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 the chance 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.