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Years ago, when I was a child (around 10-12, I guess - the mid 1980s), I read a relatively short book - it might have been a children/young adult book - that I have never since been able to recall the name of, nor the name of the author. Can anyone help me out?

The story describes the daily life of a girl (it might actually be in diary form now that I think of it), apparently living alone on a planet. I seem to recall some sort of discussion partner, it might have been a computer or robot or just a smart house.

Anyway, the main point of the story is that aliens land a distance away from her. She spies on them and describes them (the narrative is in first person, even if it was not actually in diary form). Along with these observations, we get more about her daily life and details start to appear and add up. For instance, she, matter-of-factly, mentions her nictitating membranes! Also, the descriptions of the aliens seem more and more familiar.

You have probably realised by now where this is going and the plot twist is indeed that she is an alien and the newcomers are humans. This is of course not a terribly novel twist (it is a Tomato Surprise in TVTropes vernacular) but it was quite effective on me as a child.

I would love to re-read it as an adult, can anyone identify what book I am talking about?

  • I remember this as well. Her companion was a robot named Guardian and she wasn't an alien; she was genetically modified by him in order to let her live in the harsh environment of the planet. There was also a scene in which she pretended to be asleep in order to be less intimidating to some humans. – user843 Feb 14 '11 at 19:48
  • Sounds familiar, do you have a title? – PaulRein Feb 14 '11 at 20:10
  • You might be right that she was not an alien, "just" modified, the thing I remember best was the eyelids and I think she had scales (or maybe just really though hide) as well. – PaulRein Feb 14 '11 at 20:42
  • This might have been a story in "The Hard SF Renaissance". I don't have a copy, so I can't check. I also remember something about scales. – user843 Feb 14 '11 at 23:40
  • According to Amazon, "The Hard SF Renaissance" contains stories written after 1990. That would make it to late to contain the story I'm thinking of. Looks like an excellent collection though, I added it to my Amazon wishlist… :-) – PaulRein Feb 17 '11 at 19:32
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Keeper_of_the_Isis_Light

I read it when I was your age and enjoyed it a lot.

  • Seems to be a perfect fit! Thanks! (I'll see if I can locate a copy quickly to verify before I accept, but if I can't find it in the next few days I'll accept anyway as it is almost surely the correct one.) – PaulRein Mar 28 '11 at 12:51
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    Swedish title Isis - hotad planet, 1984 – Paula Mar 28 '11 at 12:52
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Your description vaguely reminds me of The Enchantress from the Stars (also wikipedia article, other commentary), which is generally considered a juvenile classic (and for "11 and older" too). It's a bit of a stretch though... in that book there are 3 races involved (the "girl" is also a visitor to the planet), and the "discussion partner" would have to be her father. The author also states "the book deliberately leaves open the question of which of the three civilizations is our own" (see early on in the FAQ), although that comes as a surprise to me now as my distant recollection is that at some point you do come to think "Oh, the bad guys are us humans!".

  • Yes, vaguely similar but does not fit quite right. For one, there are only two sides, and the girl is most definitely alone (I seem to recall that the parents are away on some business or other, for quite some time, apparently this race considers her mature enough to handle this). – PaulRein Feb 14 '11 at 7:39

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