Published: 1967 by Ballantine
Genres: Science Fiction
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“The only warning of danger I had was a disgusting wave of dead sea-creature stench.”
One day a young librarian named Sara is walking around Central Park, only to be abducted by aliens. A multitude of horrors occur, and Sara loses consciousness. When she starts coming to, she finds herself playing the role of a mindless servant who is nursing a man at a mental institution. She is careful not to let on that she is conscious and can think for herself again. She doesn’t know where she is, but she’s far away from home, and in an unfamiliar body. Oh, and she’s pretty sure that the man she’s taking care of has been poisoned.
Sara’s intuition is correct, and when she rescues her patient, she learns that his name is Harlan, and that he was Regent to a Warlord before his illness. And by aiding Harlan’s escape, Sara becomes entangled Lotharian politics, and in their fight against the Mil, a race of aliens that prey on humanoids as if they were cattle.
The Mil remind me of something straight out of Lovecraft. We see what happens to people who encounter the Mil, and it’s pretty damn horrifying. But aside from their awful smell, we never see what the Mil look like. It’s left entirely in the readers’ imagination, which makes them all the more terrifying.
The Lotharians have been fighting the Mil for a long time, but their society went from your run-of-the-mill medieval barbarian society to stealing Mill spacecraft. So you’ve got this planet that’s pretty much the most fun elements of sci-fi and fantasy wrapped into one, and society there is based around the threat of high-casualty space warfare. It’s technology is both ahead of and behind our own–the kind of society that’s got space travel but not paper.
The relationship between Sara and Harlan is like something out of a vintage romance novel, except that Sara has skills and talents and is a competent human being. That’s why it’s particularly noticeable that Harlan always takes the lead, to the point that aside from rescuing Harlan, Sara doesn’t take the initiative on anything for the rest of the book. Their sexual relationship is definitely more attuned to the cultural norms of the 1960s than today, as the lines of consent are not as clear-cut as one would like them to be. But Restoree is a product of its time, and I’m not going to judge it too harshly for it.
I loved Restoree, even though it doesn’t stand the test of time as well as some of McCaffrey’s other books. It’s got that late 1960s pulpy sword and planet vibe that I absolutely adore and can’t get enough of.