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C.J. Cherryh
Engineer Sam Merrit has been sent to the planet Hestia to build a dam. The colonists believe that a dam will enable them to expand beyond their single river valley and escape the squalid conditions that have persisted there since the founding of the colony over a hundred years ago. Upon arrival Merrit finds that, in his professional judgment, a dam will not solve the colony's problems, and the construction of the dam will force the relocation of many of the cat-like alien natives as the reservoir fills. However, having made the years-long sublight journey to Hestia at great personal inconvenience, he is reluctant to return home without accomplishing anything. From the start, he has little patience for the colonists' blame-shifting attitude, and as he becomes familiar with one of the alien women, Merrit becomes increasingly convinced that destroying the alien culture by building the dam is not an acceptable option.
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