Remnant Population

Elizabeth Moon
Remnant Population Cover

Remnant Population -- Sometimes you get lucky

Tar Daddoo

What is the Science Fiction Premise?

Remnant Population is the story of a woman who remains behind after a planetary colonization effort fails, subsequently encountering the natives of the planet. Although the story contains standard Science Fiction concepts, such as space ships and cryogenic freezing, the two main premises are planetary colonization and first contact with a sentient alien species.

Is the science of the premise explored?

The story is told from the perspective of the woman who stays behind. Since the planetary colonization is actually ending at the beginning of the book, we learn about it in retrospect and in the actions the woman must take to survive after every one else has gone. The machinery of the colonization remains behind and we learn about it as she reactivates it. There is no grand theory of colonization, though there is an interesting cultural practice that is revealed. For the most part colonization is simply the hard details of establishing self-sufficient communities in an alien wilderness.

The first contact premise provides a bit more of a theoretical perspective, though we must infer the theory from what happens. The alien culture is portrayed in sufficient detail that we can understand the challenges of establishing a rapport and navigating misunderstandings.

Is the impact of the premise on an individual explored?

Although the colonization premise is told in retrospect, we are given glimpses of its impact on the woman and the people about whom she reminisces. Once the others leave, it is difficult to separate which aspects of her life are being influenced by the challenges of colonization per se and which aspects are due to being the only person remaining.

The first contact story is seen from many perspectives: the woman's, the natives, and others. As one might expect, everyone is changed by such a monumental event.

Is the impact of the premise on society explored?

There are two societies portrayed in Remnant Population:

Both are quite interesting. It is unclear whether either is immediately changed by the encounter, though there is a sense that change will occur in the future.

How well written is the story?

The book is quite well-written. I could not put it down.

Can I recommend the book?

I definitely recommend Remnant Population. It offers a very thoughtful perspective on the problem of first contact and establishing common ground. Also, the alien society is quite intriguing.

Having said that, I will caution that this is not merely an adventure story. Yes, it has action and adventure, but the value of the story lies in the care it takes in presenting one woman and her need to be true to her own sense of being human.

Tar Daddoo