Amber's Reviews > Remnant Population

Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
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Jul 11, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: high-reread-value, favorites, science-fiction

I tend to buy books with a high reread value, and this is one of them. This book is amazing in its portrayal of aging, societal pressures, how the elderly are viewed, and, most importantly, community. I won't post a summary because there's already one posted and many have done so in their reviews. I will, however, respond to some themes I've noticed in the reviews that gave it a lower rating.
The pacing- I can see where some might find this book too slow paced. For me, the isolation and Ofelia's solitary liberation were what made her ultimate contact with the "aliens" interesting. Moon doesn't tell you what Ofelia went through, she shows you. Which my English 101 professor always said was a hallmark of good writing ;). If you *have* to have an action packed book, this may not be the one for you.
The scientists- I've noticed that people have complained that the scientists were portrayed as "stupid". I would have to disagree, they are portrayed as academics with a superiority complex. I think it's made fairly clear that these scientists haven't a whole lot of real world experience, and that is very relevant to how they treat Ofelia. I would also say that their sense of superiority and the condescending way they speak to Ofelia is...pretty typical. In my experience, ivory tower academics have a...well-developed ego. They also think that education equals intelligence and therefore a lack of education equals a lack of intelligence. Now, obviously my opinion is very much influenced by the (many) negative experiences I have had, but I do want to show the other side of the coin.
As for why someone would send "incompetents" on this assignment...They wouldn't. The scientists are not incompetent per se, they are just blinded by their own prejudices because they're, y'know, human.
The down-trodden- I read one review that was talking about Ofelia's lack of education as a negative/unrealistic aspect of the plot. To me this is one of the most realistic parts of the book. Privileged people don't realize that education is a privilege, but that doesn't change the fact that it is. Keeping one's workforce educated only so far as is needed to keep them doing their work efficiently is a theme that criss-crosses history and which we can still see today.
The noble savage- I can see where some people could get the noble savage bit from the books, but I didn't. I think that the author succeeds in creating a vital and engaging people. There are various points throughout the book where the natives do make mistakes, but the primary point of conflict (which I will not relate because SPOILERS)in the story is the fact that the natives are intellectually superior to man.
From my reading of the book I did not find this yet another rendition of the noble savage, far from it. To me this book does a very good job of showing that lack of education does not preclude high intelligence and that higher education does not preclude ignorance.
This book is very much about what it means to be part of a community, but it also examines how education and intelligence are treated. I think it does a very good job of showing the stratification of society as well.
This is one my favourite books of all time. I recommend it to all sorts of people, not just sff fans. I know that slow paced books are not always as popular, and I've been guilty of writing books off for their pacing in the past. However, I've learned that sometimes it's worth it to give a slow paced book a second chance. Unless it's Anna Karenina. God I hate that book...
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