Restoree – by Anne McCaffery
While thinking about what book to review next I thought about what it was that attracted me to SoGoPro in the first place – like many other I am a huge fan of Hilarie Burton. So then I started thinking about why I am a fan of hers. Out of the 5 billion reasons I came up with one stood out to me. She is a strong independent woman with amazing initiative. I’m sure any of her fans would agree with me.
So from this I thought about books I love that have strong independent female characters and the first book that came to mind was Restoree by Anne McCaffery. While the main character of Restoree doesn’t exactly remind me of Hilarie, she is a great example of a strong independent heroine hence my decision to review Restoree this week.
My whole family are very into science fiction. So it’s not really surprising that one of the first science fiction books I ever read was Restoree. In fact it may have been the first adult book I’d ever read.
Restoree is McCaffery’s earliest novel, first published in 1967, and in my opinion it’s barely dated at all. I think I’ve read it at least a dozen times, and although the story is flawed in some places it never ceases to entertain me.
The heroine of Restoree is Sara, a young plain woman from New York City who is walking in Central Park one day when she is abducted by aliens. When re regains her self awareness she finds she is in a mental institution working as a nurse/custodian in charge of a man in a deteriorated mental and physical state. What is more alarming to Sara is that when she looks into a mirror she sees a stranger before her, her skin is golden brown, she has several scars missing, and her nose is straight and perfect. As she learns more about the world she has been dropped into she discovers that the man she is caring for is actually being kept in his stupor via drugged food. Once she starts to withhold his food he returns to his sanity and they escape. His name is Harlan, regent of the planet Lothar. When Sara mentions her new appearance to him he becomes alarmed and warns her that no one else must know she is a restoree. Sara is then thrust into the centre of a serious political conflict in a world she knows nothing of, where one small misstep could mean the end of her life.
What I love most about this book is the character of Sara; she is such a strong independent heroine which in the 60’s was almost unheard of in science fiction. Most heroines at that stage were simply damsels in distress waiting for a big strong man to save them. While Harlan is certainly a big strong man (and of course they fall in love) his purpose is not to continually come to her rescue. In fact it is Sara who starts the book by rescuing him.
McCaffery unfolds the story nicely, unveiling information piece by piece, and we slowly learn what happened to Sara, and more precisely what a restoree is and why it must be kept secret. The whole concept of being skinned alive and hung up as food by one group of aliens only to be rescued and ‘restored’ by another group of aliens, is enough to make anyone queasy, and the chapter of the book where Sara must revisit and face this nightmare is horrifying, sad, and liberating all at the same time.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of this book is that Sara is fortunate enough to be rescued from her abduction by a second group of aliens whose appearance and planet are so similar to our own. Having said that it’s an easy flaw to overcome as long as you don’t dwell on it, Sara’s ability to fit in as easily as she does is necessary for the rest of the story to progress naturally.
All in all this book is a great read despite its flaws, with great characterisation and some clever ideas. It’s well paced and has a nice balance of the dramatic, gruesome, and romantic.
If you are a fan of science fiction, and strong female characters then I highly recommend Restoree.