I’ve been reading the Pern series since childhood. My introduction to the series came when I found two battered paperbacks in a used bookstore and, entranced by the covers, bought them. These two were the first in the Dragonriders of Pern series: Dragonflight and Dragonquest, first published in 1968 and 1970 respectively. Not only did I love both books, it’s probably safe to say that this early encounter with the work of Anne McCaffrey quite possibly altered the course of my reading forever. And since I was introduced to them many years after they were first published, I had great pools of this wonderful author’s work in which to swim before I had gotten all the way through her backlist.
Almost anyone who has given McCaffrey a serious read understands her magic. The connections she weaves between her human and dragon — as well as other animal — characters moves far beyond charm into some primal place where we all understand what might be possible if all the circumstances were correct.
The Pern series has, quite understandably, fostered more than its share of fanfic. So when it was announced that Anne McCaffrey’s son, Todd, would co-write a Pern book with his mother, there was much anticipation, but not a whole lot of surprise. That first book, 2003’s Dragon’s Kin was successful enough that the younger McCaffrey tried again — on his own this time — with 2005’s Dragonsblood. Another collaboration with Anne in 2006, Dragon’s Fire, leads us right here to Dragon Harper (Del Rey, 300 pages). Well, not exactly leads us: Dragonsblood actually takes place chronologically after Dragon Harper and the other collaborative McCaffrey books. But that’s another — ahem — thread.
The thing is, the younger McCaffrey is a competent enough writer. Heck: he might even be a very good one. Trouble is, I loved Anne McCaffrey’s books so well and believed in her magic so thoroughly, it’s tough to look at the collaborative efforts and judge them on their own merits, without having those judgments colored by the earlier, solo, books.
Do you understand what I’m saying? Dragon Harper is fine. It might even be good. It is not, however, magic. It does not transport and it will probably not alter your life. It did not alter mine. Will I read future efforts from the younger McCaffrey? You bet.