Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Orbit (March 7, 2002)
This is a novel about that favourite SFnal subject, first contact. In this case, the main character is an old woman, Ofelia, who, when her colony is to be closed down for economic reasons, decides to hide behind rather than be shipped off with her son and his family.
So, to start with, we have Ofelia, alone in her now-deserted village.
(Are planets really so common and accessible that a colony need only be village sized?! No, that's stupid. But it's not the only stupidity in this book.)
So she tends the gardens, shears the sheep, and basically hangs out for years. Until a new colony attempts to land elsewhere on this planet, runs into some strangely-never-spotted-before natives, and get slaughtered.
(Oh, there's a horrible apparent continuity error with the fact that the ex-colonists are going to be frozen for forty years to get to their next attempt. Yet the colony they've just left was only active for about that period ... sheesh, that means, assuming an ansible, that the evacuation ship was sent out when the colony was landing in the first place.)
Up to near the end, the book does actually work quite well as a character study of an old woman on her own (she's nearing 80 by that point). But I had difficulty finishing it, nearly throwing it across the room in frustration, basically because an obnoxious main character is made to look good by (a) making her the only person to be right, and (b) making pretty much every single other human character even less sympathetic. And the latter fails - I empathise with them more than with her.
Like the curate's egg - good in parts. But in total? Rotten.