Book Discussion: Foreigner SPOILER ALERT - Finish the Book First

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Book Discussion: Foreigner SPOILER ALERT - Finish the Book First

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gen. 21, 2008, 8:22am

Like I said in the spoiler-free thread, I'm only on page 124, so I won't be back here for a few days, at least.

I am enjoying it though, and I can't get over how much this book reminds me of James Clavell's Shōgun... only in space. :o)

gen. 21, 2008, 3:07pm

So... anyone else finished?

I haven't read Shogun so I have no idea how it compares, but lots of people think 'Japan' when trying to find parallels to the atevi culture.

IMHO the 2 'books' at the beginning are maybe necessary for understanding the background, but I felt them very slow the first time I read the book and hadn't managed past them if not r_f had urged me to continue. Not even the author has any interest in the characters, and it affects the story.

Then when we get to book 3 and finally get to meet a character the author cares for and THEN the story really hits it off :-)

I think we are supposed to be disturbed by the Assassins Guild, but during my first read of the book I observed myself being biased by having read tons of Discworld books and thus already accustomed to a Guild of Assassins. I even think the atevi Guild is more civilised as it requires that the intended victim is notified in advance and thus at least theoretically able to make counter-measures.

gen. 22, 2008, 5:40am

Regarding the beginning without spoiling events in future books if I can avoid it - the accident chapter is important. I think if it wasn't here you'd still have to read it for future events ot make sense, and chronologically it definetly fits in here. It is an odd start to a book but necessary.

The next chapter at the base is perhaps not so necessary. I like it, but I'm not sure it reveals anything that we don't get from the main story. Humans are human and the aveti are different.

It was a very long time ago when I read Shogun, but from what I recall the situation is very different. Bren is a formal cultural ambassedor not a merchant, and the aveti don't have emotions which I think is subtly and profoundly different from not showing emotions.

gen. 22, 2008, 6:57am

I agree, the opening chapter is necessary... in many ways. But it's not very gripping, and it's easy to lose interest in the story at that stage.

I think the main reason 'western' people think 'japan' when reading about the atevi is because it's a culture here, on this planet, that for a lot of us is a complete enigma; we don't understand it, we can't read the signals. Just like humans meeting atevi. The likeness ends there, but that feeling is what we have closest so that's what we grab for.

I do differ in the 'atevi not feeling emotion' part, though. I think they DO feel things, just not the same things or for the same reasons as humans do.

gen. 22, 2008, 5:10pm

(I commented upon the background behind FOREIGNER's first confusing chapter in the SPOILER-FREE thread.)

#3 -- RF--
When first beginning the series I too thought the Atevi did not have emotions. I was very wrong. The emtions are simply different from ours, as well as being expressed in different manners & contexts. One of the interesting things about CJC is how she places us inside Bren -- discovering gradually for ourselves about an alien culture, with plenty of misperceptions and mis-steps along the way.

gen. 23, 2008, 1:19am

*possible future reading spoilers*

This time around I've kept a file for reading notes and one of the things I have made comments about is just that - how Bren step by step is immersed in the atevi culture, and how it gradually changes his perception of things, throughout the series - from the official mospheiran statement that atevi don't have feelings and towards actually himself starting to twitch in atevi ways.
From a mospheiran perspective he's already as good as 'lost' at the time of Foreigner, not showing his feelings even when speaking with other humans. This isn't commented on in that book, but in the next, and it is clear that it's spoken of as something that have been going on for a while...

I'd say that about 2/3 of my comments is under the heading 'reread notes', reminding me not to say anything particular about those things here, so not to spoil the future for those wishing to read the rest of the books ;-)

Editat: gen. 23, 2008, 7:41am

Busifer, at first I wasn't sure I was going to warm up to Bren. I think I wanted him to 'quit complaining and act'. But reading on I understood it better. His every action or decision can potentially cause (directly or indirectly) conflict or, at worst, a war.

Where a more traditional hero might decide to avoid conflict, with Bren it is not even a conscious decision. Even when he is near a break-down, he worries about causing offence. Which makes him good at what he does. Traditional heroic qualities don't seem to work in his position, which, along with what you said about his immersion in the atevi culture, made this a really interesting read for me.

I also liked that there were no real villains, just conflicting interests and beliefs.

gen. 23, 2008, 10:32am

#7 - ...actually I think he's a bit long-winded at times, and I know there are people who think he's too whiny. I'm not one of those.
We only get to know what happens or what is through his eyes, his perceptions. It kind of follows that we get to hear a lot of thoughts and reflections. I think it's great, because I get a closer, or more private, idea about what motivates him.
Not everyone likes to sit behind the eyes of the protagonist, though ;-)

I also like that there's no black and white; only separately motivated interests. It's a lot like real life - no one think 'I'm the villain, I'm truly eeeeviiiil'; everyone think his or her actions and standpoints are justly motivated!

gen. 23, 2008, 10:54am

Addition: a general question, motivated by my #8.

What about Cherryh's writing style? Do you folks like it, or not?

