I'm presently reading The Lost Steersman, the third Steerswoman novel by Rosemary Kirstein. It's going to be impossible to explain the awesome bit without minor spoilers for the second novel, so I'm not going to bother. I can't even give you the bare conclusion, because it will give you the entirely wrong idea about the book.



The novel is set in an alien world which has been partially terraformed. This is not at all obvious from the first novel, which could easily be post-apocalyptic Earth. The second novel explores the unterraformed Outskirts, which still have plenty of native life forms, and the non-terran nature of that life becomes clear. The Lost Steersman explores the native life further -- and there's a scene that reminds me rather strongly of some of the explorations in Rendezvous with Rama.

The thing about Rama is that it's very old-school: it's about a steam grommet factory which some scientists are there to guide you through. Sure, there's some good sensawunda, but as a novel, it's just not gripping. When I say that Steersman is like Rama, I'm not saying that it's old-school hard SF. It's got characters, and cultures, and all of the things which make a novel work as a novel -- without losing the underlying substrate of reasonable xenobiology and technology.

Anyway, if you liked some of the alien-world-exploring bits of Rama, you'll love this part of Steersman.
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