricultural paradise similar to what Earth might have been had not war and the industrial revolution intervened. Indeed, for the first eight years, the planet seems capable of matching even the most optimistic expectations. There is no adequate substitute for Earth’s coffee, and the ubiquitous flying dragonets require toleration, but the various agricultural holdings are coming along and the colonization effort appears to be without flaw.

Then, with little warning, the planet is subjected to an assault by deadly spores, which fall like silver threads from the sky to devastate and destroy all organic matter they touch. It soon becomes apparent that this space-borne infestation places the entire colony in jeopardy. Indeed, the colonists find themselves faced with extinction, for in their desire to completely disassociate themselves from the errors of the past, the settlers of Pern have established themselves ten years distant from any aid or comfort. While some of the colonists contemplate betrayal and escape, others race against time to develop a self-perpetuating weapons system to deploy against the deadly threads from space. The colonists are delighted to learn that the friendly dragonets are capable of destroying the destructive threads with a flaming breath. Therefore, using their slender knowledge of genetic manipulation, the inhabitants of Pern strive to create huge, sensitive flying dragons that can teleport in an instant to meet any “threadfall.”

As Isaac Asimov did with his prequel, PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION, McCaffrey here reveals the circumstances which necessitated the societal adaptation outlined in the first book in the series, DRAGONFLIGHT. DRAGONSDAWN represents McCaffrey at her best, in a story which is all the more enthralling for the reader who has been following the dragonrider saga. This work is, as well, an excellent introduction to the volumes which follow in the chronological sequence.