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Freedom's Challenge - Anne McCaffrey

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Author: Anne McCaffrey / Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Publisher: Corgi Books

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      08.05.2008 10:34
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      Its one book too many. Book 3 and 4 would have been better served as one attempt.

      The Catteni Series (Freedom series)
      Freedoms Challenge.

      ~ About the Author ~

      Anne McCaffrey is now aged 81, and is a world renowned Science Fiction Writer, best known for a series of books based around the fictional world of Pern, also known as the Dragonrider series.
      The book I am reviewing though comes from a series of 4 books (a little more about them later).
      Although Anne McCaffrey is American, she emigrated to Ireland in the early 1970's and now lives in a house she designed herself in County Wicklow, Ireland, and calls her home Dragonhold-Underhill.
      She enjoys horses and riding.

      Anne McCaffrey has also co-written a number of stories with various other writers, including her own son.

      ~ About the Book ~

      The book is number 3 in a series of 4 books. They are as follows:
      * Freedom's Landing
      * Freedom's Choice
      * Freedom's Challenge
      * Freedom's Ransom

      Freedom's landing was the first book, and is based on the 1970 short story The Thorns of Barevi. I admit to not knowing if the short story is one Anne McCaffrey has written, but I would imagine it is. I've not done further research on this one, hence my reluctance to just assume its one of her shorts.

      The books are all based around a planet that was named Botany by the people who arrived there, and the struggles against the Alien race the Catteni - who themselves are effectively ruled by the Eosi.

      ~ The Book synopsis ~

      These books, while dealing with a large number of displaced people and Aliens from other planets do revolve heavily around Kristin (Kris) Bjornsen, a former slave from Earth, and Zainal, a renegade Catteni, who also becomes Kris's partner. The highest ranking amongst his homeland's population, but he was dropped with the first landing, so he has stayed.
      To help understand the overall feel of this book, here is the briefest of explanations about the previous two.
      Freedom's Landing - About a galactic force who invade Earth to colonize. Many humans are forced as slaves, or simply dumped on unknown planets where they are left to fend for themselves, often with little or no hope of survival. Until now.....

      Freedom's Choice brings about a new set of tests for those who survived the first drop. New friendships are being made, some suspicion still remains, but the one thing that hasn't been lost is hope for survival.
      And now Freedom's Challenge - Kris (originally from Denver), finds herself on a new planet, with a new partner, a child (whose father is another Botany colonist) and somewhere she can call home.
      Despite the new life she and many others who were dropped on the uninhabited (but still dangerous) planet, now called Botany, has a desire to try and give Earth, and indeed other planets that have fallen to the Eosi warlords back their freedom.

      The Catteni or Eosi are not aware of the full capabilities that Botany has, and continue to drop other captives from not only Earth, but other places. It is through these captives that Kris, Zainal and others who have already formed a leadership group find out there are still pockets of resistance on Earth.
      Botany is being protected by a strange bubble, put up by the Alien's who obviously farm vast tracts of the land there, and until now, Botany had only been able to visit the outer stratosphere of the planet using short haul craft.
      But this has now changed, and for the first time they have a craft capable of striking at the very heart of the Eosi; their chances are further enhanced when they find they have strong allies within the Catteni ranks.

      Botany knows they can't overthrow the Eosi or Catteni still sympathetic to the Eosi completely, but can they get to Earth and bring hope to the besieged planet?

      ~ Thoughts on the Book ~

      This is very typical of Anne McCaffrey's writing, and it's a satisfactory read. However, while you might be able to pick up the various characters and situations that have happened without reading the other two books ahead of this one, I wouldn't recommend it.
      I first read these books in 1998, just before the series was completed.
      The book has a nice mix of Human v. Alien (either as enemies or allies), and the characters in general have a nice feel to them, allowing us to have not only believable humans, but also Aliens.

      Now I enjoyed the book, but of the three I don't quite enjoy this one as much as the others, which doesn't entirely make it a bad read, within the context of its style. I knew I wasn't going to get something too deep and meaningful in any sense, and on that basis I wasn't disappointed. If however, you go in expecting something in-depth and highly technical, these books are not going to be for you.

      I was also disappointed with the quality of editing in the book, and have heard the same complaint levelled against not just this but other Anne McCaffrey books by other readers. I believe there was a problem with her losing her main editor at some point, and that would help explain the situation. I have no idea if they have tidied the book up in any reprints (mine is an early copy) - and unfortunately the poor editing doesn't help the story in this instance.

      But despite the problems, the real draw of this book for me though is the interaction between the people on Botany, and even though you know who the good guys are, and who the enemy is (something that usually keeps a story going) it isn't as predictable as I thought it might be. We still have some very intriguing unanswered questions, not least who are the 'farmers' (the name given to the aliens who obviously farm the planet, and whose shield has effectively saved the colony from further Catteni attacks).

      This isn't really a story for the die-hard Sci-Fi fan out there. It doesn't concentrate heavily on the technology for example, just covers it enough so we can understand what it does. The main story here is about relationships and interactions not only between the Human population, but also the Alien populations and how they mix, or in some cases, divide.
      There is romance featured (not least because of the two main characters being involved in a relationship), and again this wouldn't be to everyone's taste.
      Its not a complicated read and so is an ideal pick me up book when I just want to enjoy something without having to put too much thought into it - A time filler really.

      In some ways, I do though think this book would have been bettered compacted and then merged with the last one in the series. I think that this was almost one book too many in where Anne McCaffrey wanted to go with it all and it might have been better to increase the size and pull it together as a group of three novels rather than four.

      ~ Final thoughts ~

      Anne McCaffrey doesn't write books that are generally complicated or overly technical, but based on emotion and people, but set in a different environment to earth and this is a very typical example of that.
      Unfortunately, while the books have a good overall plot, the dialogue isn't always the best and it's this that really does let it down.

      It isn't one of the worse novels I've read but I admit it's not been the best. I would rate it as 3 stars because I am likely to read it again as a series of books - But its not one of my favourites that stays right out front on my bookcase ready to be picked up time after time. I enjoyed the book - nothing more.
      Its part of a sequence of lightweight reading - and in that way it works.

      Otherwise, don't bother.

      ~ Availability ~

      From Amazon.co.uk for £5.49 as paperback.
      ISBN-10: 0552146277

      Also my review on Ciao.

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    • Product Details

      The third novel in the "Catteni" sequence finds the inhabitants of Botany safe from harm beneath the impervious bubble surrounding their planet. But as they find themselves still under attack from monstrous Eosi ships, they formulate a plan to rid themselves of the Eosi, once and for all.