Flashback Fridays: The Counters calculated and scattered the ships, the life containers, as our wind scatters maple keys . . .

You’re a 15-year old scientist crash lands her craft far from home on a backwater planet where an archaeological dig is going on to discover the remnants of an alien civilization.  While waiting for someone to pick you up, you join in the dig and befriend the local smiling, sort of bear like alien wildlife called Lumpies while waiting for help.  But soon you discover that the Lumpies may be harboring a secret . . .

Do you remember:

The Lost Star by H. M. Hoover (Avon, c1979)

Lian is a young teen in a far future where humankind has reached the stars.  Her parents are scientists who travel through space and set up research stations.  Since she left Earth at eight years old, Lian’s life has been one surrounded by adults with little time to indulge a child.  In fact her parents often become so involved in their work, they don’t pay much attention to her.   When Lian crash-lands her transport far from home in the wilderness of the current planet her  parents are stationed on, she’s stranded.  A local scientist at an archaeological dig finds her and offers her a place to stay while waiting for someone to retrieve her.  Lian accepts.  She participates in the dig with the other members of the expedition, and discovers the local creatures called Lumpies.  These gray, sort of bear-like creatures with wide, benign grins charm her and she quickly “adopts” a group of them and gives them names.  But it seems that the Lumpies are more than they appear, and they have decided to reveal their secrets to Lian. . .

Ah  Helen Mary Hoover, how I loved reading all of your stories of far futures with human stories that were ultimately familiar and inspiring . . .This one has always been one of my favorites.  Lian is not sure where she belongs, and although she’s a brilliant and capable young woman she still feels some disconnect and pain for her lack of a real child hood and recognition of her emotional needs.  Her connection to the Lumpies is almost natural as they complement each other in their vulnerabilities and needs.  And ultimately she finds her place and purpose in helping and defending them.  I’m honestly not sure if Lian’s ethnicity was brought up in the story (the covers seem to depict her as darker skinned  and Asian, but I don’t remember if it’s a subject brought up in the book).  That said, she’s a capable and smart protagonist who is already a scientist in her own right.  That she’s a girl is really a non-issue compared with the fact of her youth.  At the opening of the story, the readers crash land along with Lian.  Despite some emotional misgivings and fear, she’s mostly practical minded in dealing with her situation, not panicking “damsel in distress” mode.  She’s a pretty rare heroine in science fiction, to be honest–though one of a type that Hoover does particularly well.

Looking back on this story now, I realize that at the time I’d read this, I’d already been reading about alien encounters on a planet where the aliens where first thought to be nothing more than cute wildlife.  I’d read my father’s copy of Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper probably about a year or two before I encountered The Lost Star, but the plot’s have some similarities of subjects and themes.  The primary difference is the characters.  Little Fuzzy is an entire cast of adult humans (and technically written for an adult/ya audience) but this book was written with a young teen at its’ heart, with all her struggles and emotional turmoil.  While this book has a teenager as it’s mainprotagonist, it reads much more as a tween audience novel than a young adult book.  That said, back when I read it there was no YA section as such, so I read through many things that had teen-aged heroes and heroines.

I have a very worn out copy in my home collection, and this is one of the books I’d love to see reissued.

Any H. M. Hoover fans out there?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on August 30, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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