Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: Catteni Series by Anne McCaffrey

Title: Catteni Series (or Freedom Series)
Freedom’s Landing
Freedom’s Choice
Freedom’s Challenge
Freedom’s Ransom

Author:  Anne McCaffrey
Information on Series: Four books, I’m reviewing them as a whole. 

Audience: Adult with YA appeal
Rating: (scale 1-5 with 5 being the highest): 4

TL;DR:  Fast-paced series about a strong female protagonist abducted by aliens, dropped on a planet with other captives, and their fight to survive.  Uncomplicated world building, surprisingly upbeat and at times romantic.  A good introduction to the writings of Anne McCaffrey with nary a dragon in sight.  

Longer Review: Kristin Bjornsen was kidnapped by the alien Catteni and forced into slavery on the planet Barevi.  Kris did not meekly accept her fate, she stole her master’s flitter and escaped into the forest.  After months of living, and surviving on her own, she sees what looks like another Catteni hunting party in flitters flying towards her location. When she looks closer, she realizes on of the flitters is being pursued by the others.  Kris saves the Catteni in the pursued flitter, knocks him unconscious, and then tries to return him to the main city on Barevi. They are both captured by the Catteni, put to sleep by some drug, loaded into spaceships and then dropped, along with hundreds of others, on yet another planet.  This, my friends, is when the story really begins. 

Initially the other dropped people (some human, some not) want to kill the Catteni, Zanial. Kris and a handful of other drops see the wisdom of keeping a Catteni alive for the time being.  Zanial can provide insight as to what their purpose is on this new planet.  Plus, Kris feels somewhat responsible for his situation even though his race is completely responsible for her situation. Kris is a good person despite what has happened to her. The Catteni deposit slaves on a planet and if they survive then the planet is safe to inhabit and colonize.  If they don’t survive, the Catteni move on and drop slaves on another planet.  The Catteni civilization operates as a caste system, and Zanial is of the highest caste.  A Catteni has never been dropped before, let alone one of his ranking.  Zanial, being pragmatic, says “I dropped, I stay”.  He accepts his fate and helps the rest of the drops survive. 

The new planet they land on isn’t quite as uninhabited as the Catteni think.  Yet another alien race, one nobody has heard of, uses the planet as a giant farm. There are cow-like creatures, terrifying native birds, and something that sucks all the garbage into the ground at night keeping the planet clean.  The garbage cleaner doesn't exactly differentiate between "garbage" and anything else on the ground.  When Kris and the others were first dropped, many were sucked into the ground by the garbage cleaner before they woke up from their drugged state.  The first three books chronicle the survival and colonization of this new planet, dubbed Botany, and Zanial’s desire to spark a rebellion amongst his own people against the alien race that controls the Catteni.  Yes, the Catteni are acting under orders from a superior race, the Eosi, and Zanial isn’t too happy about being under their thumb. The problem is, Zanial is stuck on Botany with no way to communicate with his fellow Catteni dissenters.  Or is he?

This was my first foray into the writing of Anne McCaffrey.  The Catteni series provides some interesting world building without being totally overwhelming.  There is a huge cast of characters and with each book that cast just gets bigger and bigger.  I found that if I just focused on Kris, Zainal, and a few other main characters, I didn’t get too lost or bogged down by who was who.  The books were written in the late to mid-1990s (with the exception of book 4) so I enjoyed the pop culture references.  These books are tame enough for the YA crowd, but they may or may not get some of these references.  

The fourth book, Freedom’s Ransom, was written about 4 years after the third. It provided a nice wrap up to the story while still leaving some questions open to the imagination.  There wasn’t much action and a whole lot of talking.  The story could have easily ended after book 3, but there wasn’t any harm in finishing off the series.  If you are curious about how Earth survived the Catteni invasion, then book 4 is a must read. 

The Catteni series is about life on other planets and the will to survive. The drops are of different races, but they quickly learn that by working together they will have a better chance of survival. Zanial, as the lone Catteni, manages to make the best of his terrible situation.  Imagine being the only member of the race that forced everyone else on Botany into slavery.  By accepting his fate, and following another leader instead of lording over the others, he is accepted as one of the group.  I love that Kris is a strong, capable, well respected female character. She stands on her own two feet and her strengths are applauded and recognized by her fellow drops.  

I read all four books in about a week making them feel like one long novel which is why I chose to review them as a whole.  After Freedom's Landing, each subsequent book contains a preface that summarizes the events from previous books. That would come in handy if you read the series over a long period of time and can't quite remember what happened in a previous book.  

Read Alikes:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

While on a mission to the planet Gethen, earthling Genly Ai is sent by leaders of the nation of Orgoreyn to a concentration camp from which exiled prime minister of the nation of Karhide tries to rescue him.   

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

An expert at simulated war games, Andrew "Ender" Wiggins believes that he is engaged in one more computer war game when, in truth, he is commanding the last Earth fleet against an alien race seeking Earth's complete destruction. 

The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro

Kamoj Argali is the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet. To keep her people from starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, the boorish and brutal ruler of a prosperous province. But before Argali and Ironbridge are wed, a mysterious stranger from a distant planet sweeps in and forces Kamoj into marriage, throwing her world into utter chaos.

Amy Muchmore, Carnegie-Stout Public Library

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