Friday, February 19, 2010

Fridays are Fun: Anne McCaffrey's "Freedom" Series

If you've heard of Anne McCaffrey, it's probably been in relation to her Dragonriders of Pern series. But she has written much, much more than that. One of these lesser-known series is the Freedom tetralogy. In it, an army of mercenaries from the stars hit Earth, and Earth hits back.

Spoiler alert: Spoilers may lurk below. Proceed at your own risk.

Actually, though, we don't see much of Earth. Most of the action takes place on a planet some distance away from this spinning rock. The idea is that Earth has been conquered by a bunch of creepy bigheaded guys called the Eosi, and their goon squads, the Catteni. Their standard technique for subduing a civilization is to swoop down on a bunch of major population centers (without calling ahead) and kidnap a whole bunch of random people. It's worked everywhere else, but Humans Are Special.

The protagonist, Kris Bjornsen, got taken away from her university in Denver during this first wave, and as we meet her, she has run away from her Catteni master and is surviving on her own in the jungle of the planet Barevi. Unfortunately, she gets into misadventures with a renegade Catteni named Zainal, and they get carted off to a (seemingly) uninhabited planet, to be used as unwilling pioneers. I won't go into detail, but let's just say it gets better.

The Good: McCaffrey's worldbuilding is impeccable. Particuarly on Botany, she develops a very intricate ecosystem, and it feels like a real world. It's fun to watch the creative solutions that the forced colonists come up with.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the bad nearly outweighs the good. The plot is pretty much a joke. Everything bad turns out to be good in disguise, and the Good Guys are always smarter and better-looking than the Bad Guys. It's one series of implausible events after another. The fact that the Catteni just happened to scoop up a bunch of people with good survival skills, and they just happen to find everything they need is by far the most implausible event. Lastly, the Series Big Bads, the Eosi, get wiped out by massive allergy attacks. More creative than simply shooting them, but it seems to pussify them a little too much.

The Verdict: I'm not sure. If you're looking for something with a believable plot, you're in the wrong series. On the other hand, I enjoyed them, and read through the whole series, so maybe I'm just a sucker for interspecies romance and survival pr0n. If you're looking for the really good McCaffrey, try the Pern series.

The Freedom Tetralogy:
Freedom's Landing
Freedom's Choice
Freedom's Challenge
Freedom's Ransom