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review 2017-06-08 01:46
Dragonsdawn - Anne McCaffrey

This was a bit slow to get going, but once we got into part 2 it became the Pern book I have come to love. By part 3 I was on the edge of my seat, even though I knew vaguely what happens. Man, I cried more than once for various reasons. Finding out the details of Sallah's sacrifice. Learning the details of the first Thread flight. The volcano eruption. Avril and Tubberman. Oh wow. This was so much better than the Harper Hall collection.

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review 2017-05-21 02:10
Decision at Doona by Anne McCaffrey
Decision at Doona - Anne McCaffrey

I’ve read many of Anne McCaffrey’s books, but for some reason I never got around to her Doona books. This first one primarily stars Ken Reeve. Earth is enormously overcrowded, so Ken is excited to learn that Doona, a planet uninhabited by intelligent sentient beings, has been discovered and that he and his family have been picked to be some of the first colonists.

The “uninhabited by intelligent sentient beings” part is important. Two hundred years earlier, a botched first contact situation led to an entire alien species, the Siwannese, committing suicide. This led to the Non-Cohabitation Principle, which stated that humans could only colonize a planet if there was no evidence that intelligent beings already lived there. Doona seems perfect - until the human colonists come across a settlement of cat-like aliens known as Hrrubans.

Nobody wants to go back to overcrowded Earth, but the Non-Cohabitation Principle is serious business. Still, it isn’t as easy as just packing up and leaving. They need the bigwigs back on Earth to believe what they’ve seen and reported, they need a ship, and they need orders on how to conduct themselves until a ship can come pick them up. Meanwhile, the Hrrubans don’t seem to care about any of that and are just as determined to interact with the humans as the humans are to keep their interactions with the Hrrubans friendly but brief.

I tend to gravitate towards first contact science fiction. And one with stubbornly friendly cat-like aliens? Gimme! Unfortunately, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I expected I would.

The first third of the book was probably the best. I enjoyed the humans’ initial interactions with the Hrrubans, particularly the Hrrubans’ polite determination to work together with the humans. I also liked that this seemed to be a subversion of the usual “colonists with more advanced technology save the poor low-tech natives” story, without going the “mystical natives” route. The Hrrubans were polite and friendly, yes, but even the humans noticed that the Hrrubans seemed more concerned with them learning the Hrruban way of speaking and doing things than the other way around. And although the Hrrubans asked the humans for help building a bridge, in the end it didn’t seem like the humans were particularly necessary at all. The Hrrubans had all the necessary materials, technology, and knowledge, so the bridge-building was really more of a cross-species togetherness activity than anything.

Early on, I suspected that there was more going on with the Hrrubans than they were letting on. How had whole Hrruban villages gone unnoticed during the initial evaluations of Doona as a possible colony planet candidate? Why were the Hrrubans handling first contact with humans so calmly and so well? I had a guess as to what was going on, and I really wanted to find out if I was right or if McCaffrey had something even better up her sleeve. I enjoyed the big reveal, when it came, although I was a little less thrilled with it when I realized that the book included an enormous spoiler at the beginning that I just hadn’t been observant enough to catch. It also bugged me that the big reveal essentially negated some of the things I’d previously enjoyed about the book.

The characters were pretty flat - most of them were little more than names to me. Also, many aspects of the story were dated. There was a reference to a hugely important event in 2010 that, obviously, never happened (and was linguistically suspect). And the colonists anxiously read communications from Earth using microfilm readers.

The thing that really turned me off this book, though, was Todd, Ken’s 6-year-old son. Since Earth was so overcrowded, everyone was taught from an early age to be quiet, move carefully, and not take up too much space. Todd violated societal norms by being loud, energetic, and occasionally aggressive. He was so difficult to deal with during the journey to Doona that he’d had to be locked up and supervised in 4-hour shifts. One of his first actions upon arriving on Doona was to run up to one of the Hrrubans and yank his tail as hard as he could.

While I could sympathize with Todd’s frustration with the requirement to keep his behavior restrained and with the way he was treated (more on that in a bit), the tail-yanking was absolutely not okay and he should have been old enough to know better. The humans were horrified, but surprisingly the Hrrubans treated Todd indulgently. Later on, one of them even said that his behavior indicated he’d one day be a leader.

As much as I disliked Todd, I also didn’t like the way his parents spoke of him. Until a certain point in the book, Todd’s mom (Pat, Ken’s wife) never said anything truly positive about him and Ken’s feelings about him were mixed but leaned heavily towards negative. At one point, Ken almost beat Todd but refrained because he’d have had an audience. When the Hrrubans offered to essentially act as Todd’s daycare, Pat couldn’t have agreed more quickly and Ken’s protests were token at best. (I initially understood the Hrrubans’ offer as a kind of temporary adoption, which made Pat and Ken’s relief and celebratory sex especially difficult to take.)

Todd turned out to be instrumental to the book’s ending, and...ugh. McCaffrey wanted readers to believe that 6-year-old Todd was incapable/unwilling to conform to behavioral norms on Earth, and yet

willing and able to become fluent in both the formal and informal varieties of a new language, learn an alien species’ formal etiquette, and behave according to those rules for hours on end.

