Archive for February 9, 2024


A Pandemic, but with Dragons

I’m trying to read as much as possible from my To Be Read bookcase so I can clear out the ones that I want to read but don’t necessarily want to keep. And, yes, I have a whole bookcase, plus a couple of boxes. One of the fun things about being a writer is that when you go to writing conferences, they give you free books! Publishers give away books to writers because they know that writers talk about books, so they’re a good way to get buzz going about a book. My first few conferences, I got a bit excited about it and eagerly scooped up All The Books. I eventually realized that most of them went unread, so I tried to limit myself to ones that I thought I might actually read. Even then, I find that there’s a difference between my eagerness to read books I bought for myself and books I got for free (though there are books I bought that are on the bookcase, too). I think part of the reason is that, aside from things like special sales or used bookstore finds and the occasional booksigning for a writer friend, I generally buy a book because I want to read that particular book at that particular time. The giveaways may be things I might have bought, but they weren’t what I was looking for at the time I obtained them.

I’m afraid I’m mostly useless for building buzz because it can take me years past publication to get around to reading an advance copy. I just read an advance copy for book one of a series, and book three is about to come out. I may post something about it, and maybe that will help book three. I’m ashamed to admit that I got an advance copy of A Game of Thrones but didn’t read it until after the TV series came out. Actually, I did start reading it before publication, but I got it at a romance writers conference (not sure why they thought that was a good place to promote that book) and was therefore expecting it to be a romantic fantasy, so it wasn’t at all what I wanted it to be and I put it aside after a few chapters.

But there are some books I don’t remember obtaining. For instance, the book I just finished reading is an old hardcover copy of a book published in 1983. It looks like it was used, but I don’t remember buying it. Maybe someone else bought it and gave it to me. Although it was published in 1983, it eerily reflects some recent events. In fact, if not for the very 1980s graphic design on the cover and the copyright date (and the fact that the author has been dead for more than a decade), if you gave this book to someone to read now, they’d probably think it was a COVID-inspired book.

The book is Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, one of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. This series straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy. It’s technically science fiction because it’s about a distant world colonized by human settlers. After the colony was established, they learned that every so often the world gets attacked by these spores they call Thread that destroy life. They genetically engineered some of the local life forms to be dragons they could fly around on and shoot down this thread. But because the society reverts to being pre-industrial and there are dragons, it reads like fantasy. If you want to start a debate among science fiction and fantasy readers, throw out the “is Pern science fiction or fantasy?” topic. I read the main part of the series when I was a teenager. This appears to be a standalone prequel. I don’t think I’ve carried this book around since then, but I may have picked it up at a library sale.

This particular book is about an epidemic that hits at a very bad time, and it pretty much sounds like the COVID pandemic with dragons. There’s social distancing, the search for a vaccine, the people who resist the efforts to stop the spread of the disease, the people who think the rules don’t apply to them, the strain on healthcare workers, etc. Even most of the symptoms sound kind of COVID-like. The book is really interesting, up until the ending, which I pretty much hated. It was almost like she’d reached her contracted word count and was nearing her deadline, so she just ended it and then wrote an epilogue to tie up the loose ends without actually resolving anything. It was really abrupt. Since it’s a prequel, it’s possible that this was some element of that world’s history mentioned in the earlier books (which are but a dim memory for me) and that ending was already set in stone.

Anyway, aside from the ending it was interesting reading, and it kind of made me want to revisit that series. I’m not entirely sure I’d recommend it, unless you want to read about fictional pandemics. It will probably go in the box that’s getting donated for the library book sale because I don’t imagine I’ll be reading it again, but I’m glad I did read it.