NESFA Members' Reviews


by C. J. Cherryh

DAW, 2001, ISBN 0-88677-911-1

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is the fifth of the Foreigner series, and Bren Cameron has made the terrible mistake of becoming comfortable in his new role as the representative of the atevi ruler aboard the space station. He has spent the last several years carefully maintaining peaceful relations among the atevi, the humans of the island of Mospheira on the planet, and the humans of the returned starship, Phoenix. Phoenix is refueled, the first of the new starships is well along in construction. One of the atevi aboard the space station, Lord Geigi, has even worked out a method of raising fish (a food acceptable to atevi at all seasons) on board the space station in manner that's practical and yet also complies with the strict atevi taboo against raising captive food animals.

So, of course, at this point, the senior Phoenix captain, Ramirez, dies, and with his dying breath imparts a dangerous secret to the most junior captain, Bren's old friend and fellow paidhi, Jase Graham. The space station the Phoenix crew had built in another star system was not completely destroyed by the aliens who attacked it; there were survivors on board who were left behind to begin repairs while Phoenix went for help. Only a tiny number of people knew this; virtually the entire crew was lied to, being told that their family members were dead. In addition, because part of the station survived and there were survivors aboard, it's possible that the aliens, if they returned, could have obtained information about the location of the atevi homeworld and the fact that it's the nearest thing to a home base that humans in these parts have. This is overheard by a station worker who came to the infirmary with a minor injury, and the rumor gets out, and all hell breaks loose, as atevi, Mospheirans, and crew realize how critically they've been lied to. The Phoenix captains vote to go back to the other star system and rescue those remaining on the partially-destroyed station, because they'll have a mutiny on their hands if they don't.

Meanwhile, Bren's mother is ill, possibly seriously, his brother's marriage is being seriously damaged by his efforts to Make Mother Happy (an impossible task) and he wants Bren to come home, take care of Mother, and fix his marriage, and Bren's ex-fiancee is hinting that she wants to get back together. In his professional life, Bren is unable to communicate with Tabini, the atevi ruler he serves. He's receiving no communication, directly or indirectly, and gets no response to his own messages, no matter h ow urgent. Has he lost favor with Tabini? If so, this could be a serious problem, given how thoroughly he's burned his bridges with Mospheira.

And then Ilisidi, Tabini-aiji's grandmother, arrives aboard the space station, with Tabini's six-year-old heir, Cajeiri, in tow, and Bren's life gets exciting.

If you're allergic to Cherryh's prose, avoid this; it's more of the same. If not, however, this is an enjoyable new entry in an enjoyable series.

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