Restoree, by Anne McCaffrey

According to Anne McCaffrey’s website, her first novel, 1967’s sci-fi/romance Restoree, was intended as “a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in sci-fi novels in the 50s and early 60s”. My knowledge of 50s and 60s sci-fi is pretty much limited to Dune, which has more badass female characters than you can shake a stick at, so I’m afraid I have no idea what kind of “absurd and unrealistic portrayals” she’s talking about. Alien versions of June Cleaver? Intergalactic space floozies? Female-dominated planets that keep men around for procreation, heavy lifting, and difficult math problems*?

Whatever. The point is--her intentions were noble.

Lofty goals aside, Restoree is a pulp fiction gem. The heroine--a plain, rather gloomy librarian named Sara--is abducted by an alien race called the Mil during a walk in Central Park. Months later, Sara wakes up to find herself working as a mindless attendant in a mental facility on a planet called Lothar. She also discovers that someone has been kind enough to give her extensive plastic surgery, transforming her into a full-on babe. It doesn’t take Sara long to work out that her moronic charge is being drugged into imbecility, so she devises a cunning plan to allow them both to escape the institution. Unfortunately, no sooner do they gain their freedom then a fresh host of difficulties pops up--the Mil have been attacking Lothar for centuries and show no signs of stopping, Sara’s charge is a prominent figure in Lothar’s cutthroat political battles, and Sara’s smokin’ hot new body is clearly the result of “restoration”, a Frankenstein-style forbidden practice that involves full-body plastic surgery and carries an automatic death sentence for both the restorer and the restoree.

Restoree is one long series of alien attacks, romantic tension, and political machinations, and sometimes it feels like the author had more balls in the air than she could handle. McCaffrey’s “realistic” heroine adapts to a foreign world with very un-realistic ease, parts of the book are painfully dated, and the über-manly (and über-hirsute) romantic hero did absolutely nothing for me. On the other hand, this is pulp fiction, not Jane Austen, and should be judged accordingly. Restoree may not be perfect, but it’s damn entertaining.

*Heh. My mom says this one is a real book. Anybody know the title?
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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