Saturday, July 21, 2012

Remnant Population - Elizabeth Moon

Remnant Population - Elizabeth Moon
Remnant Population
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright: 2003
978-0345462190

The amazon.com product description:
For forty years, Colony 3245.12 has been Ofelia’s home. On this planet far away in space and time from the world of her youth, she has lived and loved, weathered the death of her husband, raised her one surviving child, lovingly tended her garden, and grown placidly old. And it is here that she fully expects to finish out her days–until the shifting corporate fortunes of the Sims Bancorp Company dictates that Colony 3245.12 is to be disbanded, its residents shipped off, deep in cryo-sleep, to somewhere new and strange and not of their choosing. But while her fellow colonists grudgingly anticipate a difficult readjustment on some distant world, Ofelia savors the promise of a golden opportunity. Not starting over in the hurly-burly of a new community . . . but closing out her life in blissful solitude, in the place she has no intention of leaving. A population of one.
With everything she needs to sustain her, and her independent spirit to buoy her, Ofelia actually does start life over–for the first time on her own terms: free of the demands, the judgments, and the petty tyrannies of others. But when a reconnaissance ship returns to her idyllic domain, and its crew is mysteriously slaughtered, Ofelia realizes she is not the sole inhabitant of her paradise after all. And, when the inevitable time of first contact finally arrives, she will find her life changed yet again–in ways she could never have imagined. . . .
Remnant Population is a book I've read a couple of times now, and I find that it definitely lives up to the standards I expect from one of Elizabeth Moon's novels. Namely, interesting, realistic and different characters. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another book (either science fiction or fantasy) where the main character is a senior citizen.

Going over a lot of the reviews on Amazon.com, I noticed a few people complaining about all the detail that Elizabeth Moon goes into about Ofelia's day-to-day life. Personally, I found that aspect of the book fascinating. In fact, I wouldn't mind finding out the fine points of the various recipes described. They sound absolutely delicious. Of course, I like cooking, gardening and crafts.

There were a few things that surprised me about the cultures as Elizabeth Moon describes them. How is it that things can go so far backwards and still work well? So much of Ofelia's family's attitudes I just don't understand. She was given a scholarship for a high-school education, but her family just gave it to her sister and sent her out to be a janitor? The cultural expectation that housewives didn't need to know how something worked, just had to be able to use it? Or how about the idea that it's perfectly acceptable to slap, threaten or beat a woman? Overall, the cultural attitudes felt rather 1930's or earlier to me.

And the corporate attitudes? I'm still shaking my head. I rather get the feeling that they liked their colonists having those beliefs. It probably made it easier for them - though maybe it had consequences that they weren't as aware of - there seemed to be quite a high mortality rate among the colonists and their children. Maybe better education would have reduced that? But the uneducated masses would have been easier to control.

The aliens though, the People, those were neat. This is where I have to say that I strongly prefer the original cover for Remnant Population to the current one. I liked having the picture give me an idea of what they looked like in combination with the descriptions within the story. That's also where the author has thrown in another twist on the standard science fiction models.

All of those factors though, add up to make for quite the story, one where you end up feeling good for Ofelia and the life she ended up with. In some ways, I found myself envying her a bit - skill at cooking and in the garden as well as her abilities with crafts. In others, as I said, I just can't understand that mindset.

Overall, I found Remnant Population to be a book I had a lot of trouble putting down, even on a re-read. Definitely worth reading if you like either science fiction or Elizabeth Moon's other books.
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