Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Third read, 8/18/16:
What can I say? Until it gets to Bren, I'm not attached to the story much, but the fact that so much of them comes back to haunt us in subsequent novels makes me *want* to pay attention. But other than that, once Bren is in the spotlight and we're in his head, I'm there, and this becomes one of my favorite novels. :)
Why? The psychology, mainly. The Atevi are really fantastic aliens and the real diamond in this series is the fact that they are not hardwired the same way as us. Their knee-jerk reactions are *not* ours, and Bren, our interpreter/diplomat, starts out in the middle of an assassination attempt on his life for reasons he doesn't understand and political associations and alien emotions that refuse to be cracked. It doesn't help that the Atevi think of everything in a type of numerology, that word orders and groupings of people or objects are either fortunate or unfortunate, that Bren must do the equivalent of tensor calculus with ever sentence, and then he gets thrown into the really life-threatening situations.
The whole novel is about trying to understand his situation, and its harrowing and I'm just as concerned and confused as the MC. And this is still true even when I've read a good portion of the rest of the series and this is my third read for this one. Can I be even more impressed than this?
Will Bren's decisions alter the destinies of the stranded human colony and the aliens? Is he betraying his own kind? Or can he rely on his gut reactions? Can he ever trust the Atevi?
Totally amazing thriller. :)
My personal favorites of Cherryh are the Foreigner books, hands down. And that's even while excluding her actual Hugo winners, Downbelow Station and Cyteen.
It's been so long since I started the Foreigner series that I only very vaguely recall having to struggle a little bit at the beginning. The second readthrough, on the other hand, was an absolute joy, picking up and retaining all those previously annoying details that then brought the tale to life. Nothing is wasted. The tension between remaining loyal to the human community and getting sucked into the political tensions of an interesting alien race that could seriously benefit from a greater stream of technology was like a draft of pure clean water in comparison to so many years of ham-fisted Star Trek.
The seriously twisted mental gymnastics of having to speak through numerology made me really believe, deep down, that these aliens were not only brighter than us, but they were also natural Shakespearean poets. I also learned more about herd mentality from this book than I did from any other source, and she made it truly exciting.
What will Bren do? Will he betray his own kind? Is it right to do so? Is he being set up to die?
The poor Paidhi was so lost. I loved it.
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