McCaffrey is well known for her series of books set on Pern (Dragonsong, The White Dragon, and so on) as well as several other series of science fiction books (the Crystal Singer books, The Ship Who Sang books, and many others). Restoree is a standalone book, and was written, apparently, as a form of protest against the portrayals of women in 1950s science fiction – “cowering in the corner awaiting rescue”.
Our protagonist and narrator is Sara, a single librarian in her twenties, living in New York. She has an unsatisfactory relationship with her family, and regrets the nose she’d never been allowed to have altered – one gets the impression of a subtle sexism existing in her family which Sara has fought against, but not necessarily successfully. Then, abruptly, she is abducted, and blacks out. Her memories of the next few days, weeks or months is patchy and horrifying, and she finally awakes with golden skin (and a nice nose) to find herself acting as a servant in some sort of mental hospital. The medics in the hospital don’t appear to be aware that she has recovered her senses, and think that she is as docile, obedient and mentally retarded as the other carers. For she also discovers that she’s caring for a patient, whom she gradually works out is being kept in seclusion and under sedation for political reasons.
Sara helps Harlan back to consciousness and health, and then to escape, while she tells him about Earth, and he tells her about the world where she finds herself, Lothar. It’s in danger from the marauding Mil (the Lotharians’ traditional enemies, who also abducted her), as well as from a potential coup attempt, and an interplanetary war of colonisation.
There’s a lot of nice political intrigue, adventure and love; as well as Sara’s trying to find out why people have such an inexplicable reaction to ‘restoration’ and the fact that she might be a ‘restoree’ – for she’s in danger both from helping Harlan to escape his prison, but also for being restored (i.e. restored to life after a Mil attack – not a very pleasant experience).
It’s an entertaining read: Sara is resourceful and courageous, also intelligent and quick-thinking, and copes well with the strangeness of her new life. The characters she meets are well-drawn (at least, the major characters are, even if the minor ones are barely sketched), and the social structure of the planet is interesting. There’s danger, too, and excitement, and even details of folklore and tradition (though not so much as to overwhelm the fast-moving plot).
I think it’s one of McCaffrey’s better novels – and I’d recommend it.