If you've been nosing around the reviews of the later books, you might have noticed a general feeling that Anne McCaffrey's latest efforts on Pern aren't up to par. I have to agree with that, because in my opinion, this is the book that sets the standard the later books are failing to live up to.
There's so much going on in this book--from the conflicts with the Oldtimers that show how much Pern changed in its long Interval, to the rediscovery of the fire lizards and the re-colonization of the Southern Continent, the ascendancy of Benden Weyr as the primary power on Pern, and the question of whether Thread can be destroyed on Red Star--and there's a huge cast of characters from both Weyr and Hold, along with an in-depth visualization of the world of Pern and its culture and traditions, both past and present.
Yet all this is focused through a core cast of well-defined characters whose personal stories are not neglected. There's room among all that world-changing for a tender love story, personal courage, and success against all odds. And the dragons--gotta have dragons! :)
The plot is conveyed with not only a cohesiveness, but an immediacy missing from the later books. Here, I'm right there with the Southern weyrfolk as they rediscover fire-lizards, right there with F'nor as he peers at the Red Star through that distance-viewer. Reading All The Weyrs of Pern--itself one of the best of the later books--is like reading a report about what the characters did next instead of being there. In Dragonquest, there's no question that the main characters are the movers and shakers of this planet, and that what they do will change their world--and that I care what those changes will be.
I highly recommend Dragonquest, in fact all of the Dragonriders trilogy. If you've read the newer stuff, you are sure to like this as well...and if you haven't read the newer books yet, read this first so that you'll care when you do.