Oh, it's science fiction, all right, but then you have to ask, "What _kind_ of science fiction is it?" And the answers that come to mind are confused and contradictory: Well, it's kind of Vonnegutian, but with some Sturgeon thrown in, and maybe a little Douglas Adams, plus some Manly Wade Wellman and a hint of Bradbury ... by which time you have such a hellbrew of a concoction that it doesn't mean shit to a tree.
Speaking of which, there are talking trees in this. And a talking dog and talking cockroaches.
Wwwwwaitaminnit ... lemme try this again.
You see, _Rarity from the Hollow_ is, mainly, the story of Lacy Dawn, a young girl who lives in a hollow in (approximately) West Virginia. Her father is kind of abusive, suffers from Gulf War flashbacks and such; but not as abusive as the father of her best friend Faith, who whups her to death early in the book. But Faith remains a character, as she can talk to Faith from rocks and logs and such. And the various trees of the hollow talk to Lacy Dawn, too.
Well, maybe she's crazy, but it's hard to say.
Her other best friend is DotCom, an android from the planet Shptiludrp, who is gradually becoming human so he can marry Lacy Dawn when she comes of age. But first, he has to recruit her to Save The Universe ... or at least Shptiludrp, which amounts to the same thing from the point of view of Mr Prump, the General Manager of that mall-planet. Seems the good people of Shptiludrp have been breeding humans a long time to produce Lacy Dawn, the only person in the Universe who can do it.
In the meanwhile, DotCom is "fixing" Lacy Dawn's parents to be better parents, more successful, and generally better human beings, and teaching her things a girl her age doesn't normally know - like calculus and advanced psychology. Why, what did you think I meant?
I know this all sounds pretty whack, and it _is_, but it's also quite moving. Lacy Dawn and her supporting cast - even Brownie, the dog - are some of the most engaging characters I've run across in a novel in some time; and, if I'm not convinced that what she's doing is actually Saving The Universe, it's quite clear that it does matter to a lot of people. And roaches.
The writing is not on the level of Delany/Wolfe/Le Guin/Russ, but it's more than competent, and it stays out of the way of the story, which is what it should do in a book of this particular type. Probably the weakest point is the inner voices of the characters, which are plentiful throughout, and which are so similar to each other that at times it isn't entirely clear whose inner voice this particular paragraph-in-italics is supposed to be: but that's a minor quibble and doesn't distract from the enjoyment of the yarn.
Which is large and broad and deeper than you'd think, from my breezy, jumpy description. As I said, it's a hard book to classify, or even talk about without giving worse spoilers than I already have.
The final page of the book helpfully tells the reader that this is "The End of This Adventure," which seems to promise that there will be more. I expect that I'll be on board for them.