Driving to the Cape and back this past weekend gave me the chance to finish listening to Anne McCaffrey’s Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, a collection of medium length stories about the early days of this wonderous land. The Audible.com audio version was read by Meredith MacRae.
As an audio production, I found Chronicles to be a little disappointing. While Ms. MacRae is certainly intelligible, she puts very little “drama” into her reading. While this is better than too much drama, it does make it easy to get lost in long conversational passages, losing track of which character is saying what. I also, more than ever before, had to rewind and re-listen to passages as my mind just drifted away from her very even, almost monotone, reading. She also has a habit of micro-pausing before character names, which makes her sound a bit synthetic to my ears, but if you haven’t listened to much synthesized voice it might not bother you. To me it sounded like the names were ‘filled in’ to a templated speach.
As a book, Chronicles is really directed at the hardcore Pern fan. I used to be one of these but I’ve been away from the books for years. As the title would suggest, these are tales from very early in Pern’s history, from the initial survey of the planet until about 60 years after the colony was established. Reading these stories gives us a Pernese history lesson and not too much more. Since they’re such thin slices of the timeline, but so close to each other, you no sooner get really attached to a set of characters than the story ends and in the next one, the people you knew are all now dead. It got a little grim. However the last story makes the book worth reading, as it shows us how Pern got as isolated as it is in the later books; that was a fascinating tale, though told rather lacklusterly, if that makes sense. Like an average TV documentary that chronicles a fascinating bit of history. Read it for the history, not for the stories. But do read it…I think it’d be more enjoyable read than listened to and I’m giving the audi-book version a thumbs down.