Author’s Note: Anne McCaffrey was one of my favorite authors as a teen. A high school friend gave me a copy of Dragonflight and I was hooked. But as time went on and I read more of the series I started to see its flaws. I wrote this review in college, when I was closer to both my love of and irritation with the books. Years later, I read the Harper Hall trilogy to my daughter, who enjoyed it but who never showed any inclination to pick up McCaffrey’s work on her own. The Harper Hall trilogy probably remains my favorite of all of McCaffrey’s work.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you enjoyed Anne McCaffrey’s previous six Pern books, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you were getting tired of meeting the same characters with different names or beginning to get frustrated by the discrepancy between the books’ potential and what they actually delivered, Moreta will be more of the same.
The story, which takes place nearly 1000 years before Dragonflight and the Harper Hall trilogy, involves a planet-wide plague of mysterious “flu” and the efforts of the people of the planet Pern, specifically Moreta, to deal with it. The logistics of this are a little vague. One is never quite sure exactly how big Pern is. My impression is that it must be an extremely small planet if the entire populated landmass can become infected by one animal within a week because of two large “gathers.” Accepting that, and accepting the deus-ex-machina cure that is suddenly discovered would not be so difficult if the disease were merely a backdrop to a more interesting and human story. I believe this was the author’s intent, but it is only partially successful.
Although sufficient time elapses between Moreta’s ride and the beginning of Dragonflight that Moreta’s ride has become a legend, the cultures depicted in the two books are remarkably similar. Actually, this is not surprising, considering the similarities between the people who make up the two cultures. The talent and imagination that enabled McCaffrey to create Pern and the dragons desert her when it comes to characterizations. She refuses to let the characters or their actions speak for themselves: she interjects her own opinions either as an omniscient presence or puts them in the minds of other characters. Nor does she really allow you, the reader, your own opinions. By the end of the book all the characters you’re supposed to like survive the plague, while nearly all the troublesome ones have been killed off. The exception is Moreta herself, but she too is given very little depth either in life or in death.
This is not to say the book is entirely without merit. Some of the lesser dragonriders–the blues and greens–play an important part in the story for a change, rather than merely existing to absorb the contempt of the bronze, gold, and brown riders. The rider-dragon empathy, one of the stronger points in all the books, is also given some new and interesting twists. However, when beautiful, heroic Moreta flew into between never to return, my reaction was something like, “who cares?” because Moreta had never become a person, but remained a figment of Anne McCaffrey’s active imagination.