Katja Olesk, doctor of botany and supervisor of the Velikaya Knyazhna’s park—the acres of forest they are transporting to terraform their new world—wakes at the end of the ship’s journey to discover that one of the park laborers had died, seemingly of old age after a lifetime in the park. Consumed by rage and paranoia, Katja loses her status on the ship.
Two years later she is exiled to Yuri Gagarin, a tiny colony on a hostile world, and demoted to simple gardening. There she enlists the aid of Des, a boisterous terraformer, to continue the research she’s no longer allowed to do. But the research leads to horrifying discoveries of what the colony leaders have been hiding, and when a devastating illness strikes, Katja must face her greatest fears and return to the park…
Katja is in morning from the loss of her colleague Val. He chose to get out of his cryo tube and live out his life in the forest. There is a life force that lives in the forest that is a part of it but more along the lines of mythical than realistic. Val has left her detailed video logs of his life, and she watches them until her co-workers believe that she is going insane.
The cure is to send her to the planet, where she believes she will be able to continue her work. What she finds out is that she is no more than a gardener. She makes a friend with Des an Exo Pilot. As they get to know each other Katja asked if Des could get her some samples of the dust and tar like substance that make up the planet surface. Des agrees and goes through the rugged containment regulations.
Des is a strong woman who knows who she is and what she wants. She is immediately drawn to Katja, and is willing to do almost anything to spend time with her. As she gets to know her she falls more and more under her spell. As she helps plant the garden, and watch it grow she becomes even more enamored with Katja. When Katja figures out the planet is in fact a living planet and the dust is a complex organism.
When the ruling board comes in and wrecks the containment fields and moves Katja to another job away from anything she is trained for, the dust is let loose in the lab. It starts an uncontrollable pattern of infection, and the people start to die, if you catch it there is no cure. Des and her crew of pilots are locked in Mod 2 of the colony, while Katja and most of the population are in Mod 1.
Will they find a cure in time, or will Katja come down with this deadly disease?
This was a really interesting read. It made you feel like you were out there in space and fighting the injustice of small-minded people, and alien species. Plus the relationship between Des and Katja evolves slowly and naturally.