Urbanist Book Review: Dragons of Pern series

Title: Dragons of Pern series

Author: Ann McCaffrey

Locations of note: Pern, various locations

Urbanist Review: Dragonriders of Pern was the first “grown up” science fiction I read, and it still holds a special place in my mind, even if the writing in some of the later books was a little…uneven… It is also an impeccable example of a type of placemaking in fiction that it seems has gone out of style. The approach today seems to be one of evocation–intensive description of a place that becomes plausible through the accretion of specific detail, or the sensory intensity of the picture it paints. McCaffrey’s writing is rarely evocative; the prose workmanlike, rather than florid. The Pern books approach (one I also associate with Larry Niven and other earlier writers) is rather to pose one singular premise–burning thread falls from the sky and is combatted by dragons–and allow this detail to suggest and structure the world it references. The perspective is sociological, rather than pictorial; I have no mental picture of the clothing or the architecture of Pern, but the way characters and groups inhabit this alternate reality is meticulously conveyed.