Anne McCaffrey Novels

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Restoree by Anne McCaffrey

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Published in 1967, this is McCaffrey’s first full-length novel. Her protagonist, Sara, is a strong, intelligent, self-sufficient woman — a rarity at the time McCaffrey wrote this. Science fiction was still a predominantly male field, written by men, for men, about men. Women were often portrayed as weak, helpless beings in need of rescue. In Restoree, McCaffrey turns the tables. For Sara, the past is a blur. One day she is walking in Central Park, the next thing she knows, an indefinite amount of time has passed and she is in some unknown place, far, far away. However, as her awareness returns, it becomes obvious that things are not quite right. Apparently she is now a caretaker in some sort of medical facility, and the authorities believe she is incapable of independent thought or action. Gradually Sara realizes that her charge, Harlan, may not be there of his own free will.

How Sara takes advantage of an opportunity to escape, and continues to take charge of her own life, make for an interesting story. By aiding Harlan, she becomes enmeshed in a highly charged political situation, in a world she knows virtually nothing of. The least misstep could have serious, if not deadly, consequences. Sara finds that she can be betrayed by a friend as easily as by a foe.

This was an entertaining novel, although it did have some weaknesses. In my mind, this book’s biggest flaw was the fact that Sara is fortunate enough to be transported to a planet whose environment and inhabitants are similar enough to Earth’s to be unnoticed. McCaffrey never really addresses this highly unlikely coincidence. But, considering this was one of her first efforts, it certainly gives an indication of just how much talent McCaffrey has and also points out how her writing skills have grown over the ensuing years. If you are not too critical about the logical details and can suspend your disbelief, this isn’t a bad tale. It’s a quick little book that keeps you involved in the intrigue and rooting for the heroine!

Reviewed by Diane

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Nimisha’s Ship by Anne McCaffrey

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Lady Nimisha Boynton-Rondymense is an anomaly on the planet Vega III, situated somewhere in the future. A highly placed member of the First Families, beautiful, wealthy, intelligent, she is not content to pursue the genteel occupations deemed appropriate for someone at her level of aristocracy. From the time she was a young girl, she exhibited a strong mechanical aptitude. Encouraged by her sire, the head of the Rondymense Ship Yard, her abilities grew and improved as she did. Sooner than she expected, Nimisha finds herself in charge of the Ship Yard and in the midst of designing a highly experimental ship.

While on a solo test flight, Nimisha encounters some peculiarities of her own and ends up in an unexplored and unknown area of space. In the meantime, her young daughter and good friends are left behind, desperately searching for her. Over the ensuing years, they must deal with an insidious takeover attempt by a disgruntled family member, as well as some life-threatening hostilities. However, the majority of this novel deals with Nimisha’s discovery of an M-class planet and her subsequent adventures there.

McCaffrey is at her best while describing the spacefaring technology and Nimisha’s efforts to survive and flourish in a new and sometimes dangerous environment. Although this is definitely a stand-alone story, some of the settings will seem familiar to long-time readers of McCaffrey’s works. Vega III is a member of the Federated Sentient Planets (FSP), while the world Nimisha finds seems vaguely reminiscent of Pern. It’s very easy to believe that Vega III and Pern coexist in the same universe. McCaffrey’s character development is as good as ever. Likable characters and well thought out relationships help to keep this novel from being just another shipwreck space story. McCaffrey’s fans should be well pleased with this novel, but I expect it will be just as enjoyable to someone who is unfamiliar with her work.

Reviewed by Diane

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The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

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Helva was born severely deformed, but in the future on Central Worlds, this was not necessarily a death sentence. Technology had advanced to the point that, if the brain inside the poor, weak body was healthy, an alternative existence was possible. Encapsulated in a metal shell, the resulting "shell person" would be paired with the hardware and mechanisms deemed most appropriate for their abilities and personalities. After extensive testing and training, Helva was united with the most technologically advanced hardware available — a scout ship. Helva was not just the pilot or the computer system; she literally was the ship. But, it was conventional, and necessary, to pair these so-called "brains" with a mobile, human partner, known as a "brawn."

Depending on the pairing, the brain/brawn relationship could be as close as a marriage, or as sterile as a business relationship. Considering the longevity of the brains (several centuries was not unusual), they were sure to have more than one partner during their lifetime. The Ship Who Sang is a series of loosely linked vignettes, each of which could stand alone as a short story. The unifying theme is Helva’s ongoing search for the ideal brawn. As the novel progresses, the reader can see Helva’s character growing and maturing as she deals with a variety of challenging and stressful circumstances.

McCaffrey has gone on to write a number of Brain/Brawn stories, but The Ship Who Sang was her first effort. I found the brain/brawn relationship to be an interesting concept, but felt that the novel fell short of some of McCaffrey’s better known works. I would have enjoyed this better if it had flowed more smoothly and paid more attention to the development of some of the other characters. Instead, characters were frequently introduced for just one section and then abandoned at the end of that episode. Few of the characters were present throughout the entire novel. Still, it was a quick and easy read and sets the stage for a whole new series of books from McCaffrey.

Reviewed by Diane

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