Editat: gen. 23, 2008, 11:13am

I think it was Willem Dafoe who said that he didn't play the role of a villain any differently than a heroic role; the bad guys all think they are in the right. I think it is a mark of good writing when it is not a strech for the reader to believe that.

I'm wondering about something though. Close to the end the scene where Jago hits Bren kinda stood out for me. Is it referenced in later books? Or was it written just to add more tension and danger? Or just to emphasize that atevi act differently?

ETA: Cherryh's writing style: if I'm nitpicking, I could say that there were some run-on sentences. But I finished the book in four days, it really sucked me in. This I guess will be better answered by those who have read more of her books...

gen. 23, 2008, 11:17am

Yes it is discussed later. I can't know why CJC wrote it that way, but the explanation given is consistent with atevi behavior and no it isn't something a human would feel, but is one of the differences between atevi and humans.

I very much like CJCs "tight third person" style. You don't get cluttered paragraphs of extraineous detail, but anything that is different from the norm is described - because the characters notice such differences - and that allows you to visualise the "normal" details of the scene.

Occasionally I do get lost in unattributed conversations. I can't recall any in foreigner, but in some of her other work I'm not always sure who has spoken. Particularly when some character speaks twice.

Editat: gen. 25, 2008, 7:32am

#10/11 - I too get lost in her dialogues sometimes but I can't remember any such moments in Foreigner either.

As to that scene were Jago hits Bren I can't remember that it's discussed later? Anyway, it's consistent with atevi behaviour, I agree on that.
On rereading one almost feels 'was he ever that daft?!?!' ;-)
But I also remember not truly understanding during that first read.

Writing style: that rambling really got to me in some of the (Foreigner) books, but it have never kept me from always wanting more. And most of it has something to add - it's not there because she's too much in love with her words.
Sometimes I think it takes some readings to really peel all the layers off, there's always something there you didn't remember from the last time. Or at least I think so....

gen. 23, 2008, 3:24pm

#7 =
"no real villains, just conflicting interests and beliefs."

Classic Cherryh!

gen. 23, 2008, 7:51pm

I enjoyed it, on the whole. I'm still confused as to why Jago hit Bren, but I assume she just knew what he didn't know and he was bound to screw something up. Mostly, I felt that the book dragged when Bren disappeared inside his own head and thought about technology. When he considered the differences between himself and the atevi I was interested, but not so much when he dwelt on what they might or might not know about what he was telling them. Is that the rambling that you are all talking about? I didn't find him whiny, just too long-winded.

I also really like that there was no villain; I like shades of gray, and I think that so far it suits the atevi culture. I'm also curious to learn more about them. I didn't really try to relate them to any of this world's cultures, though I find it interesting that others relate them to the Japanese. I can see that, I think.

I suppose my summary is that I'm not in love with it, but I'd be happy to continue reading the series.

gen. 23, 2008, 7:55pm

What I really loved:

The tendency for humans to slip into making Atevi Man'chi fall into the human analogues of loyalty and emotion - and the slippery slope sort of trouble this constantly creates. The pressures of the people in position to know what is truly at stake, in such over simplifications, against those who have only a humancentric stance, with all of the usual political gamut of agendas we know in our own culture. I thought the sense of felicity in numbers was brilliant - it really showed how vastly different Atevi intellect was, from our own.

I admire Carolyn's ability to evolve such a truly original style, stick with it, smooth it out over years of experience, until no matter which book you pick up, you know, beyond question, her hand and her voice as distinct from any other. There's a certain comfort in that sense of mastery she has brought to her craft - she is original without leaping into your face about it.

I thought Bren Cameron to be the perfect protagonist for his position - he is constantly unassuming, to the point where he is able to devote all of his attention to absorbing detail other characters would surely miss - and the fact he is so bent on not causing offense gives him the edge in a culture where a wrong move or a wrong word could start a bloodbath.

His perception, also, changes, with each stage of the novel, and each novel in the series - I won't spoil - but the author doesn't stand him in place. Each time he's asked to take on more responsibility, the stakes rise, because his awareness of the risks expands likewise.

I think in many ways the Atevi are among the most fascinating of Carolyn's aliens, because as much as she reveals of them, there is always that edge of mystery, where the human/non human interface could explode the plot in any direction.

gen. 24, 2008, 2:59am

#15 - I thought the sense of felicity in numbers was brilliant - it really showed how vastly different Atevi intellect was, from our own.

I think it's great how she has been able to contrive of something that is exactly what religion is but without it being an actual religion, as humans sees it; we think religion has to do with the worshipping of some kind of deity/deities (words slips me this early in the morning, what with work and all...), when in reality it's more about philosophy and world-view.
It's very believable, this attention to numbers and the atevi need to be precise, not to approximate, as humans need do; the quest for a viable theory of everything, and how whatever don't fit the theory is dismissed, against physical proof of the opposite.

