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Looking for a book I read as a kid. Hard science fiction, read probably in the mid-to-late eighties out of a school library. It might have been an older book - it had the flavor of older science fiction.

It was set (at least partly) on a space ship. Humans are "set free" in small groups into an area of the ship that mimics Earth - specifically, a wilderness, with weather patterns, soil, animal predators, a created sun, etc. If I remember correctly, this was a training of sorts, by (benevolent?) aliens who were trying to help humans relearn the skills they would need, probably after they were returned to Earth. The main character is a surly guy who resists the training, and is, I think, "abandoned" in the forest at some point because of his own refusal to cooperate. Also, at one point makes his way through the forest to the edge of the space ship, where the illusion of wilderness ends and he can see the metal of the spaceship. I believe that there were 'interviews" where he was called into a small cubicle to explain himself multiple times. I remember the book being from the point of view of the surly guy, and he is stubborn to the point of obnoxious because he's so clearly fighting against something bigger than he is and he refuses to see it.

I could easily be cramming together multiple books. I don't read a lot of hard sf these days, so it could be a classic I'm misremembering.

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  • Not a book and not an answer but I recall the Bruce Dern flick, Silent Running which indeed had ships with forests. A very 1970s scifi flick that is fairly obscure for a major production.
    – releseabe
    Jun 9 at 22:22

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This is Dawn by Octavia Butler, the first book in a three part series. The main character is a woman who is reluctantly willing to work with the aliens and is stubborn and surly, though not as bad as some of the other humans.

It was set (at least partly) on a space ship. Humans are "set free" in small groups into an area of the ship that mimics Earth - specifically, a wilderness, with weather patterns, soil, animal predators, a created sun, etc

You’re kidding. Your ship is alive?”

“Yes. Come out.” The hole in the wall had grown large enough for them to step through. He ducked his head and took the necessary step. She started to follow him, then stopped. There was so much space out there. The colors she had seen were thin, hairlike leaves and round, coconut-sized fruit, apparently in different stages of development. All hung from great branches that overshadowed the new exit. Beyond them was a broad, open field with scattered trees—impossibly huge trees—distant hills, and a bright, sunless ivory sky. There was enough strangeness to the trees and the sky to stop her from imagining that she was on Earth. There were people moving around in the distance, and there were black, German shepherd–sized animals that were too far away for her to see them clearly—though even in the distance the animals seemed to have too many legs. Six? Ten? The creatures seemed to be grazing.

If I remember correctly, this was a training of sorts, by (benevolent?) aliens who were trying to help humans relearn the skills they would need, probably after they were returned to Earth.

You’ll go back there eventually.”

“You’ll send me back? And the other humans?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“That you will come to understand little by little.”

How could she Awaken people and tell them they were to be part of the genetic engineering scheme of a species so alien that the humans would not be able to look at it comfortably for a while? How would she Awaken these people, these survivors of war, and tell them that unless they could escape the Oankali, their children would not be human?

I believe that there were 'interviews" where he was called into a small cubicle to explain himself multiple times.

There had not been a whisper of response. Her captors spoke when they were ready and not before. They did not show themselves at all. She remained sealed in her cubicle and their voices came to her from above like the light. There were no visible speakers of any kind, just as there was no single spot from which light originated. The entire ceiling seemed to be a speaker and a light—and perhaps a ventilator since the air remained fresh. She imagined herself to be in a large box, like a rat in a cage. Perhaps people stood above her looking down through one-way glass or through some video arrangement.

Why?

There was no answer. She had asked her captors when they began, finally, to talk to her. They had refused to tell her. They had asked her questions. Simple ones at first.

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