The planet Prokaryon can only be conolized by children, since it requires genetic modification done at an early age. It is a beautiful world with no apparent intelligent life, but several very strange characteristics to its flora and fauna. Trees grow in rows, the weather patterns are suspiciously regular, and landscapes seem designed to be pleasing.
Brother Rod belongs to the Spirit Brethren, a religious organization which runs a small settlement of orphans who have been adapted to the environment. Things are going well for them until a massive corporation selects the planet for terraforming, a process which will kill the indigenous life on Prokaryon and destroy their little colony.
Convinced that there is an intelligence behind the strange things he has seen on the planet, Brother Rod races against time to uncover its secret. If there are native intelligent beings the planet cannot be terraformed.
As the date for terraforming comes closer and closer, the other small colonies leave and only Brother Rod and his small band are left. With a plague ravaging other worlds and humans desperate for new worlds to colonize, the odds are stacked against his orphans. The children escape into the woods in hopes of delaying the inevitable and while living closer than ever to the native lifeforms, find themselves tantalizingly close to answering the secret behind Prokaryion.
Best part of story, including ending:
The conflict between a small colony and the needs of a greater portion of humanity made the stakes realistically compelling.
Best scene in story:
When the children are on the run and encounter a huge herd of native lifeforms. It's weird and fascinating and feels properly alien.
Opinion about the main character:
Brother Rod is genuinely caring, and an unusual male protagonist in that he is neither the cliched action or nerd guy.