BTW, in this damned wet cold rainy winter we have here in Sweden I absolutely DEMAND an atevi style bathtub. Sad thing is I have to redo the floor plan of the entire flat to fit one in, so it's not practical. Still, one can dream...

gen. 24, 2008, 4:11am

For those of you who are new to C.J Cherryh's writing it may take getting used to. Quite a few of her main characters irritate me until I get used to them. I want to yell at them to get over themselves. Then I realise I'm getting upset over how I can do the same thing myself in real life.

If you can get past that, read on. I find her characters complex and fascinating.

Editat: gen. 24, 2008, 1:18pm

A few quick thoughts before I head out into the blizzard (darn lake effect snow) to go to the grocery store:

I definitely felt a Chinese/Japanese vibe about the atevi - their sense of duty, the Fortune and Chance philosophy, even the actual words we are given in atevi language felt Asian to me.

Loved the glossary, but, as always, I kept wishing there was a map to refer to.

Cherryh's writing style is.....different. I was sometimes confused by an overuse of pronouns and left to figure out which of the characters in the scene was performing the action being described.

I didn't get the feeling that the atevi had no emotion, just that they had no use for it in most of the situations we saw them in. We do see them tell jokes, show fear (the children are afraid of humans), care about their grandkids (the elderly couple who want Bren's autograph). I think emotion is there, but it is decidedly not human.

Jago and Bren - is there some foreshadowing going on with these two?

gen. 24, 2008, 1:12pm

#18 - Jago and Bren - I will NOT tell you!!!

Editat: gen. 24, 2008, 8:28pm

#18 & #19 - Aha! The way she kept fussing over his hair and wiping the tears from his face on the plane, I just knew something was brewing. Plus, in the beginning, they did state she was 'curious' about Bren. ;o)

Well, I really enjoyed it, despite the occasional long-winded spiel inside Bren's head. I was dying for him to get a good night's sleep in there somewhere!

I loved the interwoven factions and intrigues, and that's partly what I was alluding to when I stated that it reminded me of Shōgun. That, and the whole cultural immersion of the 'outsider.'

I'll be back!
(To this thread, I mean.)

gen. 25, 2008, 1:47am

#18 : "Jago and Bren - is there some foreshadowing going on with these two?"

Carolyn likes to tease (and so do we, LOL!!!)

gen. 25, 2008, 3:08am

#21 - Carolyn likes to tease
...and she's real good at it; it's part of the reading experience!

#20 - I loved the interwoven factions and intrigues
Me too. I attribute it to having seen real life politics at close range and most literary attempts are rather tame in comparison. Cherryh is an exception, she almost always manages to pull off believable plots.

gen. 25, 2008, 7:13am

The political machinations in Foreigner remind me a lot of the happenings in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Bren fills the same role as Tyrion in that we get most of the explanation on how the respective goverment/social situations work from them.

gen. 25, 2008, 7:19am

And like SIF there is no end in sight to the series. CJC is writing #10 now, and contracted to #12 I believe.

gen. 25, 2008, 4:03pm

Okay, so I'm ordering #2.

gen. 25, 2008, 4:06pm

I sent mine off on a swap today to make room for #2.

gen. 25, 2008, 4:16pm

Ack! What if you need it to refresh your mind while reading #2?

Ha! "Who does #2 work for?" ;o)

gen. 25, 2008, 4:26pm

>27 clamairy:

I can always ask that nice Swedish lady about it if I forget something.....what was her name?

gen. 26, 2008, 7:02pm

I'm on #2 now. Starts right where #1 left off. And since this is a spoiler free thread for #2, that is all you will get out of me....except that this one is even better so far...

gen. 26, 2008, 8:02pm

#29 - Gah! I still haven't ordered it... LOL

gen. 26, 2008, 8:31pm

Um, I guess I'll be the lone voice of negativity. I just can't decide how I feel about the book. Some spots I really liked it and it sucked me in. Then I'd hit a patch where Bren would go off on one of his fear and uncertainty binges and I'd be drumming my fingers hoping I could be done with the book soon.

The writing was excellent, and the plotting was good. I just couldn't get into Bren enough to make me want to read the later volumes.

Oh, and I pretty quickly picked up on the Shogun in Space...Maybe that's one of the things that put me off about it, I dunno.

gen. 27, 2008, 4:20am

#28 - Yeah yeah, just because I'm gone two days (headache) ;-) But yes, I would probably be able to answer, eh!

#31 - There's a reason there's so many books out there - not everyone has the same taste. And that's OK.

#29 - Yes, it's even better, and I finished it (3d reread) some days ago. It have been very hard NOT to discuss that book here!

gen. 27, 2008, 9:06am

#31 I had a hard time finishing #1. There were several times when Bren's internal doubts and the political musings were just plain slow. But Foreigner came with so many recommendations that I never considered putting it down. (In another situation I might have though).

Then I read someone's post about the next book and how it was their favorite and since I'm a hopeless binge reader with a particular weakness for series (George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Lois McMaster Bujold), I felt compelled to at least give the second book a try.

It has been absolutely worth it. The plot is tighter, the characters more fleshed out and Bren definitely matured. I am enjoying this one sooooo much more.

