All the Weyrs of Pern: Free Falling

Last chapter, we were denied actually seeing what happened with the rapid reintroduction of industrial age technology to a pastoral and vassalist feudal system, and instead thrown forward to the point in time where dragons and fire lizards went back to the spaceship, bringing back the corpse of Sallah Telgar, preserved sufficiently will in the vacuum and the cold to be transported back. A funeral and public burial is the works…

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter 8: Content Notes: None

…but we don’t get to see it immediately. Instead, we are treated to Jaxom and Ruth getting used to microgravity, Jaxom wearing the space suit that Sallah still had. Jaxom is tasked with finding the overrides for the cargo bay doors to see if they can be closed. Jaxom gets to the cargo bay, narrating his way down according to AIVAS’s instructions, and then comes face to face with the void and is talked through getting to the cargo bay console with emergency lights. Jaxom is able to use the manual override, although he uses too much force and almost throws himself into the air. Eventually, though, the doors do close and the mission finishes.

We shift over to AIVAS briefing the Power Trio on just how wobbly the wanderer is, noting a variance of nearly ten years from the fifty year default depending on the pass, and that the long intervals were…something. AIVAS calculates that the Ninth Pass will finish three years early, which is good news, and indicates that the time is right to start sending green dragons and their riders up to get used to microgravity. In pairs. Robinton praises AIVAS’s ability to manipulate people (!), a thing that AIVAS dismisses as just knowing personalities.

The next missions involving the Yokohama involve getting the oxygen-producing algae back up and running, and seeing if some bronze dragons can go out and collect some samples of non-activated Thread. Which produces a pretty big boggle from the assembled, until the AI tells them about the fact that Thread is only dangerous when in an environment that lets it be destructive. Even then, they’re not sure about it, even though the AI tells them it’s an essential item. Pressed for details about the plan, AIVAS deflects with an analogy about how beginners shouldn’t be expected to perform masterful music. The talk turns to the Conclave in a couple days and how the Lords might have a spirited debate about whether or not they give Landing and the AI their blessing.

Then comes the public funeral and ceremony for Sallah, brought in by dragons, borne by Holders, accompanied by a formation of fire lizards, and sealed in by Crafters (and then the accompanying music for the feast by Harpers). We don’t get to see it, though, because Jaxom appears at Robinton’s side to inform him of an attempt to attack AIVAS, taking advantage of the reality that everyone is at the funeral. Heading back to Landing, Robinton sees the aftermath, with plenty of bruised heads on both defenders and attackers and the knowledge that the AI can defend itself if needed, since it used a sonic barrage to knock the attackers out. Piemur has his bloodthirsty grin on again, as he notes one of the attackers has all the scars of being a glasssmith, and assumes everyone came from Norist as a result. As new information comes in, including that the raiders had expensive mounts, there’s more than a few Crafts involved in this particular incident (or at least more than a few Craftmasters). The arrival of dragons means protection for the AI and dialogue between Robinton and Lytol, where Lytol explains to Robinton that if he had studied history a bit more, he would have been better prepared for the cultural upheaval underway. Robinton doesn’t want to believe in Lytol’s cynicism as the right way, preferring his own optimism that technology will provide the way. Piemur backs Robinton’s optimism as a good idea.

Identification of the thugs produces a couple of Bitrans, used to dismiss all Bitrans as mercenaries that will do anything for money, but won’t give up or give in and stay loyal to whomever bought them. There’s a fisher in the group, identified by the net damage. The beasts and their equipment provide no help at all as to their origins. They are eventually shipped off to the mines of Crom for punishment. (Wait, penal mines? How long has this been the case? Have there ever been revolts?)

Otherwise disappointed, Jayge asks for an interview with AIVAS to talk about dolphins. The AI confirms that dolphins can talk to humans, but notes that both Pernese and dolphins would have to adjust their language to be intelligible to each other, and suggests young Readis be trained in dolphin. Jayge suggests that more kids learn dolphin as a way of keeping quiet about the intelligence of the species, which would really upset several of the humans to find out they’re not the smartest creatures on the planet.

