Title: Freedom's Landing
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Could you or I survive when all the comforts of modern life are taken away? Long before the reality TV shows tackled this question, Anne McCaffrey thought about it and the result is the Catteni series of books, with Freedom's Landing being the first in the set.
Humans from Earth, along with many other species, are kidnapped and enslaved by the Catteni race on a distant planet. Kris, a woman from Denver, finds the opportunity to steal a speeder and escape to the jungle. One day, she sees a dog fight overhead and rescues the Catteni being pursued. Unfortunately, Kris is re-captured and dumped on a completely different planet with hundreds of others, both human and non-human. Angry and confused, the dumped group is rallied by an ex-military sergeant, who organizes supplies and purpose. Kris again rescues the Catteni, Zainal, by making a case that his knowledge could be valuable. The motley crew learn the dangers of the planet as they trek toward the hills for shelter and various characters are introduced.
Slowly the caves become home and Kris and Zainal are tasked to lead exploration parties around the planet. Beyond the various species known, there seems to be a mysterious alien race, dubbed the Farmers, who had mechanized the planet into a factory farm, leaving behind cattle, fields and robot workers. The new colonizers take advantage of the discovered technologies and re-create many modern conveniences. The Catteni continue to drop more colonizers and Zainal, being a high-ranking officer, demands reports and information about the planet, now named Botany. He reveals that the Catteni are only middle management for a race called the Eosi. As Kris and Zainal develop their relationship, old-fashioned prejudice blooms among some of the disgruntled settlers and threatens the stability of the fragile colony. As the numbers grow, the settlers continue to expand their living quarters by re-purposing the Farmer's barns. Hoping to attract the notice of the Farmers, Kris and Zainal led a group to the central command post when a nefarious man, Aarens, sets off a homing beacon. Recalled back to the caves, the homing beacon is noticed by someone - which will be continued in the next book.
Kris, the main character, is determined, direct and self-reliant - a protagonist I tend to admire. She quickly makes friends and is admired by or lusted after by most she meets. There are few obstacles she can't overcome or skills she doesn't have, including martial arts and survival training. However, things go too smoothly to be realistic. As an escapist read, I enjoyed this book. It was diverting and easy to read on my phone. Most of the plot points were broadcasted early in the story - no shock that Kris and Zainal got together and that some people don't like it.