Editat: gen. 27, 2008, 5:30pm

#33 - Good, because I'm with drneutron on this. Although I really enjoyed the book I also wished I could have been Jago, and given him a good slap, more than once. ;o)

gen. 27, 2008, 6:44pm

#33 - Although I really enjoyed the book I also wished I could have been Jago, and given him a good slap, more than once. ;o)

Ok, so the scene in Airplane where the passengers line up to beat up the lady panicking just came to mind...;^}

gen. 27, 2008, 7:02pm

#35 - That would work! :o)

gen. 27, 2008, 7:34pm

#34 The poor shmuck had trouble adjusting...and that smack almost broke his neck. Just how big is that girl?

gen. 28, 2008, 5:58am

#37 Jago's bigger than you - Atevi are describe as being about a head - 12" - taller than humans, so she will be 6'6 or easily more. I'm not sure if atevi females are proportionately smaller than males as humans are. And she spent her whole life training and keeping fit so even if she was human sized she'd be as strong as any of our special forces soldiers.

gen. 28, 2008, 8:57am

How do you know Jago is bigger than me? I might be 6'6"... ;0)

Somewhere in the first book, Jago is described as smaller than Banichi, and some females described in the second book are 'smaller' than the other male servants. I think the atevi females are proportionately smaller than the males.

gen. 28, 2008, 9:02am

But they are still much larger and stronger than humans, or they wouldn't accidentally be breaking his bones and tearing his ligaments all the time, right?

gen. 28, 2008, 1:44pm

In book #4 (a-hem, reading it right now...) they are described as 'well above 2 metres of length', which means even Jago, who is described as shorter than Banichi, is basket player tall.

2 metres is approx. 6'5''.

gen. 28, 2008, 2:13pm

#40 Yes, they are much larger and stronger than humans. Except for those of us who are 6'6''.

*wipes a cobweb off the ceiling*

gen. 28, 2008, 3:19pm

*possible future spoiler*

A distant friend of mine, ex-colleague, is a former basket ball player; played college basket someplace in northern US and then professionally in at least Italy and Sweden. When imagining atevi I think of him - he's 7,11 feet. And - I have a VERY hard time imagining a human standard size male (which is kind of 5,9 feet to me) having any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with a woman that much bigger. Human males tend to want their girls shorter than themselves - I think it has something to do with self-respect...? *grins*

gen. 28, 2008, 8:52pm

On the other hand, Busifer, some human males might like having everything within reach...

But you know, I'm almost done with book 2 and I've come across a couple of references to Bren's height compared to Jago's and he's about a foot shorter than her. Not that much of a difference. Look at Tom Cruise and his different wives...

Editat: gen. 28, 2008, 11:58pm

Just finished, The beginning was a little slow but still interesting it was a bit after the court was introduced, after the first assassination attempt that I got a little bogged down. It isn't that it wasn't interesting I just didn't feel so gripped by the story that I couldn't put it down. Right before going to be I skipped ahead a bit, something I never do, to see where it was going and was hooked. I stayed up all night and finished it.

My initial impression was how real the cultural differences were. It struck me how well she described the human tendency to attribute their own culture and ways of thought to other beings who appear similar. There was one part where Bren was talking to I think Jago and said something to the effect of how it is more dangerous to be so similar rather than completely different because you fall into a trap of applying views and motives to the other party that may not exist.

Another very minor part that stayed with me was when Bren was remembering the former Paidhi near the end of the book. At the time Bren was frustrated with the lack of companionship/understanding he was getting from the Atevi and he had a sudden insight into how one might become so bitter and disillusioned that they no longer even like the Atevi they serve.

I find myself hoping that further in the series that the Humans and Atevi become close enough that a relationship can form between two individuals. The Atevi really appealed to me despite their lack of openness with emotions. Perhaps the thing that most connected me to them was in the beginning right off the first Atevi that was introduced was so concerned about the destruction of the environment and the aesthetic damage. That he was concerned about beauty of the place proved to me early on that they were not emotionless.

Editat: gen. 29, 2008, 3:02am

#37 wonders "Just how big is that girl (Jago)?"

Proportionately, an adult male (Bren) is the size of a 9-year-old atevi.

Poor Bren always has a terrible time finding socks that will fit...

Editat: gen. 29, 2008, 5:10am

#44 - Maybe those smallish men have something else going for them? ;-)

#45 - I think the atevi have lots of feelings but they reserve them for their trusted associates, keeping strangers out. And until the paidhi gets to be part of such an association the atevi can't show him what they really feel...
Previous paidhiin haven't had the same level of involvement that Bren is starting to get in book #1, and so it's understandable that they became embittered?
On the other hand *semispoiler? this is more book #2 and forward...* other humans have started to get frustrated over Bren because of his lack of emotions, which he himself claims is a lack of show, not lack as in not having emotions...

*Pours myself another cup of tea. Nursing a sore throat and a light fever, while trying to work...*

gen. 29, 2008, 4:10am

THis is in effect the key difference between atevi and humans.

