Downing has created an alien society so "alien" to our own,
whereby the aliens have their own value system to which the
stranded humans must adapt. (Her book "Rinn's Star" is
equally fascinating.) In addition, she develops the
characters so that the readers become attached to them.
She also manages to have female protaganists, somewhat rare
for hard science fiction. As a fan of the old 1950's
writers (where the best sci-fi was written), I feel she comes
closer to them than most contemporary writers. Unfortunately
the publishing company did little to get the word out.