Decision at Doona

By Anne McCaffrey

Decision at Doona

Ok, I admit, it was the cover that made me pick this one up. I can’t help it – the idea of cat people intrigues me (and I still have Cherryh and Norton to read more of in that vein). But I’m very glad I did.

An advanced cat-like race, the Hrrubans, discover a planet that would be perfect for colonising. The project is one that the First Speaker (the highest of their ruling group) puts forward as a potential resolution to the apathy that has arisen from a civilisation too advanced and too greedy, and they plan to make the colony low tech. Meanwhile, humans (Terrans) also discover the planet and determine it fits the limited criteria for colonisation – top being that there is no native sentient race on the planet. Earth is over-crowded and people live very subjugated lives trying to minimise their presence. Some members volunteer for deprivations in the hope that they will be able to be in a group that gets to leave earth and head somewhere they can truly live.

The men of the chosen families have spent the ten-month winter on Doona building their village, learning practical skills to survive, and unlearning their conditioning, in preparation for their wives and children joining them in the spring. Mere days before their families are due to arrive, they discover that they are not alone. There is a village of cat-like natives across the other side of the river. This brings a great deal of consternation as this means they must leave Doona and return to Earth, as they have broken the Prime Rule.

So begins an interesting look at the interaction of the two races, and the events that lead to whether or not the Terrans can stay on Doona. There needs to be some very quick learning of languages and this is explained by advanced subliminal learning. I wouldn’t mind learning a language that way if I could learn it that quickly. But this does mean that the communication barrier gets taken away and instead we focus on the interactions.

I would have liked to have read more from the Hrrubans point of view. The opening chapter did make me expect more than we got. But I can see why at just 200 pages there was a limitation to that, and possibly also a desire for the reader to learn things alongside the humans on Doona.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, even though I had to pause at the introduction of the snakes and question whether I could finish it before sleep without triggering my snake phobia. Thankfully, the pace when they were around was fast enough that I spent little time with them and was safe. My imagination was captured and I was completely engaged. And thoroughly captivated by the 6 year old human boy who desperately wanted a tail.

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