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Powers That Be [x] | The Rowan [x] | Dragonsong [x] | Dragonflight [x] | All The Weyrs of Pern [x]
Anne McCaffrey is a legend in the science fiction and fantasy community, but let's face it, her discography is a little scary - it stands at nearly one hundred books, and that's not including the books she's co-written with her son Todd.
So where on Earth - or Pern, or Petaybee, or any of her other worlds - would a new reader want to start?!
Depending on which genre you're coming from, there are plenty of opportunities to explore.
If you're coming for the science-fiction…
Siglen was a slab of a female, soft from a sedentary life and a disinclination to exercise of any kind. - The Rowan
The easiest series to jump into is her Tower and the Hive series. Straight up science-fiction, this is a five-book series where people live on the moon and other nearby planets and have developed all sorts of telepathic powers. This series starts with The Rowan, and it's a great way to get a taste of Anne's writing style.
Let's talk about the Earth.
My personal favorite series is her Petaybee trilogy. Co-written with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Powers That Be is a fine mix of fantasy and science-fiction. Yanaba Maddock gets sent to the planet Petaybee in order to figure out why her company was inexplicably failing on the new planet. But when she miraculously starts to heal from old injuries while there, she decides to protect Petaybee and to try to figure out the mysteries behind it. Because it's co-written, it loses some of Anne's very distinct writing, but it more than makes up for it with great characters and a great world.
"I improvise. We do a lot of that on Petaybee." - Powers That Be
But you definitely want to try out the dragons.
Look around you, Lessa of Pern, look around the Weyr with unveiled eyes. Old and hallowed is the Weyr? Yes, but shabby and worn – and disregarded. - Dragonflight
Her most infamous work, however, is her Pern series, and that's what most fans of hers come in wanting to read. Science-fiction meets fantasy in the tales of dragons and their Riders and have long captivated the hearts of readers of all generations. But considering the series has over thirty books to date, with more being written by Anne's son, it's a daunting task if a reader wants to start them.
Luckily, Anne's books just all take place on the same world -- though the series is tied together, and though you could read them in chronological order, it's only the sheer number of books that are about Pern that make it scary. Once you divide it up into the mini-series and standalones, it's not nearly as intimidating as number makes it seem.
If you're coming to Pern for the love of dragons, you Riders should start by reading Dragonflight, the first book in the original DragonRiders of Pern trilogy. (It's also available in a compilation with the rest of the trilogy). It tells the tale of Lessa, who bonds with a Queen dragon in an attempt to save Pern from destructive sky-born bacteria known as Thread.
If you're coming to Pern for the amazing world-building, jump straight into Dragonsong, the first book in the Harper Hall trilogy. It takes place at the same time as the original DragonRiders of Pern trilogy, but it gives a good look at the rest of the world of Pern. It follows a girl named Menolly who joins the Harper Hall to train to become a musician.
Or those ambitious readers who love both should read both and then jump straight into All The Weyrs of Pern. All The Weyrs of Pern connects both series and dives into the backstory of Pern as Lessa and Menolly team up - along with some of my other favorite characters - in an attempt to figure out how to destroy Thread for good. It's my favorite overall story of hers and definitely worth reading either (or both) of the previous Pern series to get to.
But between Pern and Petaybee and the moon, there's always somewhere great to delve into with McCaffrey.