This week’s post was a little delayed because I wanted to finish Dragonflight before posting. So let’s start there.
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey is an interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction. It’s marketed as fantasy for obvious reasons. The story follows various dragonriders as they try to bring their weyr back to the prestige dragonriders once held. They’ve fallen on hard times as their usefulness is questioned in Pern. The usefulness of the dragonriders is where the book introduces the science fiction aspects. Pern has been invaded for centuries by something known as Threads. These Threads are an invasion force from a red star that orbits close to Pern that destroy organic matter. It’s up to F’Lar and the new Weyrwoman Lessa to find a way to stop the newest invasion when the weyrs have all but faded into memory.
This book really has a lot to love regardless of if you’re a fan of fantasy, sci-fi, or both. Time travel, dragons, inter-dimensional teleportation, dragons, and a desperate battle to save humanity involving dragons. The beginning can be a little overwhelming as you are thrust into a world without knowing all of the rules, but this is soon rectified. The characters are learning new rules along with the reader and overall this works really well. It provides readers the thrill of discovery without ever feeling like you’re missing something important.
Overall the book is really good. It’s a little short, but this is because it was originally published as separate novellas and put together into a cohesive novel. My only other complaint is that some of the characters read a little flat. Each seems to have one or two characteristics that define all of their actions. Lessa is snappy and overconfident. F’Lar is wise but prone to angry outbursts. There are some moments where these veils fall and we see real characters underneath, but they weren’t quite often enough for me. Still, I really enjoyed the book and will happily be reading the next book in the series.
I also finished up Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. An amalgam of science fiction and hardboiled, the story follows Takeshi Kovacs as he is paid to investigate an apparent suicide. In the world of Altered Carbon, human personalities have been digitized and are able to be downloaded into new bodies. Death has effectively been erased (unless you’re Catholic) and all punishment is now time served in a digital stack.
Takeshi is an ex UN Envoy and has been trained in wearing different bodies, called sleeves, to infiltrate, investigate, and cause general havoc to UN enemies. He is shot in the beginning of the book and wakes up on Earth in a police officer’s body. A rich man has apparently killed himself, but when he is revived he doesn’t believe he would kill himself. After all, what is the point when he can just be redownloaded from remote storage? The book follows the investigation through some really interesting plot twists and provides a satisfying mystery for the reader.
Altered Carbon takes the two genres and smashes them together more than effectively. I think fans of either genre will enjoy the story told here. If you’re not interested in reading some rather explicit sex scenes, you might want to pass on this one, but otherwise have at it.
Finally, I read the third volume of Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. What can I say about this series that hasn’t already been said? I keep waiting for the team to slip, to somehow lose this incredible steam they’ve got going. Even to produce a book that falters for just a few pages. I’m very happily surprised that with every issue they somehow get better. Y: The Last Man is one of my favorite series of all time, but Saga might be the pinnacle of what BKV can create. I haven’t read any of the books Fiona Staples has worked on besides Saga, but her work is beautiful and I would happily consume all I can find.
The bottom line is, if you’re not reading Saga please pick up the first volume. Give it a glance in the store, read a few pages, see if you’re into it. That’s all it will take to get its hooks in you.
Anyway, that’s my week in science fiction. If you want to talk about the dragonriders of Pern, hardboiled being the name of a genre, or just fawn over Fiona Staples art, feel free to message me or tweet me @left4turtle.