Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Restoree by Anne McCaffrey

My Rating: 2.5 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 4.60 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.84 / 5.00

One moment Sara is walking through the streets of New York City, the next she is overwhelmed by a terrible stench and the sky darkens. After this she is mercifully unconscious for most of the time, with occasional flashes of incredible pain and glimpses of mutilated people everywhere within an enclosed space.

Some time later, she gradually returns to full consciousness to find that she is acting as a nurse to a comatose man. However, the greatest surprise is that she has a new body, one that she does not recognize. As she goes through her daily routine, she comes to the realization that most of the other nurses are not so conscious of their surroundings and are treated as if they are blind and deaf. Acting as if she were the same, she overhears the guards discussing the man that she cares for and discovers that he is actually the Regent and is being drugged through his food to keep him unconscious. She also discovers that she is no longer on Earth, but on the planet Lothar.

She stops feeding the Regent his drugged food, replacing it with her own, and finally manages to wake him from his drug-induced sleep. As they race to escape, she becomes embroiled in the dangerous politics of a strange world.

I first read this title in the late 1980s when I was first introduced to Ms McCaffrey’s writing by my husband to be. In fact, I think it was actually the very first of her works that I tried, which makes me realize how much my tastes have changed since then. Unlike The Ship Who Sang and Dragonflight, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed when I reread them recently, I was amazed that I had ever liked this title at all. Perhaps if I had seen this cover, from a later edition, I might have avoided it like the plague . . .

The premise is very interesting. A young woman is abducted from Earth, appears to be butchered and / or tortured and then wakes to find that she has a new appearance and is on an alien world. That would be interesting enough, but she is being used as a non-thinking nurse for a man that she discovers is a very important political figure. For some reason she does not remain semiconscious like the other nurses, but recovers her full consciousness and is sensible enough to realize that she needs to hide her difference. Obviously she is intrigued by her charge and appalled to find that he is being kept drugged. When she has him sufficiently recovered they escape and then launch themselves into an adventure of political intrigue and maneuvering.

As I said, this is all very intriguing and allows Ms McCaffrey to explore some interesting Science Fiction ideas. However, no amount of wonderful concepts can get us away from the fact that this is structured somewhat like a Romance novel and that the female lead has absolutely no agency at all. Oh sure, she is spunky, independent and strong willed, but the only direct action that she takes is to reduce Harlan’s medication. After that she is told what to do for the rest of the book and is pushed, pulled and physically assaulted with monotonous frequency. There is nothing more likely to switch me off a novel than an allegedly feisty woman who is actually just a pawn for the men around her.

Ironically, Ms McCaffrey wrote this title as being a reaction to the portrayal of women in Science Fiction at the time, so it is a shame that it has not stood the test of time.
“Restoree” was a once-off jab at the way women were portrayed in science-fiction. Don’t forget that book was published in 1967. I have no need to write a sequel since it served its purpose of an intelligent, survivor-type woman as the protagonist of an S-F story. (

I can only be glad that I read more of her works and found them to be less romantic and more egalitarian in their treatment of women. I was genuinely surprised at how I had warped the memory of this story and I am afraid that I cannot recommend it to anyone wanting to read Ms McCaffrey’s non-Pern titles.

I read this as part of:

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