Dragonsdawn with Sorka and the fire lizards
Book Information
Author Anne McCaffrey
First Published 1988
Publisher Ballantine / Del Rey
Pages 337
Cover Artist(s) Michel Whelan

Dragonsdawn tells the story of the beginnings of Pern.

After 15 years of cold sleep, 6000 colonists land on their new planet, seeking a simpler existence, escaping the aftermath of interstellar war and an overly technical society. The colony prospers until the deadly Thread starts to rain from the sky, destroying all life it comes in contact with.


Pern was a beautiful planet, Earthlike enough to feel like home, yet unspoiled by the industrial development and interstellar wars that had ravaged the other planets of humankind. And the few thousand colonists who came to Pern intended to keep it that way. They staked their claims to the land and settled down to build a low-tech, agricultural paradise on the world they had loved at first sight.
Then suddenly disaster struck. Deadly spores fell like silver threads from the sky, devouring everything - and every one - in their path. Fire and Water could destroy the Thread, as the stuff came to be called, but the colonists could not keep up with relentless attacks. Very quickly it became clear that the colony’s resources could not support a long-term fight against the menace - and the Thread was predicted to fall for fifty years. Some other solution would have to be found if the colony was to survive.
Then some of the colonists noticed that the small, dragonlike lizards that inhabit their new world were joining in the fight against Thread, breathing fire on it and teleporting to safety. If only, they thought, the dragonets were big enough for a human to ride and intelligent enough to work as a team with a rider.
And so they set their most talented geneticist to work to create the creatures Pern so desperately needed - Dragons!

Plot summary


Three colony ships, the Yokohama, Bahrain and Buenos Aires, approach Pern, carrying over six thousand colonists. After fifteen years of travel, everyone is woken from cold sleep. Teams meet to discuss their plans for landing while probes send them information about their new home. Captains Paul Benden, Ezra Keroon and Jim Tillek choose a landing site in the Southern Continent. Soon both passengers and materials will be making the shuttle trips to the surface.

While pilot Sallah Telgar waits for her first trip to the planet, she overhears plans being made by Avril Bitra, Bart Lemos and Nabhi Nabol and wonders what they're up to.

Young Sorka Hanrahan and her family wake up, but since her father, Red Hanrahan, is a veterinarian, and her mother, Mairi Hanrahan, is child care, both important jobs but not immediately neeced, the family won't be disembarking until one of the last shuttle flights. Sorka makes a (reluctant) friend in Sean Connell, one of the traveling folk.

Avril Bitra meets with Stev Kimmer to inform him of her plans: to obtain some of Pern's natural wealth and then leave the planet. She has with her the plans left by her ancestor, Shavva bint Faroud, who was part of the EEC team that surveyed Pern.

Pilot Kenjo Fusaiyuki and his co-pilot Jiro Akamoto lead the first trip to Pern's surface. Six shuttles bring materials and colonists. On Kenjo's shuttle are Paul Benden and Emily Boll, leaders of the colony. The shuttles land on Pern, and Kenjo is alarmed when Paul and Emily leave the shuttle through its escape hatch. When he opens the passenger hatch, all can see Paul and Emily standing by two flags: one for the FSP and one for Pern. Paul and Emily welcome the first colonists to Pern.

On Pern, the teams begin work. One team sets up the landing strip for the shuttles. One team begins construction on the meteorology tower. Another team, led by Mar Dook, Pol Nietro, Phas Radamanth, AC Sopers and Ted Tubberman, begin the process of adapting Earth plants to Pern's soil. At the end of the day, those on the planet sit around a bonfire, watched on the viewscreens by those still on board the three colony ships.

Next day, Sallah and her co-pilot Barr Hamil make their first journey to Pern. When they return to the Yokohama at the end of the day, Kenjo scolds them for their careless use of shuttle fuel; Sallah, knowing that she wasn't at fault, decides to keep careful records of her fuel usage on her shuttle flights.

Sorka and her family finally make it to Landing on one of Sallah's flights. After several days of school and work, Sorka's hard work and initiative have impressed headmaster Rudi Shwartz enough that she is assigned to more independent duties. One day she, Jacob Chernoff, and Chung are sent off to catalog and collect life samples along the beach. Sorka wanders off from the boys and almost stumbles into a nest of eggs. The mother, a beautiful golden flying creature, scolds Sorka. As Sorka watches the mother, she finds Sean Connell also watching. The two children make a pact to check on the eggs. One day, the mother is joined by several of the dragonets (or fire lizards, as Sean calls them). The dragonets are bringing food for the about-to-hatch eggs. As the eggs hatch, a bronze and two brown dragonets make their way to Sorka and Sean, who feed them. When the other dragonets, including the new hatchlings, fly off, Sorka and Sean's trio stay with them. Sean's father, Porrig Connell, hopes Sean's two browns will help keep the tunnel snakes away. Sorka's bronze, named Duke, attracts the attention of scientists Pol Nietro and Bay Harkenon, who want to take him away for study, but Red Hanrahan suggests they let Sorka keep him at home, and Sorka promises to keep the scientists updated on Duke's growth.

