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The Skies of Pern    by Anne McCaffrey order for
Skies of Pern
by Anne McCaffrey
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have been reading McCaffrey's marvellous Dragonriders of Pern series for so long now that it feels like re-visiting old friends. In fact, it's hard for me to believe that there is not a world like it in the Sagittarian Sector under the baleful influence of the Red Star, with dragons soaring its skies and Benden wines on the table. My favorites in the series were the first two books, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, starring F'Lar and Lessa. Dragonsinger and Dragonsong (featuring the talented Menolly) were also big hits with me and I've always had a soft spot for Robinton. His story was told in the 15th entry, The Masterharper of Pern. As usual with such a long-running series, some of the stories along the way have been disappointing, but I've still enjoyed spending time with familiar characters, their fire-lizard and dragon companions.

The Skies of Pern is one of the better of the later volumes. It focuses on F'Lessan, son of F'Lar and Lessa and on the future of the Dragonriders and their dragons after the problem of Thread has been solved by pushing the Red Star to a different orbit. They need a new role in a society that is struggling to accept the advanced technologies introduced to it by the personable A.I., Aivas. In fact, a group of ultra-conservative Abominators, led by the escaped convict Shankolin, are active in attempts to sabotage applications of these technologies in areas like medicine and printing. As usual dragonriders are called to the rescue, after acts of vandalism and when a new threat falls from the skies.

Alongside the action, romance evolves between F'Lessan and green rider Tai (their dragons, Golanth and Zaranth, get in on the act as well), and we get a good look at Lessa and F'Lar, ageing but still going strong as leaders of Pern. The dragons apply a new Talent (developed to cope with trundlebugs of all things) to deal with some of the problems that they face. McCaffrey weaves all these threads (sorry, could not resist) with her usual Masterwriting craft, and with an appealing solution to the problem that she handed herself by clearing the skies of Pern of Thread. If you have been concerned about the fate of the dragonriders and their friends, don't be - as the author (via F'Lessan) announces at the end of this story 'There will always be dragons in the skies of Pern!'

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