I first read Anne McCaffrey’s Restoree over twenty years ago, as a teenager. It struck a chord with me even then, and I have been back to read it several times since.
The vast majority of Anne McCaffrey’s work is in a number of series, but unusually for this prolific author, Restoree is a stand-alone book. Perhaps this is because it was McCaffrey’s first full work to be published, or perhaps simply she had no desire to revisit it. Whatever the reason, this is a complete story in itself, and really requires no sequel.
The story opens with Sara, a native of Earth, who gradually awakens to find herself working as a nurse, kept drugged and functioning a bit like a robot, in a psychiatric clinic. She realises that she is on an alien planet, Lothar. As chance would have it, her patient is the Regent of the planet, Harlan, a powerful man fallen on hard times.
Sara is shocked to realise that her appearance has changed; for the better, in her opinion. As the story develops, we discover that Sara has been snatched from Earth by the alien race Mil, hated and feared by the Lotharians. Her horrific experience at the hands of the Mil had sent her into deep shock – something not unknown to the Lotharians, who she learns would regard her recovery and status as a restoree with revulsion.
The plot is full of political intrigue as Harlan escapes from the clinic and fights to regain control, with Sara’s assistance. There is a hint of romance, as the relationship between these two deepens, but this is not at all the main element in the story.
Sara is portrayed as a strong and capable woman. McCaffrey states in her own preface that she wrote the book as a reaction to the way women were generally portrayed in science fiction. Her protest has meant that Sara is no simpering heroine waiting to be rescued, but a resourceful character who takes the initiative. I find her very believable and likeable.
There are some obvious, glaring holes in the plot, such as how Lothar happens to be populated by human beings, despite it not being a colony of Earth. Technology in the book also reflects the time when it was written; 1968. However, if we suspend our logical analysis of science and knowledge gained in the intervening years, this is still a very readable tale.