Remnant Population
by Elizabeth Moon
Review by James Walton

In general, novels about dull, boring people who spend most of their lives actively avoiding excitement, tend to be dull and boring in turn. Remnant Population is no exception.

It took me three tries to get through this novel. I read 4 or 5 other books and magazines before I was able to finish it.

Ofelia is the oldest member of a failing colony on a planet many light years from Earth. When the Company loses the colony charter, the colonists are told to prepare for reassignment on a new planet. After 40 years, Ofelia isn't interested in moving. In fact, the Company considers her a liability and probably intends to shut off her life support during Cold Sleep transit.

The elderly Ofelia is a survivor. She spent most of her life following orders and being told she was too stupid to do better. She is really very intelligent and resourceful but her life is much easier if no one expects much from her. She cultivates her helpless/stupid act to the point that she actually forgets she is smarter than most of the people around her. Which is just as well since the people leave her alone.

With very little planning or trouble, Ofelia is able to slip off into the woods and wait until all the colonists are gone. She guesses correctly that little effort would be put into searching for her.

With a planet to herself, Ofelia begins to live as she wishes, which is pretty much how she lived before, except now she does it on her own schedule, etc. More than enough supplies are left behind to insure that she won't live long enough to starve to death.

Moon shows us that Ofelia would recreate the colony to her own satisfaction, if she wasn't so old. It's very boring to watch.

Thank goodness for the Aliens.

Aliens is the wrong word since they are indigenous to the planet. They appear to be at once primitive and very sophisticated. Their civilization is complex and without question they are much smarter than humans.

The Indigenes discover Ofelia after the humans try and fail at establishing a second colony. The Indigenes suddenly realize "We are not alone!"

Because of her advanced age and apparent harmlessness, the Indigenes are quite taken with Ofelia. They adopt her and make her Official Spokesbeing. When Earth officials come calling Ofelia will be the official intermediate.

As someone pointed out to me, (thanks Ann!) Remnant Population is a standard wishfulfilment tale. No one appreciates the old woman and she is considered worthless until strangers come along and recognize her value. Never mind that the woman made little or no effort to prove her worth on her own.

I wish Ms. Moon had written a book totally about the intriguing Indigenes and left out all mention of humans. It would have been a lot more interesting.

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