The colony ships have been mostly emptied of people. When Sallah sees that Avril Bitra and her cronies have volunteered for a weekend skeleton crew aboard the Yokohama, she is suspicious and signs up as well. On the bridge with Boris Pahlevi, Sallah does some investigating. She deduces that there should be much more available fuel, so Kenjo must be stashing it somewhere. She also notices that Avril and her friends are searching the computers for information on leaving Pern. At first Sallah worries that Avril and Kenjo are working together, but she dismisses that idea, only to worry that Avril might find Kenjo's hoard.

Soon, many of the colonists have impressed their own dragonets. Many discoveries are made about the animals: they can teleport, they eat ravenously during their first few weeks as they reach their final growth; their skin dries out as they grow, requiring regular oiling; and the "owners" can sense their dragonets' emotions.

Sallah, having discovered Kenjo's hoard and having overheard Avril discussing her plans with her cohorts, is tired of the intrigue and volunteers to fly the geologists and miners to their expedition to Drake's Lake. While there, she has to endure Drake Bonneau's advances and Svenda Olubushtu's jealousy, while at the same time trying to attract Tarvi Andiyar's attention. When Drake returns from a supply run, he has news: everyone is being called back to Landing for a Thanksgiving celebration — the last load from the colony ships has officially landed.

Back at Landing, Sallah relates her concerns to Zi Ongola, who is also concerned that Avril will find Kenjo's hoard. However, Zi is grateful for the information, and Sallah is relieved to have passed it on to someone in charge.

As everyone enjoys the celebration, an mild earthquake hits the area. Paul Benden quickly calms any fears, while some of the scientists investigate. The dolphins are sent to watch for any tsumanis, and the next day Patrice de Broglie reports that the epicenter was out in the ocean.

The colony prospers, and many of the plants and animals brought from Earth thrive. One day in Landing, a herd of wherries attacks the poultry. To the colonists' surprise, the dragonets drive the wherries away, and Sorka even thinks she saw a little flame come from Duke, though she doesn't tell anyone.

Pol and Bay, still interested in the dragonets, decide the best way to study them is by finding some eggs and dead bodies of the dragonets. They enlist Sorka and Sean to help them on their expedition, promising Sean a horse of his own as payment for his services. Jim Tillek and his crew sail the team to a likely spot. On the expedition, Sorka finds a gold's nest and takes an egg for Bay, who impresses the queen, while Sean finds some dead dragonets and gold's eggs for study.

Pern's system of government is set up, and Paul Benden, Emily Boll, and Zi Ongola have regular meetings to discuss the colony, including keeping track of Avril Bitra and her friends. Zi has taken precautions to prevent anyone from leaving the planet in the Mariposa. There have been several weddings, including that of Zi to Sabra Stein, and Emily is heading for one with Pierre de Courci. Meanwhile, Sallah and Tarvi travel to the Northern Continent to explore a cave system there, and Sallah manages to successfully seduce Tarvi.

Sean's horse, which he names Cricket, is born. Meanwhile, Bay and Pol have tried Mentasynth on the eggs her queen, Mariah, has laid.

Avril continues to make her plans. She and several others have set up at Big Island, where they are mining gems that she intends to take with her when she leaves the planet.


Eight years after landing, the colony has grown. People have spread out across the Southern Continent. They have married and had children. Many people have impressed fire lizards.

One day in Landing, people notice their fire lizards are behaving strangely, almost as if they are frightened. Fire lizards convince Sabra Stein-Ongola, Pol Nietro and Bay Harkenon to get inside. Sean Connell and Sorka Hanrahan, one of many hunting parties, are guided by their fire lizards to take shelter. Zi Ongola notices a smudge on the horizon and takes a sled to investigate. Suddenly, Landing is hit by a rain of thread-like creatures that devour anything organic. Those who can, take shelter. Fire lizards defend Landing and anyone out in the open by flaming Thread.

When the fall is over, many deaths are reported, with some stakes completely devastated. Investigations are begun into this menace and how to defend against it. The consensus is that it comes from the wandering planet, though whether it is a prelude to invasion is up for debate. The Thread can be killed by fire or water.



Main article: List of characters in Dragonsdawn


Dragon Riders




Fire Lizards
Other creatures




Preceded By:Nerilka's Story Pern Stories (In Publication Order) Followed By:The Renegades of Pern
Preceded By:"The P.E.R.N. Survey" Pern Stories (In Chronological Order) Followed By:The Dolphins' Bell

Cover Image Notes

[1] Picturing Pern [2]