Decision at Doona by Anne McCaffrey
Decision at DoonaEarth is overcrowded and enclosed. There are few open Square Miles where people can get special dispensation to visit. Ken Reeve and his family have applied to be part of the settlers to visit the newly discovered, uninhabited planet Doona. They are accepted. Ken join the first ship of men and spends ten hard winter months getting settled in. The women and children are due any day now that it’s springtime.
Then Ken has a disturbing meeting – with two children of a different species. They’re sentient – and apparently indigenous. How did all the space probes and satellites miss these people? That’s a problem. The Earth government has strict policies against settling planets that are already inhabited. This discovery means they have to leave this wide open planet and return to the crowded warrens of Earth.
What no one knows is these other people, cat like beings called Hrrubans also have settled on Rral (Doona) from an overcrowded planet. They decide to maintain that secret. The two groups start working together and become friendly. They build a bridge across the river between them.
The human’s families arrive before they have directions from Earth as what to do next. They unload the cargo and the ship leaves before they receive any message from Earth. The men are all thrilled to have their families despite the shadow hanging over them. And all the women, including his wife Pat, are glad to give six-year-old Todd to his father for a while. Todd is boisterous, busy, curious, loud child. He can’t be restrained and is always in trouble.
Todd goes with Ken on a visit with the Hrrubans. Todd becomes fast friends with one of their sons. Soon they have to pry Todd away from them. He tied a rope to his waist to emulate a tail. He wears a skin jacket with the fur on the outside. After other human children get hurt when Todd and Hhriss play in the human settlement, Todd is invited to spend the days at the Hrruban settlement. He acclimates quickly and soon speaks Hrruban better than any of the human adults.
The Earth representatives show up on Doona. The Hrrubans disappear. nothing is left in their village – no trash, no prints, no dug areas in the ground. Todd is desolate. The humans have a mystery and can’t convince anyone that there really were others on Doona with them.
Anne McCaffrey has an imagination that is wider than the sky. Her few descriptions of the crowded Earth made me want to shudder a little. Even long steps are considered antisocial, let alone burps, farts, or loud noises. When she describes the colonists disappointment over finding an indigenous species, she is able to show they are torn between wanting to stay no matter what or their conditioning to not interfere with another culture.
I had fun with Decision at Doona, although it’s not one of McCaffrey’s best books by any means. It’s an enjoyable read and examines racial relations in a science fiction setting. The way for everyone to win at Doona is to get along in peace. It is the same here where we live on Earth.