Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is For... Olwen

Howdy Again Humble Readers...

Today's been another busy day around the hobbit-hole.  I FINALLY tackled the linen closet (it wasn't as bad as I thought it was) and cleaned the oven.  I also made arrangements for our carpets to be cleaned next week and called my sister to wish her a happy birthday.  I have some paperwork for church that I need to do tonight, but other than that, I'm planning on just doing some knitting and relaxing. 

We're up to the letter O for the A to z Challenge, and again I was able to find a fictional character who I haven't thought about in many many years. 

Her name is Olwen.

I need to give you some backstory.  One of my bio-dad's younger sisters used to be a reporter in the Big City to the North, and she had a chance to interview the author when I was just a little girl.  Auntie K got a copy of Monica Hughes' most recent (at that time) book, The Keeper Of The Isis Light, autographed for me.  It sat on my self for several years, until I grew into it and into science fiction. 

Isis is a planet with an outpost manned by Guardian and Olwen, a 16 year old Earth-girl.  One day a colonist ship from Earth arrives, and Olwen is very curious about the people who are so like her.  As the colonists work to settle in the valley below the Isis Light (a communication outpost which allows for messages to be sent to and from Earth) on the mountain, Guardian finally allows Olwen to go down to meet them.  One thing that he insists on, though, is that she wear a protective suit that covers her from head to toe.  She had never been exposed to the germs and toxins of Earth and has no immunities to them. 

Olwen meets a colonist boy, Mark, and over time they grow quite attached to each other.  Mark confesses his love for Olwen, and she decides that it's time for her to leave the care of Guardian and move down into the valley.  Mark climbs up the mountain to the cave where Olwen lives and sees her for the first time without her protective suit.  The sight startles him so much that he falls and is seriously injured. 

It is then that Olwen discovers that, although she was born to human parents, Guardian has altered her appearance to help her survive on Isis, particularly high up in the mountains.  He has genetically modified her skin, her eyes and her features so that she's not negatively affected by the ultraviolet rays from Ra, the sun in Isis' solar system.  She looks grotesque to Mark and the other colonists. 

Olwen, horrified with the realization that she doesn't look like everyone else, decides that she's going to go and live away from the valley, with her 'dog' (he's really some sort of reptile/dragon type of thing) named "Hobbit" (how cool is that???).  Just as she's ready to leave forever, catastrophy strikes and the colony is jeopardized.  Olwen is the only one who is capable, because of her genetic modifications, of saving them. 

Typical of young adult fiction, particularly from the 80s, the moral of the story is beaten over your head... appearances aren't everything, don't judge a book by its cover, looks aren't everything, etc. 

But this is the first sci-fi book that I ever read, and for that reason alone, I loved it.  Throw in the fact that I was perpetually the new kid at school, and I completely identified with Olwen... wanting to fit in but knowing that you're different. 

Do you read sci-fi?  If you do, what flavour of sci-fi do you like? 


  1. I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but McRuger is a HUGE fan of it. Half of his bookshelves are all sci-fi. I've read a few books here and there, but nothing that I would call a "favorite". I tend to be more of a poetry/historical fiction/memoir kind of person.

    Congrats on getting all of that stuff done!! I am motivated to get some stuff done tonight!

  2. I don't read much sci fi (though my husband is a big fan) but one of my all time favorite books and series is Dune by Frank Herbert. But those books are so much more about character than science.

    Olwen does sound interesting. :)

  3. How in the world are you already at "o" ??? I think I must be slacking around here. LOL. But it sounds like a great book. I like sci-fi a lot, as long as it's "clean" or "kid friendly." Cause I'm kind of a pansy. :)

  4. I first read this book in grade 6...hadn't thought about it in years, then the name Olwen popped into my head and I was Googling to figure out where I had heard the name (I knew it was from a story) and I came across this article. I remember the first book quite fondly, having identified with Olwen to a great extent, but the second two in the series I found tedious and slightly unfulfilling as Olwen was not the main character for either of them. :P


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