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Nerilka’s Story, Anne McCaffrey


This novella, set in McCaffrey’s epic world of Pern, is stylistically more like a Regency romance than a science-fiction short story. McCaffrey provides an prologue which explains the setting and historical background of the story, but it is more confusing than explanatory, and readers would do well to skip to the story itself.

Nerilka is one of the many daughters of the Lord of Fort Hold, and as a plain, hard-working girl, harbors no romantic thoughts of a lavish marriage and escape from Fort Hold. She spends most of her time gathering and preparing medicinal plants for the healers. Her parents and four sisters are visiting another Hold when a disease and quarantine strikes Pern. Nerilka’s father, in defiance of the quarantine, leaves his dying wife and daughters to return home to Fort Hold, where upon hearing of their death, installs his mistress, Anella, and her extended family in the Fort. Nerilka, appalled at his actions and his refusal to send supplies from their overflowing stockroom to those in need, disguises herself and takes medical supplies to those in need, eventually coming to Ruatha Hold, where she becomes a valued member of the Healers.

Published in the mid 1980’s, the black and white illustrations are rather laughable. I remembered this book as being a charming little story, but upon re-reading, found that it has not aged well — which is funny, seeing that it is science fiction set in the distant future. Perhaps it is best read after consuming several of McCaffrey’s Pern novels and getting in to the proper mindset.

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