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. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Especially appropriate for younger teens, this new book in the Pern series is set in an "Interval," when the Red Planet and "Threadfall" are not an immediate threat. When his father, elder brothers, and his father's watch-wher are killed in a mining collapse at Camp Natalon, Kindan, now an orphan, must give up his dreams of being an apprentice to the new Harper, Master Zist. Instead he must raise and bond with a new watch-wher, Kist. (Smaller than dragons, watch-whers are useful in the mines because of their ability to "see" in the dark.) But Kindan's friend, Nuella, the blind daughter of Journeyman Natalon, understands the unique powers of watch-whers, and she is entrusted with training them to communicate with dragons. With Kist, she rescues her father and other miners after another mine collapse. The characters of Kindan and Nuella are engaging. The setting and camp rivalries are integral to the plot. Telepathic communication, as in other books about Pern, is a central theme. The introduction of dragonriders from Benden Weyr and information about the history, society, and culture of Pern will enable readers to connect back or forward to other books in the series. Although there is a lackluster quality to this novel, making it less powerful than others in the series, it could encourage teens to read McCaffrey's previous novels. Young adult librarians will want to consider adding this one to their collections for its appeal to McCaffrey fans and readers of fantasy and science fiction. VOYA Codes: 4Q 5P J S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Ballantine, 304p., Ages 12 to Adult.
While the colonists of the mining camp Natalon on planet Pern prepare for the cycle of "Threadfall" (a sort of deadly confetti), their search for the planet's coal intensifies. Two young people, Kindan and Nuella, and Zist, a paint-by-numbers curmudgeonly teacher with a heart of gold, discover how the beasts called watch-whers (the titular dragon's kin) communicate and see in the dark. The whers are then harnessed to aid the Pern folk. While the thread and whers prove intriguing, listeners will long for more "hard" sf and more action, especially early in the story when this feels all the world like a coming-of-age tale (think Peggy Leon's Mother Country in space). Narrator Dick Hill does an admirable job bringing the rather simple characters to life. The Pern series began before many of its readers were born; some puzzle over both its longevity and its popularity. While this is undoubtedly low-quality Pern, it remains essential for public libraries where the series is popular.-Douglas C. Lord, Connecticut State Lib., Hartford Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fifteenth in the Dragonriders of Pern series, with McCaffrey's son Todd taking up the dragon reins as co-author and heir. The McCaffreys must have an ever-reinvigorated field of adolescent and adult readers to draw on for their fanbase. The Skies of Pern (2001) added some new twists to the vast saga, the recovery of ancient technology to divert the Red Star, Pern's sister planet, and wipe out the remaining Threadfall (although Thread has been wiped out before and yet fallen again in later novels as the Red Star returns). Aivas (artificial intelligence) no longer works, and the ultraconservative Abominators resist all social change. Thread does return here as the story looks far backward to an earlier bonding of dragonriders and the distant cousins of dragons, called watch-whers (the dragon's kin). Thread is bare, silvery wisps that fall from the sky when the Red Star draws near; they suck every nutrient out of all organic matter, including flesh and soil, but genetically engineered and enlarged fire lizards chew phosgene and burn Thread before it lands. Pern, a strange mix of the scientific and medieval, has run out of coal, and watch-whers help sniff out tunnel-snakes and noxious and explosive gasses as miners dig for new seams. When a caravan comes to Camp Natalon, young Kindan has to wash Dask, the telepathic watch-wher, and learn a dragon song from the aged Master Harper, all for a big wedding. When he sings at the wedding, Dask sings along with him. Later, Dask dies while leading rescuers to a tunnel collapse where miners are trapped. Kindan finds himself helping the Master Harper as Miner Natalon promises a winter's supply of coal to Aleesa the WherMaster if she'll allow Kindan thechance of a watch-wher's egg. He's to get an egg from the queen's clutch-if she'll let him. Much hangs on the hatching of Kisk from that egg. Should charm the young.