The Renegades of Pern: Attempting The Plot Again

Last chapter, we spun our wheels a bit getting Piemur up toward the end of Dragondrums, and witnessed Thella raiding Jayge’s caravan, killing and destroying in their wake, only leaving when Readis falsely called a dragonrider in the vicinity.

If Thella finds out, based on her previous inclinations, Readis is dead. As, it seems, is the plot. Let’s see if this chapter fixes that.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter Seven: Content Notes: Cavalier treatment of life

(Lemos, Southern, Telgar, Present Pass 12)

The plot sticks with Jayge, who is beginning to feel more solid as a possible protagonist, except that he basically keeps having to react to everything happening to him instead of being able to act in any sort of manner. The train captains for the caravan strike a deal for the winter to get everything repaired and replaced in exchange for helping finish expansions and being part of the patrols looking for Thella and her raiders. Jayge talks with a man that can split wood with a thrown axe, Swacky, about the sketches and the ambush, and both quickly come to the conclusion that the ambush was planned for the train, with the idea of crushing so the wagons and creating a total party kill. Had the wagon train been arranged as it had been before, the whole thing would have been a loss. Jayge swears revenge, but Swacky tells him no and that Thella should be turned over to justice…because the line is longer than Jayge about who gets revenge.

Also, worth mentioning is this exchange:

“How would Asgenar know what she’d steal?”
Lord Asgenar,” Swacky corrected, tapping him smartly on the knuckles, his expression severe. “Even in your own head, boy.”

We saw that same construction with Piemur back in Dragondrums, if I recall correctly. Possibly with Menolly before him. It’s an interesting repetition. Admittedly, since this entire book’s attempt at a concept is that the people who hold power over others can basically do whatever they want to those under them, including turning them out without cause or exploiting them into slavery, it makes sense to have it drilled into someone who has “betters” that they should always refer to them by those titles, even in their own minds. Which is why Thella encourages her renegades to break that idea in their own minds. And also might give context to the idea expressed in the past chapter about Lady Holders always being Lady Holders, because of that firm mental control. The foundations of Pern rest on that idea, of Lords and riders always being that way, even in the mind.

The rest of the conversation is about the mysteries of Thella and the attackers, and the way that any caves discovered will be sealed up to try and deny Thella hiding places and supplies. Then the narrative jumps to Toric, who is entirely incensed at the most recent crop of legitimate northerners arriving on his shores. Since these are Holder sons, of course, they have an entirely different attitude toward hard work and building themselves a home. Piemur manages to play to Toric’s sense of superiority and butter him up with the idea of treating the new sons no more special than anyone else, as a pseudo-revenge.

“Let ’em go. The smart ones’ll want to learn. The dumb ones’ll kill themselves off.”

And again, the cavalier attitude toward life on Pern manifests itself, this time through Piemur, who I would expect to have a very different point of view on the matter, considering how he was nearly killed himself by foul-tempered people at the Harper Hall. Coming from Toric, that line wouldn’t bat an eye, but from Piemur, it seems very off.

After this short and somewhat pointless interlude, it’s back to Asgenar, who came on with K’van, showing Larad that his sister is alive and the head of a raiding band, although they haven’t yet made the connection between Aramina and why Jayge’s wagon train got hit so hard. Seeing the information displayed before him, after some deciding, Larad decides to disown Thella and points out the most likely place she would be using as a base camp on his territory. K’van makes a suggestion that is sound, with an accompanying joke that would make no sense.

“Lord Larad, might it be a good idea to send one of your fire-lizards to see if anyone’s in that hold?” K’van asked. “I’m always taught not to assume anything.” He chuckled. “Ass–you–me!”

So tell me, how exactly does that joke work if you only have runnerbeasts, herdbeasts, dray beasts, and other such things? I’m sure there are plenty of asses on Pern, and that some of them are donkeys, but you have to have the name, and the connection that makes calling someone an ass a derogatory thing, before you can joke about how assume makes an ass of you and me. There has to be proof that the word hasn’t died off in two thousand rotations of linguistic drift and so forth. Worse, K’van makes another joke not too soon after which is linguistically and culturally perfect.

