“…’We have labored too long as a Craft to surrender Pern now to the ravages of Thread because of a menace we can’t see. Nor do I believe that this disease, however fiercely it spreads, however ruthless it appears, can overcome us who have for hundreds of Turns defended ourselves from Thread. A disease can be cured by medicines, defeated. And one day we will fly Thread to its source and defeat it.'”
“Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey
Before I decided to tackle the one random Pern book in my giant pile of random inherited books, my only exposure to Anne McCaffrey’s world of dragons and deadly Thread was a novella included in my Language Arts book when I was in middle school. I don’t remember much about the story except that I really liked the idea of the Thread falling from the sky and the dragons having to burn it off. I was intrigued by the connection between dragon and rider, but I still liked DragonLance much better, finding the characters more interesting and the writing more engaging. All of these things I applied to Pern back then came back to me as I read through Moreta, another tale of dragons, their riders, and a threat to this fantasy-sci fi world called Pern.
This volume in the story of Pern has a little bit to do with the title heroine of Moreta, but much more to do with a strange virus that is wracking quick havoc on the planet in a wide-sweeping epidemic. It all started with the strange death of a runnerbeast at a Gather, and from there, it spread, unlike anything the inhabitants of Pern had ever seen before. And with the fall of the devastating Thread soon on the horizon, something must be done to stop the spread of the disease before it decimates that planet entirely. It is often through the resourcefulness and tenacity of our Moreta, along with a collection of other bright and determined characters, that the steps are taken to save Pern from buckling under this disaster.
I found the tale of a world completely unable to fathom an epidemic of this proportion absolutely fascinating, especially alongside the wonderful depth that McCaffrey has given Pern. However, I found the writing itself incredibly dull more often than not, which was incredibly disappointing. I was never one to really like many action scenes, and the drama or the Thread rides was completely lost on me, as well as the overwrought descriptions of the disease, its symptoms, its properties and the politics ingrained in Pernese Weyr society, not caring about all the different Weyrs and their complicated relationships with each other. I just felt that the writing in Moreta was too dry; there were times when I found the characters engaging and interesting, but these moments were few and far between. McCaffrey presented a few characters I wanted to know more about, but, instead of giving more, she passes on to a long list of other characters, barely giving us any description or reason to be interested in them other than the fact that they were there and were involved in some way. I bolstered through it, though, trying my best not to skip parts, because I always feel like that’s cheating. It wasn’t easy in some spots, though.
For as much as I disliked the writing, I still really appreciated the thought behind Moreta. I admire McCaffrey for what she’s created with Pern and the plot is just such an interesting reflection of the time in which it was written. I am assuming, of course, because I still wasn’t born in 1983, when the book was published, but I can only imagine this book to be a direct product of its time. A fantasy world being threatened by an terrible, devastating epidemic unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, right around the time our own world was discovering HIV and AIDs. There is even a chapter devoted to the importance of finding more clean needles to for immunization, reflecting much of how AIDs would spread in a culture of sharing needles. Putting together the theme of the book and the time in which it was written gave me an appreciation for it, even though I was not a fan of the text itself. Being able to marry a book, particularly a fantasy one, to a particular time and place is such an impressive feat. Books, especially of a science fiction or fantasy nature, should reflect the our world in many ways, though it is dressed up in the trappings of magic and dragons and the supernatural. Just like some of the classic zombie movies that reflect the fears of a bygone era, I feel that Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern taps into the fears of another era that has passed us by, delivering a message that, while fantastical and mythical on the surface, taps into some deeper human event and emotion that brings it into the realm of reality.
I probably wouldn’t read Moreta again for pleasure, but I do see myself going back to it as a really great example of how the time in which a book is written can influence what we write about and how it effects us.
Books read: 9/100.