While I was out searching for books recently, I found the Freedom novels by Anne McCaffrey. I finished Freedom’s Landing (Science Fiction 324 pages) a few days ago and immediately started on the second book.
If you haven’t read this book or this series, I’m going to give away a lot of spoilers so you might not want to read my review unless you’ve either read the books or don’t care about having plot points divulged.
This is one of those rare instances where I had to read at least part of the back of the book so that I had something of a clue about what was going on: “Kristin Bjornsen lived a normal life, right up until the day the spaceships floated into view above Denver. As human slaves were herded into the maw of a massive vessel, Kris realized her normal life was over and her fight for freedom was just beginning. The alien Catteni value strength and intelligence in their slaves – and Kris had managed to survive her enslavement while hundreds of other humans have not. But her trial has just begun, for now she finds herself part of a massive experiment. The aliens have discovered a new world, and they have a simple way of finding out if it’s habitable: drop hundreds of slaves on the surface and see what happens. If they survive, colonization can begin. If not, there’s always more slaves.”
I assumed this book would take place right as the ships came out of orbit over Earth and that I would see Kris and her normal life for a bit before the colonization of other planets came into play. I was quite wrong. This novel starts out on the planet Barevi, after Kris has already been through quite a lot.
Artistically, I think this was nicely done. I have to admit, though, that for the first three pages, I kept turning to the front of the book, trying to make sure that I really did buy the whole series and that the book I was currently reading was actually the first book in the series because so many events were referenced that I felt there maybe should have been a book or several before this one. I very much respect throwing the readers into an unfamiliar, alien environment right off the bat. And then to find out that the alien planet Kris currently resides on is not actually the alien planet the back of the book talks about for colonization purposes? I thought it was complicated, realistic, and quite fabulous. It was also a fairly smart move, since most of the time, the characters you meet early in a story are typically the ones you remember the best and spend the most emotional investment towards. Obviously, all the people Kris might have known when she was abducted didn’t survive the trip, or didn’t stay in the same area.
I saw a lot of myself in Kris and that was really neat. I really liked how Kris took care of everyone else and accomplished whatever task she took on herself, even though that meant carrying Patti Sue for two days and then helping with tasks around the camp that needed to be done. Throughout the entire novel, Kris rarely does anything for herself. Everything she does is for the benefit of the survivors. She is a person of honor and is genuinely good.
The bulk of the story is a fairly basic survival on an alien planet kind of story, which is great because that’s kind of the theme of my current work in progress. There’s a lot of really good parts about human ingenuity and social justice, taking care of alien species and working together for the greater good. There’s a lot about how difficult basic survival is and how much of our lives we have gained back in our current society by not having to worry about things like survival. There’s also a lot of underlying terror, especially with the night crawlers and the meat processing plants. I have a very good imagination and I can get very clear mental images of what those situations would be like.
The only thing that sort of frustrated me was that most of the able-bodied people wind up pairing off. I really like and respect Kris as a hero until she has sex with Zainal. They’re a good match and the pairing is solid, but I was just so hoping that I could get a main character that was blatantly asexual – that Kris and Zainal would be solid partners and not have to be physically inclined. But so it goes.
The book builds tension as more information is presented and learned and the story ends at something of a cliff-hanger and I’m really glad that I had the second book ready for when I finished the first one. Overall, I would probably rate this book as a solid three. I’m happy I own it and it has a lot of great things going for it.