Then again, several of the rumors in circulation about the hostile nature of AIVAS (including one where it becomes Skynet and will produce a colony drop to destroy the world) and how well protected it is suggests that there’s plenty of creativity, if not intelligence, at work in the rumor mill. Ultimately, the chapter comes to a close without any of the world-shaking consequences that have been hinted at or glossed over in the previous chapters, making this one a bit of a breather, even though there was the aftermath of an attack that had to be dealt with. Because everyone in the viewpoint always seems to be just behind the action these days, when that action is fighting, rather than in the thick of it, like in the earlier novels. Perhaps it’s because we’re working primarily with Jaxom, who people wouldn’t try to hurt, and Robinton, who is, well, getting too old for this shit.

Next chapter, perhaps, there will be more, as we are now set up for the Conclave of Holders, who have a lot to discuss.

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14 thoughts on “All the Weyrs of Pern: Free Falling

  1. Eilonwy Has An Emu May 11, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Because everyone in the viewpoint always seems to be just behind the action these days, when that action is fighting, rather than in the thick of it, like in the earlier novels. Perhaps it’s because we’re working primarily with Jaxom, who people wouldn’t try to hurt, and Robinton, who is, well, getting too old for this shit.

    And that’s why this book feels so fan-ficcy… the author is always in a hurry to get back to adored Jaxom and revered Robinton, but though they’re at the center of the effort to end Thread, they’re not at the center of the conflict over how to end thread.

    That’s one I’m going to think upon when my plots feel like they’re unraveling.

  2. depizan77 May 11, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    They are eventually shipped off to the mines of Crom for punishment. (Wait, penal mines? How long has this been the case? Have there ever been revolts?)

    This is particularly baffling, since it hasn’t been all that clear in previous books that there were even laws. (Not that it’s at all clear here that there are laws. It may just be possible for those in power to send people to the mines.)

    Jayge suggests that more kids learn dolphin as a way of keeping quiet about the intelligence of the species,

    … what. How, exactly, is training more people in dolphin going to disguise that dolphins are intelligent? (And won’t interaction likely eventually mean that humans figure out dolphins are the smarter species?) Pernese logic seems… different.

  3. genesistrine May 12, 2017 at 4:31 am

    Renegades has an exchange between Larad and Asgenar about Thella’s captured raiders:

    “Whose hold does this place fall in, Larad? Yours or mine?” Asgenar asked.

    “Does it matter?”

    “Well, sort of. You’ve got all those mines, and I have trees, but trees don’t need much tending in the winter, and your mines can be worked year round.”

    So it seems that the Lord of wherever a crime’s committed decides on the punishment, but this attack was in Landing, so who has jurisdiction there?

    Also all 8 men were deafened by AIVAS, quite possibly permanently, which would seem to cause some problems with working conditions, but obviously no-one should care because they’re Bad People.

    How, exactly, is training more people in dolphin going to disguise that dolphins are intelligent?

    For a bit more context, 5-year-old Readis is going to be taught dolphinese, and the suggestion is that more children be brought in to make it seem that AIVAS is running a general junior class rather than admitting that dolphins are intelligent and people are learning to speak to them.

  4. depizan77 May 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    the Lord of wherever a crime’s committed decides on the punishment, but this attack was in Landing, so who has jurisdiction there?

    Whoever has the most power? Which seems to be all that maters on Pern. Even by the standards of feudalism, it seems like there’s very little rule of law or protection for people – especially people without power. There are few obligations downward (beyond Thread fighting) and everything seems to be tradition based rather than codified law based. It’s really kind of terrifying. (But somewhat narratively hidden, since we tend to spend time with the people who do have power.)