“Dragons make useful go-betweens,” K’van said in a droll voice. Asgenar stared at him for one second before he broke out in a peal of laughter. Even Larad, who was not quite as quick to see a pun, chuckled at last.

That is a joke I have no problem believing exists and persists on Pern, because of all the work done to set up the idea of between. it makes the earlier joke that much more frustrating to have to read.

Anyway, the fire lizards are dispatched and return with an affirmative of occupation, while Larad pulls up very detailed records and maps of that possible space to attack, so as to give Asgenar every advantage. The maps are clearly Ancient construction, because the ink didn’t fade from them and they’re permanent, unlike the paper Asgenar had been able to produce to this point. After saying that plotting needs to happen, the narrative skips to the arrival of the fighting force to catch Thella, who knock out the sentries and get inside with the troops, only to find that Thella, Dushik, and Giron have again evaded them, and worse, set off a deadfall to bury everyone inside. The dragons are making short work of the avalanche, the soldiers have captured everyone else, and we are introduced to Robinton’s inside man, Perschar. Once everyone is accounted for, Readis is also not among the captured, which disappoints Jayge. (He and Swackey were mentioned earlier as connective tissue, but otherwise not really important to the matter)

Having discovered the extent of the storage present in the Hold, the two lords, the Benden Weyrleader, and the Brown Rider Rapist agree that the best course of action is to leave the holdless bandits in this place for the winter, since they won’t be able to get out, with enough supplies to last through the snowmelt, and then return in the spring.

“I tell you what,” Asgenar went on. “Let’s leave them with enough to keep them going through the winter – what with the snowslide and all, I doubt they can get out, and I’m certainly not going to ask Benden dragons to give them the treat of their sordid lives. Let’s see who’s alive come spring.”
F’lar and F’nor found that solution amusing, as did the troopers, who tried to disguise their grins. At the last, a slight smile tugged at Larad’s mouth, and he began to regain his usual manner.

Because the thought of leaving people who might turn on each other to gain more share of the supplies left to not starve is apparently amusing. Then again, considering what all of those involved think of the holdless, we should probably be glad they’re not just hauling them out into an arena to fight each other for the chance at freedom.

Thus ends the chapter. I’m still not entirely sure what purpose Toric has at this point, since every time we see him, he’s just complaining about this or that it expanding his Hold or otherwise marking time while the rest of the book chases Thella. I’m sure it will become important soon enough, perhaps if Thella attempts to escape to the South, but otherwise, Toric is just taking up space.

Thella, on the other hand, has all the right makings of a heist movie, including the daring raids and the outsmarting the dumb heroes. If only her character had more care taken with it…

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12 thoughts on “The Renegades of Pern: Attempting The Plot Again

  1. saidahgilbert January 12, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Thank you for explaining the joke with ass-you-me. That flew right over my head when I was reading the book.

  2. WanderingUndine January 12, 2017 at 10:01 am

    (Warning: Character reveal for a later book)

    On tor.com this week, in a blog post recommending “Five Authors with Magical Worldbuilding Skills,” David Weber* wrote:

    “I first met Anne McCaffrey in Dragonflight, which I read in serialized format while I was still in high school, and I thought “Wow!” I realize the Pern novels sort of straddle the line between fantasy and science fiction, but that’s fine. In fact, that’s a lot more than just fine. Her Pernese characters—from Lessa and F’lar through Jaxom, Robinton, Aivas, Moreta, and scores of others—are the very definition of responsible human beings (even though one of them is an AI), all with believable traits, desires, and goals that are fully realized, inhabiting a fully developed, totally internally consistent world of the imagination. I’ve liked almost everything else of hers I’ve read, as well, from Restoree to the Helga stories, and I’ve never read a weak McCaffrey story, but it wasn’t until a few years before her death that I truly realized the debt I owed her for underscoring for me so well the importance of fully building worlds from the ground up.”