Bren very obviously does feel affection etc. But learns to conceal it even to the point where it becomes habit and he has to remember to show his human face.

However I don't recall any points where the atevi actually feel in a similar manner. They do have something akin to an emotions - kabiu the sense of proprietary, and respect for the natural order, and the manchi, which is more of a follow the leader herd type instinct. But thye fundamentally don't have "liking" for anything other than salads!

gen. 29, 2008, 5:01am

...but they do 'like' salads, or 'love' different kinds of sodas (or was it ice cream flavours...)...

The following is in risk of being a spoiler, but I have often wondered what, if not feelings (even if it's man'chi) what DO motivate atevi to cheer, to rally, to feel affection or association to each other or their environment? Even if it's not possible to transpose directly to human feelings they have to perceive something; when encountering unkabiu settings they clearly 'feel' uncomfortable, when people within their association turns up after being elsewhere they have some kind of positive 'feeling' about being reunited.
I think it poses the question of 'what IS feelings, anyway'. Do we know the grounds for the feelings we have?
Maybe it's just different concepts, different words, evolved out of different social settings?

Personally I think it's dangerous for us as earthbound ;-) humans to think the Mospheirans are like us. I think they differ in several ways, partly because of their own recent history AND because they have lost contact with the history of their species (us). The Archive was destroyed during the War of the Landing, and the archive in itself cannot had been the sum total of human experience and knowledge.
Also, for convenience we assume the mospheirans speak english... but do they?

Maybe I'm over-sensitive, but being part of a culture that is NOT typical of this world we live on I often observe how people in other countries, like the US, or the UK, or..., react in whole another way than I am accustomed to. It can be simple words or it can be concepts that are totally alien. I'd argue that the division between atevi and human goes even deeper, but it can't be like the Mariner grave because Bren actually manages to have a life inside this alien culture.

I'd also say that even inside a common cultural sphere significant differences can exist. Part of my job is understanding and translating different corporate cultures, and in some big corporations with vastly diversified business areas a plethora of cultures can exist, often in open conflict with each other, not understanding what motivates the other.

gen. 29, 2008, 8:53am

Absolutely Busifer.

In regard to the Mospheirans, I think it is probably not a good idea to assume they are like humans presently on earth. Even if they were our direct descendents, they have spent the last two hundred years on alien soil, without contact with the original group they traveled with - but considerably influenced by atevi culture, topography, politics. Even when the average joe hasn't had direct contact with atevi.

On that same note, what in the heck are the ship people like? Even if they haven't been flying around for the entire 200 years, they've been so isolated that they are considerably different than the Mospheirans.

So I pose the question, who have the Mospheirans most assimilated into their present cultural being? Atevi or ship?

gen. 29, 2008, 8:57am

#50 pertinent question.

Read the rest of the series to find out. I won't spoil it by giving any info.

Busifer - nature or nurture? As always a bit of both maybe, but the atevi far heavier nature, and Bren far more nurture.

gen. 29, 2008, 9:06am

#50 - How far read are you? I'm presently rereading Precursor (#4, I'm kind of in a down period, overworked and with a cold, doing comfort reading, I think); that's the first time Bren & co really encounters the ship humans, and the question you ask is very pertinent to that book.
Also, it's about trust - how much trust, or distrust, influences your ability to communicate.

I'd say that the mospheirans have, at least, more in common with the atevi than with the ship humans; and that has to do with living on a planet AND being part of a bigger community. The ship humans are very few and that influences the way they behave; it also influences their approach to the mospheirans. I don't think it's stated anywhere, but it would seem that the ship needs some adding to its gene pool or they would soon start to degenerate...

gen. 29, 2008, 9:09am

#51 - Nature/nurture... agreed.

Also, #50/51 - I can't stop dropping spoilers, can I? ;-)
By all means, read the rest of the series, TheaMak; I think it's very rewarding, even in reread (even more things pops up in the 2nd read, hints at least I didn't interpret or got the first time around!)

gen. 29, 2008, 3:07pm

I'll start the 3rd book this evening. I guess that means I'm a babe in the woods, if you will.

My own take on the question in #50, (if answering myself doesn't qualify me for mental health insurance) is that aside from a very broad human connection to the people on the ship, assimilation with the atevi would HAVE to be more profound to the Mospheirans, precisely because they learn so much through nurture.

On the other hand, how much have Mospheirans influenced atevi culture if nature is the primary tool of cultural growth for the atevi?. Particularly, when we know this from book one; the atevi will surpass the Mospheirans mathematically one day. Who's to say they won't surpass them in everything else?

My own feelings towards the ship humans is of great distrust. I can't say for sure it's just because of the past betrayal either. You're right Busifer about the gene pool being compromised, but wouldn't you think their ship culture is rather diseased too? Two hundred years is a long time for small groups of people to be isolated. Grudges, jealousies, hatreds passed down to future generations. Ugh.


But then I don't know if they've stopped somewhere and retained a sense of objectivity. For all I know, they do indeed have a station just around that star over there.

