Where do I even begin? It’s been a long time since I read a book that I loved as much as I love Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon. The protagonist, Ofelia, is an elderly woman who has lived the majority of her adult life on an alien world as a colonial worker for Sims Bancorp, or “The Company”. She buried her husband and all but one child there. Said child, now adult son Barto, and his wife Rosara are the only family she has left. But she doesn’t get along with them; Barto is controlling and overdramatic Rosara frequently nags at her. All Ofelia wants is to be left alone to do the things she enjoys, such as tending her garden. And so, when news arrives that Sims Bancorp is uprooting the 40 year old colony to transfer them somewhere else, Ofelia hatches the plan to sneak into the surrounding native forest and get “mistakenly ” left behind.
When I read the blurb for this story, my curiosity was at first piqued at how the author would keep it interesting. After all, an aged protagonist comes with intrinsic physical limitations, and being left sole inhabitant besides, I worried it might be boring. Oh ho, how I underestimated both Ofelia and Elizabeth Moon!
“Pure satisfaction from cover to cover …”—Anne McCaffrey
There are some definite frontierswoman vibes going on here. Left the sole inhabitant of her colony, Ofelia must work the land and care for the animals to be able to continue to provide food for herself. That’s fine. This has been her home for forty years, so she’ll manage. Within her tasks and day-to-day is rich self-discovery: something that has been denied Ofelia her whole life. She discovers two inner voices; one scolding and practical, that one is familiar. But there’s a new voice, and it is this voice that dared her to scheme her solitary existence in the first place. It’s the child inside her that was quelled with her opportunity for higher education in her youth; alive with curiosity, disobedience, and creativity.
“Ofelia–tough, kind, wise and unwise, fond of food, tired of foolish people– is one of the most probable heroines science fiction has ever known.”—Ursula K. Le Guin
That part of Ofelia’s journey is delicious enough. But then she discovers she’s not the sole inhabitant of this world after all. A new intelligence has been evolving quietly, far from the colony. A new colonization effort gone wrong brings their attention to Ofelia, and first contact is made.
Anne McCaffrey was not overselling when she endorsed Remnant Population as “pure satisfaction from cover to cover”. This book is truly a delight; the perfect combination of cozy reading and the kind of mind-opening discovery I want out of a sci-fi. Moon’s characterization of Ofelia and the indigenes she meets is tangible, thrilling, and beautiful. The only thing I could have asked for more was deeper development of the alien species and finding out more about their culture. I feel like we only learned surface-level stuff about them, but that was in keeping with Ofelia’s character and relationship with them so I can’t complain too much about that.
Due to a busy month, I was not able to consume this book in one sitting as I have done to stories I have loved in the past, and perhaps that was for the better. Remnant Population is a tale best savoured with your favourite guilty pleasures.
Is It For You?
Genre: Science Fiction
Themes: First Contact, Self Discovery, Survival
Character: Elderly Protagonist, Female Protagonist, Strong Female Lead
Pace: At Your Leisure
Writing: Close third-person
Clean Score: 4/9 – Some language in keeping with character. Nudity handled non-sexually. Sexual scenes and themes are kept vague. Non-gratuitous violence and injury described. To find out more about my Clean Score, click here.
What did YOU think of Remnant Population? Let’s discuss your thoughts in the comments below! (If you haven’t read it yet, please remember the comments section is NOT a spoiler-free zone!)
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