    *Author of the Honor Harrington series and other novels

  3. Firedrake January 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

    I’m not planning to do a decon, but if I were, Honor Harrington might well be one I’d pick.

  4. WanderingUndine January 12, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve never read it, but this praise of Pern males me dubious.

    Neil Gaiman once said “Look, I don’t give you grief about where you get *your* ideas from.” I try to follow that philosophy. But idea sources do matter.

  5. genesistrine January 12, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I’m giving it the side-eye more because of “fully developed, totally internally consistent world of the imagination”, TBH….

    Re ass; it’s possible the insult’s survived even though the animal didn’t – look at the number of expressions that have survived even though people these days don’t understand them and even misspell them. (“Toe the line” becoming “tow the line”, for instance, and I even saw “reigning in” for “reining in” recently.)

  6. genesistrine January 12, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Oh, and mentioning decons I need to do something to get myself back in the regular writing habit and I’m rather tempted to do, well, a review series rather than full-blown decons of the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult. I’ve got the full set and they’re a nicely varied lot, though from what I remember of Mason’s Prisoner in the Opal I might grind to a halt right there….

  7. depizan77 January 12, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    There’s a plot? I can’t even tell who’s supposed to be the main character. Thella? Even though the author is clearly against her. Jayge, who we periodically return to? Even though he’s not really doing anything.

    What is this book even about? It feels like a bunch of random bits awkwardly stapled together.

  8. saidahgilbert January 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    The blurb I had for my edition made it seem like an ensemble cast. However, I thought it was Thella when I was reading the book but it might have been Jayge now that I think about it because in the Pern world, the protagonists are always the heroes and Thella is obviously not a hero.

  9. Funaria January 13, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    @WanderingUndine
    I saw that too and it made me wonder if he read them a long time ago and never really revisited the books. I enjoy the Honor Harrington series, though as with everything there are problems with them. (One of the more glaring problems I’ve been noticing recently is that although non M/F pairings are mentioned every once in a while as an option, there have been none on-screen over 15 or so books.)

  10. genesistrine January 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Yeah, I think it’s meant to be an ensemble cast with a general theme of being ~*outside social norms*~, so we get Thella’s Lady Holdlessness, Toric’s ambition, Jayge’s… point of view I guess?, Piemur’s… liking to be alone, I guess, since let’s face it he’s totally into obeying Toric’s/Robinton’s/Sebell’s orders.

    Which could work, but doesn’t seem to in this case.

  11. depizan77 January 15, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    I think part of the problem is that the most sympathetic character (Jayge) is just kind of there. He doesn’t seem to have a plot as such. And then we know enough of Pern to know that Thella won’t succeed, which rather drains any possible tension from her plot. (Also, she keeps juggling Villain Balls, which really doesn’t help.) Toric’s just kind of there, being a typical Pernese.

    Giving all of the characters clear wants and goals (plots!) would really help, as would having a setting where someone like Thella could succeed. Having everyone’s plots conflict with one another would help, too. In a natural way, not in a Thella found a really shiny Villain Ball kind of way.

  12. genesistrine January 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Well, Toric does have his Cunning Master Plan of getting more and more settlers in and indebted to him so he can have The! Most! Land! On! Pern! but it’s a really boring goal because he’s not sacrificing anything for it and the stakes actually come across as really low – most territory, yay go you :flaps teeny-tiny pompoms once: You never get the impression that anyone’s going to be hurt or even inconvenienced by it, it’s just tedious point-scoring dick-measuring against the other Lords.

    Thella, we were told, wanted to hold a Hold and get confirmed, but she seems to have now given that up for… stealing stuff I guess. Does she want a bigger robber band? Does she just want a life of luxury and safety with the one she’s got? Does she think that can last? Does she have any long-term goals other than ner-ner-ner-ner-ner I got your stuff?

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