(spoiler show)

Um, no. Even an adult would probably have had periods of boredom and mental exhaustion.

McCaffrey was one of my favorite authors when I was a teen, but this definitely isn’t making it onto my list of favorite books by her. Still, I won’t rule out reading the next book in the series, which was published a couple decades later and might potentially work better for me.


Rating Note:


I debated between 1.5 and 2 stars for this. In the end, I decided that the stuff with Todd, plus the many difficult-to-believe aspects of the world-building, pushed this more towards 1.5 stars than 2.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-05-21 00:00
Dragonsinger - Anne McCaffrey 2014 re-read. Review forthcoming
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review 2017-05-21 00:00
Dragonsinger - Anne McCaffrey 2014 re-read. Review forthcoming
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review 2017-02-16 00:00
Writers of the Future: Volume 33
Writers of the Future: Volume 33 - Anne McCaffrey,David Farland,Robert J. Sawyer,Todd J. McCaffrey,Larry Elmore,Bob Eggleton,L. Ron Hubbard,Stephen Lawson,Sean Patrick Hazlett,Preston Stone,Dustin Steinacker,Anton Rose,Doug C. Souza,Walter Dinjos,Jake Marley,C.L. Kagmi,Andrew Peery,Ville M I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think most of these stories were hampered by the fact that they were just that -- short stories. I'm confident that at least 90% of them would have been so much better had they had more length. So while I feel more or less bleh about this collection, I'd definitely look out for more works by the various authors.

Because it's fantasy and sci-fi, world-building is usually necessary, and often this resulted in a lot of info-dumping that had my eyes going skew and tech talk that went right over my head. I'm not saying it wasn't necessary or done bad, but it did feel clumsy and rushed and detracted from the story itself. I don't know if there was a word limit to these stories, but I would have appreciated more time with each.

Moonlight One by Stephen Lawson - When Gwen's husband is found murdered, she's the only suspect. After all, they were the only two people on the moon: Decent sci-fi murder mystery begging for it's own full length novel. Writer has an engaging writing style that let me gloss over any holes in the story. ★★★★

The Armor Embrace by Doug C. Souza - Flora's father is a mech-soldier of the Slayer Class, but how much of him is really left inside the machine?: It had a very interesting concept, and probably would have worked better as a longer length novel. Leaves you with a lot of questions. ★★

Envoy in the Ice by Dustin Steinacker - When an alien with godly intelligence is discovered watching the earth, one man must try to learn if its motives are pure: The blurb is kind of misleading, but not completely off. A lot of unanswered questions that could be explored in a longer novel. ★★★

The Devil's Rescue by L. Ron Hubbard - If you were stranded in an open boat and the only hope for rescue came from a ghost ship, would you dare to ride?: Bleh... the language was a bit pretentious, and the story was kinda boring. ★★

Tears for Shulna by Andrew L. Roberts - Some gifts come with heavy price tags, and the giver must rise to the occasion.: I need more of this! More Selkies! This story was too short though. ★★★★

The Drake Equation by C.L. Kagmi - What if an alien asks for your help with a question, and the answer fects the future of the whole human race?: Hmmm... I literally can't remember this story...

Acquisition by Jake Marley - Barlow has a talent for finding the dead. Or do they find him?: Pretty good, would also make a good series. ★★★★

Obsidian Spire by Molly Elizabeth Atkins - When Varga sets out to explore the ancient stronghold of a long dead wizard, she discovers that the ruins aren't as deserted as she thought.: Loved this one! Would love more by this author and even this story... maybe a prequel! ★★★★★

Gator by Robert J. Sawyer - If only that reptile in the sewer were something as predictable as an alligator.: Uhm... no... maybe it was because of the length limit, but this just fell completely flat and was insensible. ★

A Glowing Heart by Anton Rose - On a distant world among the cloud peaks, the light-hawks promise a rich reward for those daring enough to harvest one.: Not much to say about this one, but it was very good. ★★★★

The Long Dizzy Down by Ziporah Hildebrandt - In a world where memories can be stripped, Bill discovers that he has a family he has never known.: Didn't even read this one. Couldn't stomach the writing ★

The Woodcutters' Deity by Walter Dinjos - Not all spirits have the best of intentions, and they must be dealt with.: This was also very good. Definitely would want more about the mythology here. ★★★★★

The Dragon Killer's Daughter by Todd McCaffrey - You can put an end to something wondrous, but only at a cost.: Meh... didn't really make any sense ★★

Useless Magic by Andrew Peery - In a life-or-death situation, sometimes you wish that you had a really powerful spell. But that begs the question - What is power?: A decent enough short story ★★★

Adramelech by Sean Hazlett - Some devils are as old as a dream, and more evil than men can imagine.: Didn't really feel this one either. Maybe if the author had more time it could have been better ★★★

The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove by Ville Merilainen - When the world needs saving, three children are called to the task.: Probably my favorite of them all... coincidentally also the longest! ★★★★★

The Magnificent Bhajan by David Von Allmen - Can an aging sorcerer find a way to track down his old nemesis with the small bit of magic he has left, or is he just fooling himself?: Another bleh ★★★
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