Editat: gen. 29, 2008, 6:39pm


gen. 29, 2008, 3:29pm

I'll refrain from answering - a lot of those things are central to book #4 and, in some sense, further books. You'll get to know if you stay hooked (as I did...)!

gen. 29, 2008, 6:00pm

I just finished. I wanted to be carried away with this book so that I had the whole series to look forward to, but meh, I'm not so sure. Now hearing the #2 is better I'll give it a try and see - I do want to find out more about Bren and Jago ;)

I found Bren pretty frustrating at times, he really did go on and on and on (I'm glad to hear he matures more later on). And I got tired of everybody telling him not to worry too. Keeping him in the dark was a way of building suspense I realize, but it seemed counter-productive in getting him to cooperate more easily (he might have stopped asking so many questions!).

Also, if there are 14 words for betrayal, wouldn't it make sense that there would be an opposite word, like trust? How can you laugh at something if you don't like it? I found the atevi actions belied the insistence that they didn't experience love or like. For me it just didn't make sense.

I've often wondered if we, as human beings, like to imagine what it would be like to meet a species that experiences no emotions (like atevi or Vulcans). But since we are an emotional species ourselves, it is inevitably impossible for us to completely create such a fictional species. Invariably some such emotion outs, like the grandparents with their grandchildren, like Spock grinning to see Kirk alive. We just can't conceive that there aren't emotions of some kind there, deep down, maybe called something else, identified in some other way, but still at the end of the day, emotions.

And there were a couple of times when I got lost in the conversations, but that could have just been my concentration level.

On the plus side, I did like the whole nobody is a complete bad guy idea, I like that there is a grey area with everyone and you're not sure who's side anyone is really on at any one time.

I liked the political debates, the points of view, the philosophical discussions of numerical heresy.

Editat: gen. 30, 2008, 3:33am

But the atevi DO have feelings, just like Vulcans; only they are very good at keeping them in check. In atevi society a show of feelings is not rewarded; quite the opposite, I'd say, as the most basic feeling is that of man'chi, and having or not having a person within one's man'chi is deciding the outcome of most disputes. So, hiding one's feelings, and one's man'chi, is only appropriate - it's basic self protection.
Also it is hinted at that a show of feelings is not properly polite - you don't burden other people with what you feel.

But I agree with you that we cannot conceive of the inconceivable; we cannot imagine what's totally outside our frame of reference. That was one of my major thoughts after I had read about half of the series for the first time.
And that incapability makes it very difficult to discuss our relationship to what is not only foreign to us but totally alien.

The making of politics and how it affect the involved, even ordinary people, is a central theme in all of Cherryh's works, at least those I've read. It's one of the things that draws me to her writings :-)

Edited to correct some obvious grammatical errors ;-)

gen. 30, 2008, 8:14am

An aside: read Spock's World for a better understanding of how and why Vulcans suppress their emotions and embrace logic.

gen. 30, 2008, 9:14am

Atevi are definitely feelings and are quite in possession of them - most of the time. It was obvious to me from book one that the feelings were there - a smile in a humorous situation, a flash of anger in the eyes, a raised voice in the council chamber.

But it's rude to show those emotions to any degree. It's somewhat like children and tantrums - the older they get the less acceptable it is for them to lose it in public.

Btw, this public display of affection (or whatever emotion), is quite varied in human cultures on earth now, as we certainly have very demonstrative cultures and less, well touchy-feely cultures.

gen. 30, 2008, 1:59pm

Fascinating posts, everyone. Many of you are unknowingly prescient about issues explored later in the series. As CJC says, "I like my readers to *think*".

Busifer-ji, your post #49 I especially enjoyed.

Katylit #57, I think you will really enjoy #2, Invader!

Nature vs. nurture is an overarching theme in many, many Cherryh books. Cuckoo's Egg, one of my favorite books, examines this. It is a fairly short book -- and unforgettable on many levels. Cuckoo's Egg was a Hugo nominee in 1986, losing out to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.

gen. 30, 2008, 3:23pm

#61 - Thank you, nadi. That 'thinking' stuff is one of the reasons I like CJC's books. Same reason I really enjoy most of the works by Guy G Kay /weird or no touchstone/, who, I have to admit, is a bit more exacting in the detail - it's not uncommon to catch CJC with inconsistencies; something that NEVER happens with Kay. I forgive her, because I really enjoy what she writes, but...
There's a couple of paragraphs in Defender that irks me every time. Bad editing. Haven't caught GGK with that yet.

#57/61 - Katylit, I agree with Sk8ter - you should try Invader. As TheaMak have attested it's a great improvement on Foreigner.
I also note that I'm not alone in making the Star Trek-connection! Lots of reasoning and politicking and feeling, and a spoon of action every now and then ;-)

And, #54, TheaMak; I think it's quite OK to answer your own questions - it IS the Green Dragon, remember?! :-)

gen. 30, 2008, 5:07pm

Thanks for the reassurance Busifer. I asked myself if it was okay to answer me and I said yes, but it's good to get second opinions.


gen. 31, 2008, 1:38am


gen. 31, 2008, 3:25am

Since some of Cherryh's other books have already been mentioned here, I'm gonna go off-topic for a bit and ask: which books or series of hers are your favorites? Are there any that disappointed you? Do her other books have similar themes (e.g. cultural conflicts) to this one?

