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Literature / Catteni

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A science fiction tetralogy by Anne McCaffrey, consisting of Freedom's Landing, Freedom's Choice, Freedom's Challenge, and Freedom's Ransom.

The Catteni are interstellar conquerors who have subjugated the human race. In Freedom's Landing, they dump a group of troublemaking humans on a newly-discovered planet to see what happens, on the principle that if humans can survive there it will be suitable for colonization by Catteni (who have a very similar biology). This particular group of troublemakers includes not only humans, but a Catteni, Zainal, whose presence has far-reaching consequences.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Freedom's Landing is expanded from a short story called "The Thorns of Barevi". The novel starts much like the short story and follows its plot up to the point where they confess their feelings for each other, at which point they don't, and the plot goes off on a dramatic tangent. (Even in the novel they do eventually, at which point there's a version of the short story's final scene.)
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Subverted; the Catteni are more generously endowed than humans, and Zainal is worried about hurting Kris. The precautions he convinces her to take (ie, slowing down and lots of foreplay) are what make the sex so good, not his size.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The Botany colonists nickname one of the species they encounter 'loo-cows', after the noise they make and the sound-alike to the human colloquialism "moo-cow", despite them being significantly different to Earth cows. This leads to a small Funny Background Event when a group of Maasai herdsmen get dropped on the planet, and aren't terribly impressed by the closest local equivalent to cattle.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The preferred host species of the Eosi (body-snatching Evil Overlords) is deathly allergic to olkiloriti (Acacia nilotica), which the Maasai use for medicinal and spiritual purposes. La RĂ©sistance manages to sneak boatloads of the plant into the ventilation system at a suspiciously fortunate gathering of 90% of the Eosi. The surviving Eosi were too few and scattered to retain their grip on their servant races.
  • I Choose to Stay:
    • Zainal, a Catteni military officer mistakenly sent to the slave colony world, Botany, rebuffs several attempts by the slavemasters to take him back home. The first out of spite: he knows the dockmaster responsible for his being there will be punished for it, if he stays long enough for the right people to notice his absence. Later on, it's because he's come to respect the humans who've managed to carve out a place for themselves (one female in particular) and wanted to stay and help them. We find out in a later book that Zainal is also a high-ranking member of his homeworld's La RĂ©sistance AND due to be the next vessel for one of the body-snatching Evil Overlords that have enslaved his people and if that happens, things will end badly for lots of people.
    • This also applies to most of the humans placed on Botany. "I dropped, I stay!" becomes something of a slogan/rallying cry.
  • Interspecies Romance: Kris and Zainal.
  • The Man Behind the Man: It turns out later in the series that the Catteni are themselves under the thumb of another alien race, the Eosi. (Although technically the Eosi don't actually possess thumbs.)
  • Mandatory Motherhood: The series involves a Lost Colony situation in which everyone has to breed. Kris, the protagonist, is involved in an Interspecies Romance and is apathetic on having kids (and definitely against cheating), even if her alien boyfriend doesn't mind. She then gets injured and winds up drinking to dull the pain to the point of blacking out and having sex with other humans. Twice.
  • Must Have Caffeine: By the last book of the series, the aliens are hopelessly addicted to coffee and it serves as a major trade and diplomacy item.
  • Named After Their Planet: The Catteni come from the planet Catten. One of the characters lampshades this when they discover the capital of the planet is called Cattena.
  • Naming Your Colony World: The involuntary colonists name their new planet Botany, after Botany Bay, the site of Britain's first Australian penal colony.
  • Penal Colony: Botany.
  • Planet Terra: The humans are referred to as "Terrans" by the alien Catteni, and sometimes by the humans themselves.
  • Rescue Sex: Subverted in Freedom's Landing; when Kris rescues Zainal at the beginning, he attempts to show his gratitude by having sex with her and is surprised when she refuses. (This is the point at which the plot diverges from the original short story, "The Thorns of Barevi". They do end up together, though.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Catteni would be Human Aliens except for their grey skin, and an average larger height and build (due to their Heavyworlder origin). This is made fairly explicit when several human characters of sufficient size and build successfully disguise themselves as Catteni with face paint.
  • Skeleton Key Card: A few characters do a similar trick with a knife at various points in the books; the protagonist explicitly compares it to the credit card trick.
  • Shoot the Dog: Zainal refusing to return to Catten royally screws over his brother who has to take Zainal's place as Eosi host. And he has to do so without the benefit of the hedonistic life designated hosts are granted. We find out Zainal has a solid reason reason for his actions, but prior to that reveal, this comes off as a Moral Event Horizon moment.
  • Stock Punishment: The first Botany settlement institutes the stocks as a punishment for any particularly unruly colonists, partly because they don't yet have the infrastructure for an actual jail and partly because they need everyone they have, no matter how unpleasant they are. It proves rather effective.
  • Translation Convention: All the dialogue is rendered in English; however, early in the first book, one of the characters is giving out orders, and the narrator specifically notes that one of the words in his speech is in English. It is later stated that everyone actually speaks a creole of four or five different languages.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: The above-mentioned loo-cows have six legs in order to constantly pound the ground at night and keep the monsters that live underground at bay.