Last time, the colony ships arrived at their new home, with lots of pettiness, racial stereotyping, and bets coming to pass. And it sounded like the Federated Sentient Planets still had a few issues of their own to work out.
Dragonsdawn: Part One: Content Notes: None noticed
The action returns with Sallah, nearly bored out of her skull on her current watch, inquiring of one of her fellows’ work. It’s on the entity that will be called the Red Star, whose orbit pattern is irregular and presence hasn’t been adequately explained by anything other than a highly improbable sequence of events where everything just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The actual data on where the planet is has it just past the farthest point out of its solar orbit, if I remember the right meaning of “aphelion”, and Captain Keroon comments that there should be a very nice meteorite show of the Oort cloud material the wanderer is pulling with it in about eight years. Knowing what we know about Threadfall, that suggests the colonists will be in for a rude awakening in about eight years time.
Except for something that’s clawing at my brain, insisting that astronomical orbits do not work this way, with the data we have about Pern. Namely, Threadfall lasts about fifty revolutions, then there’s a break of about two hundred revolutions. If the wandering planet takes that long to go around and come back, it doesn’t seem like it should be getting into spore range so quickly after it reaches an apex point, unless that apex point is really close to Pern. If that’s the case, though, it seems like Thread should fall while the wanderer is both coming and going, but also that it seems unlikely that there would be some form of semi-constant fall for fifty revolution cycles – at some point, Pern would have to be out of range thanks to its own orbit. If Pern is dragging the wanderer with it, then the orbit would be utterly messed up and unpredictable, and there would also likely be no relief at all from Thread… I don’t know. The way things are described, with a comet-like orbit attributed to the Red Star, it just doesn’t feel like it would produce fifty revolutions of spores and then take two hundred of them off.
The colonists aren’t taking any interest in the wanderer, suggesting it might either fall into the sun or exit the system again. After that, it’s a quick time jump to the point where landing actually commences, with cheers as the shuttles launch to prepare the new world for its inhabitants.
While Sallah watches, the narrative spins over to Avril Bitra and Stev Kimmer, where Avril is plotting and Stev is her backup plan, now that Benden is uninterested in her. Rather than it being about sex, it’s apparently about gems – Avril has a flawless ruby inherited from a member of her family seven generations back that mined it from Pern on the initial exploratory survey. (Although, with lines like “At his suspicious expression, she leaned gracefully against the small table, arms folded across her well-formed breasts, and grinned.”, I think we’re not supposed to forget that she’s the boohissslut of this book.) Along with the notes from this distant ancestor, Avril has a plan to not “remain at the end of the galaxy on a seventh-rate world.” Stev’s in, because greed, and Avril knows it. All she needs now is Nabol.
I might point out that there seems to be a rather long streak of making the people who will be the namesake of various Holds like the people who will eventually be Lords of them. This seems like a storytelling shortcut, and one I’m sure fans appreciate, but I think sounds a bit like effort wasn’t put in.
The story shifts to the landing of the shuttles, which goes completely smoothly, much to the consternation of the pilot, Kenjo, who had been expecting something to go wrong, and both Benden and Boll hotfoot it to be the first people setting foot on Pern as soon as the shuttle stops. As the pilot lets all the other passengers on board out, Benden and Boll give the formal welcome, claim, and naming of the planet, flanked by the standards of the Federated Sentient Planets and the new banner of Pern: “blue, white, and yellow, with the design of sickle and plow in the upper left-hand corner, signifying the pastoral nature of the colony.”
There’s a chapter break here, and the next section begins with the hustle and bustle of setting up a settlement and keeping everyone busy, as Sallah observes the work – including pictures of a campfire meal and a round of “Home on the Range” started by harmonica, joined by recorder, and then finally by voice – and participates in shuttle runs. Really, the best part of this is the following line: “Some wit had put up street signs with estimated distances in light-years for Earth, First Centauri, and the homeworlds of the other members of the Federated Sentient Planets.” That’s the kind of thing I would expect to see in colonists.
After Sallah’s dry segment, the narrative shifts to the girl Sallah helped when they were unsteady on their feet in the last chapter. Sorka is uninterested in the historic nature of it all and just wants to get planetside, instead of waiting. So she goes to the garden, where she meets a boy that tells her to go away and doesn’t want to say his name. Recognizing their shared accent (Irish), she gets him to open up with his name (Sean) and his love of horses, before this:
“And no more gardai.” Sorka grinned mischievously at him. She had just figured out that he must be one of the traveling folk. Her father had mentioned that there were some along the colonists. “And no more farmers chasing you out of their fields, and no more move-on-in-twenty-four-hours, or lousy halts, and no roads but the ones you make yourself, and – oh, just lots of things you really want, and none of the bad things.”
“Can’t be all that good.” Sean remarked cynically.
The fact that there are still Travelers in this supposed future society, and that they still appear to have the same stigma attached to them says the FSP is pretty clearly not a Trek-like utopia. If Pern is supposed to be utopic, whether in a positive or a Randian way, there’s a lot of work being done here to set up interpersonal conflicts and societal ones. Even if you have an the land you can carry and work, it seems unlikely that everyone will be both self-sufficient and not give a damn about their neighbors.
As it is, the announcement for another shuttle drop has Sean run away after expressing some fear at it, for which Sorka tries to cheer him up with vidscreen show references. After that, there’s more of the logistical drops, the impregnation of livestock (and reference to both Kitti Ping and her granddaughter, Wind Blossom, using genetic manipulation techniques to ensure the next generations can adapt, if nature doesn’t produce the right results), and Sallah conversing again with Sorka’s family after Avril heads off for “gravity ball” with one of the other crew members, about the anticipation of going down to the planet, and then the next day at the shuttle, where everyone goes down and Sorka gets a full view of the new planet, and its associated gravity, as Sallah and her copilot continue to make their runs. The continued insistence on conservation of fuel has Sallah look into the consumption rates and the available fuel left, where the numbers don’t match, by her calculations. Sallah tucks it away as a thing to keep an eye on, after speculating a bit about who might be hoarding or hiding fuel.
What good would it do anyone to hoard fuel? Avril? But Avril and Kenjo were not at all friendly. In fact, Avril had made snide remarks about Kenjo on several occasions, unacceptable ethnic-based slander.
“Of course, if you wanted to put someone off the track …” Sallah murmured to herself.
…from the person who had quite a bit of things to say about Avril and her ethnic heritage, just not in something that she thought looked like racism.
That’s another chapter break, and so we’re going to stop here. I’m beginning to believe these first segments needed an axe and their plot-relevant threads to appear in flashback. That assumes, of course, that I’ve figured out what the plot-relevant threads even are.