Thanks in advance for answering; it'll be a while before I can get my hands on the rest of the Foreigner series, so I plan to read through the local library's selection of Cherryh books. Which is actually pretty good, but sadly not complete.

gen. 31, 2008, 4:14am

#65 - most, if not all, of her work can at least at some levels, be viewed as cultural conflicts. Fortress in the eye of time maybe least so, of those I've read.

Absolute favourite - very very hard to say.
Cyteen, probably
but the Chanur saga is excellant and easier reading
The faded sun excellant.
Morgaine saga also excellant

Her short stories are perhpas without parallel in any I've read anywhere else. Vaired - infinitely so, often weird, but very compelling, and requiring a lot of thought afterwards to consider the ideas raised.

I'm slightly less impressed by the dreaming tree which is hard going but worthwhile. I've many still left to read.

Editat: gen. 31, 2008, 7:37am

#65 - Like r_f I want to recommend Cyteen.

Of her other books I've only read the Company Wars books (although I have Faded sun in my immediate TBR pile) and they're all worthwhile.
Thinking style and theme the two first - Heavy Time & Hellburner - (internal chronology; not the publishing order) and the two last - Tripoint & Finity' End - (also chronologically) are similar to each other AND in some respect to the Foreigner-books; hidden or obscure politics, multifaceted, ambiguous and/or troubled personalities, clashing cultures, clashing demands and wishes, questions of belonging, of destiny...
Personally I don't think Downbelow station is one of her best but IF you're going to read the Company Wars books at least I think that one is a good starting point - lots of background, characters and places that may be minor in that story but pops up in the others...
Technically I don't think Company Wars is a series; it's a sequence - stories set in the same milieu but from different viewpoints, both in time, place and roles of the protagonists. And as such Cyteen could easily had been part of that sequence...

(The books not mentioned here but within that series is Merchanter's Luck & Rimrunners)

gen. 31, 2008, 8:37pm

I probably have close everything C. J. Cherryh has written.

In addition to the above, she did a two book series about an alien world, and a spooky interaction with some pretty wild psychic phenomena, natural to that setting, and explosively dangerous when humans settled and unwittingly, their emotions interacted. These would be Cloud's Rider and Rider at the Gate. I liked these a lot.

Early SF with an adventure twist, try her Morgaine series, beginning with Gate of Ivrel. These are more action oriented.

Early SF that I also liked, her Faded Sun series.

She did two other sorts of fantasy, besides Tree of Swords and Jewels and its sequel, - a standalone, called Goblin Mirror and another trilogy in a somewhat Russian setting that differs in tone, a lot, from her other fantasy works.

Hammerfall and its sequel were written in between other recent titles. She tends to carry several series at once. More power to her awesome ability to stay prolific!

She always puts a strong political spin on the pressures of bottled up lifestyles, experienced in space. In Heavy Time, guys would be out for months at a time, mining under weightless conditions. When they came in to a station and had to file claim paperwork, of course, they had to make their way to the part of the installation that had the heaviest gravity...and often broke fragile bones in the process. Interesting spin on government red tape taking advantage of the hard luck worker.

I liked Downbelow Station very much. There was nothing else like it, at the time it came out. I thought she captured the panic of a population put under pressure with extreme limitations on their resources very well.

feb. 1, 2008, 1:17am

Thanks for the suggestions! I've just started the Morgaine saga, which I see is written in the late seventies (her early sf, as you said).

Given that you guys don't think any of her books are to be avoided, she seems to have written consistently good books for over 30 years. That's quite an achievement. Also great for me personally. :) This is the best part of LT for me, finding new books to love.

reading_fox: those short stories sound intriguing. I think a lot of writers take more risks with short stories, don't they? I read Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things some months ago. Some of the stories I found very disturbing (which was the point I think), but definitely memorable.

feb. 1, 2008, 5:28am

Woo! So, I finally finished last night.

Thoughts: firstly, the writing style really got to me at times. I had to get used to the fact that in general, Bren was just referred to as "he", so if there was someone and I couldn't work out who it was it was probably Bren. And she did occasionally use sentences which just didn't make sense to me, or were ungrammatical, which I found disconcerting.

OK, having got that out of my system: I really enjoyed bits of this! No one has yet mentioned Illisidi, who was by far my favourite character - I really enjoyed the novel an awful lot more once they were in Manguri. (Did I just get that wrong? Probably. Sorry...) It was possibly partly because it felt more like getting to the root of Atevi culture, although it was probably also because I just enjoyed the old, intelligent, playful woman and her interactions with Bren. I really enjoyed the last third or so, probably because the action was more exciting. I think I found the start slightly frustrating - we spent aaaages just not knowing what was going on (which was made worse by the fact that Bren spent ages ruminating about it) and I just got a bit bored.... (Though in general the fact that he ruminated was usually quite interesting and was effective for getting the reader into his mindset which was, IMO, one of the essential bits for getting us to experience the atevi effectively as "other".)