    5-year-old Readis is going to be taught dolphinese, and the suggestion is that more children be brought in to make it seem that AIVAS is running a general junior class

    That just makes it a different mess! And is a very bad way to reestablish communication, since it will give them exactly one dolphin to human translator. Given that people on Pern tend to respond to everything with violence, I hope Readis is going to be very well protected from here on out, because if anyone wants to cut the ties between dolphins and humans (once they’re established), all they’ll have to do is kill him.

    Also, it doesn’t seem wise to bet on one 5 year old telling no one about the neat language he’s learning, and a bunch of other kids not figuring out he’s learning something they’re not and blabbing about that.

  5. avantgarbe May 12, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    “Jayge suggests that more kids learn dolphin as a way of keeping quiet about the intelligence of the species, which would really upset several of the humans to find out they’re not the smartest creatures on the planet.”

    Uh, haven’t they been living with sentient dragons for hundreds of years? Why would the prospect of another intelligent animal be so frightning?

  6. depizan77 May 12, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Well, they have had to tell themselves (despite plenty of obvious to the contrary) that dragons aren’t very smart. Perhaps the dolphins aren’t as willing to play along as the dragons have been?

  7. genesistrine May 13, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Sorry, didn’t make myself clear – all the kids are learning dolphin. Or, since dolphins speak human, the kids are presumably learning colonist-era Pernese with best-guesses at how the language has shifted among dolphins.

    A suspicious-minded person might be asking why, since fishermen pass around stories about talking dolphins, no-one’s told Idarolan that AIVAS says dolphins can talk and asked him to send over suitable volunteers who can learn enough dolphin to be immediately useful on board ships (since Readis is FIVE YEARS OLD which even on Pern is hopefully a bit young to start work). Could it be that AIVAS wants a class of 5-year-olds for whatever reason of its own and this is a convenient excuse?

  8. depizan77 May 13, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Wait, dolphins speak human? And my original understanding was right that the whole class was learning… wait… weren’t the Harpers supposed to keep the language from shifting? And how have fishermen not already started talking to dolphins if they’ve encountered dolphins who talked to them?

    NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE

  9. genesistrine May 13, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    The language shifted a bit in spite of the Harpers; Robinton was a bit grumpy about it earlier. But yes, the whole reason Jayge asked about dolphins was that Aramina AND Readis AND Alemi all say they were rescued by dolphins who spoke understandably, so do various sailors but I dunno, nobody ever said anything back to them until it was confirmed by someone in authority that it was OK?

  10. depizan77 May 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    That is not how people work! …Well…no…I can imagine ways that you’d get people to behave that way… Big Brother The Dragonriders are watching you.

    (And if the dolphins speak understandably, why are we bothering with learning the un-drifted language? To try to keep the dolphins from talking to just anyone?)

  11. genesistrine May 13, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I dunno. Maybe they can only make out a few words?

    I’m still convinced AIVAS wants the kiddie class for reasons of its own, but why no-one’s ever paddled out to sea to make an effort to talk to dolphins is beyond me. Not to mention that THEY USED TO TALK TO THEM. If a plague was lethal enough to wipe out everyone who knew dolphins could talk it should have wiped out everyone who knew how to sail too! That’s far more complex and difficult than, “you can talk to dolphins, they’ll tell you where fish are and tow you ashore if you fall in” FFS.

  12. depizan77 May 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I think AIVAS having ulterior motives makes a lot of sense.

    Sadly, how the people of Pern behave in general makes almost no sense at all. And that is a very good point. How could knowledge of sailing persist, but the knowledge that dolphins could talk NOT persist? Did McCaffrey think ANY of this through?

  13. Wingsrising May 15, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    That always bugged me. Dolphins talk, and dolphins rescue people at see, but literally no one has noticed dolphins talk for, what, a thousand-odd years?

    Of course, it also always bugged me that fire lizards are common creatures on the southern sea coast of the Northern Continent, but no one has noticed they exist, or thought to try to Impress them like dragons, in all that time as well.

  14. Firedrake May 16, 2017 at 3:14 am

    genesistrine: give me a child till the age of seven, and I will give you a janissary for the robot overlords.

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