If you'd asked me half way through whether I would read the rest of the series, I would have emphatically said no, whereas now I'm wavering. A lot of this novel really did feel like setup for the rest of the series, and now I'm intrigued to know what happens with the ship humans...

Plus I *do* want to know what happens with Jago and Bren ;-)

feb. 1, 2008, 5:42am

Oh, Ilisidi is a definite favourite, and she is one of the main supporting characters - no book without her... :-)
You should go on to read Invader! Bren's ruminations gets less irritating as he gets immersed in atevi culture and lifestyle. Or so I think.

(Am I allowed to say that I think there's quite a lot of romance going on in this series? Someone up to talking about the rest of the books, or at least Invader? In another thread?)

feb. 1, 2008, 9:13am

I want to but...I only started Inheritor last night. As you know, in this book Cherryh spends a few pages setting up, which I wish she wouldn't, since I (so selfish of me, I know) already know what happened in the previous book. Getting into Jase now, Jago and Banichi just arrived and Bren is so grown up!

A couple of days, probably sooner now that the weekend is here and I'll be ready to talk more.

feb. 1, 2008, 10:32am

#72 - this book Cherryh spends a few pages setting up, which I wish she wouldn't...
I know, that irked me no way when I read that one... Defender starts like that, too. Reading the series back to back has it's drawbacks.

IMO Inheritor wasn't as well written/paced as Invader but I kept on reading anyway, because I cared about the the characters and want to know what's going to happen. And - it's not a bad book. Just not as good as Invader ;-)

Green pizza!

feb. 1, 2008, 1:32pm

We'll be going to a big chain bookstore on Saturday that I know will have all the Cherryh books (our little local stores don't have her), so I'll pick up Invader on all of your recommendations.

I am glad to hear that Illisidi continues on in the series, she is a great character.

I realize now my confusion over atevi emotions. I thought that since they had no word for love or like that meant they didn't feel it. My mistake. I did find myself comparing them to Vulcans quite often throughout the book.

I can definitely see the similarities between this book and G.G. Kay's books Busifer and see why you like her so much. It'll be good to read Invader.

feb. 1, 2008, 1:42pm

I haven't noticed a lot of similarities between GGKay and Cherryh, Bus, was there something in particular that makes you think that? (I've read Tigana and The Sarantine Mosaic books.

feb. 1, 2008, 4:24pm

#75 - To me the connection is more a feeling, a general kinship, than something substantial; it's something about the believability, in characters and universe both, and about a skill in thinking up intricate political intrigue.

Their actual writing styles are very different, Kay is meticulous with detail while Cherryh is more... impressionistic, maybe. But there's something there, beneath it all - individuals caught up in politics, trying to manage. And a feeling that they care for their characters.
And - you can't read either of their books without thinking, reflecting on what you've read.

Maybe the closest connection on the Kay side are The Lions of Al-Rassan and A Song for Arbonne, but I'm thinking The Sarantine Mosaic and Tigana as well.
On the Cherryh side... well, all her books that I've read. Which is only a few out of a wast production. Still, they are in some number so I'll refrain from mentioning them here. Check my library, instead :-)

#74 - Ilisidi is great in Foreigner. From that start she manages to get even better, even more formidable, in the later books. Or so I think.

feb. 2, 2008, 12:35am

Referring back to post #66: R-F already knows this, but it may interest others that
Carolyn is incredibly prolific, having written ~60 novels now. That doesn't even count the short stories! The Collected Short Fiction of C. J. Cherryh is excellent, and currently in print.

Referring back to #62 -- This is a short, humorous YouTube video of Carolyn explaining some of the inconsistencies. Remember --we only read the final, published version. Carolyn has multiple versions running amok in her head!

feb. 2, 2008, 8:50am

#76 I haven't read The Lions of Al-Rassan or A Song for Arbonne yet. I love GGk but he is incredibly difficult to find around here (as is Cherryh). I look forward to reading and comparing them though, I'm always on the lookout.

I'm well into Inheritor but I can't find Precursor anywhere! I leave amazon for my last option, preferring to check the local stores and library first but I think I'm going to have to cave in.

Ahhhh! This is going to break my stride!

feb. 2, 2008, 12:20pm

#74 --
I wasn't very sure how I felt about Ilisidi in Foreigner #1. But, as I read the remainder of the series, I fell in "salad" with her. In Foreigner #1 I wasn't sure if I could *trust* her, LOL!

feb. 2, 2008, 12:52pm

MtnSk8tr: I'm not sure I cared whether I could trust her, I just thought she was brilliant. Maybe that was part of the fun - you never quite knew whether she was about to off Bren just for the hell of it ;-)

feb. 2, 2008, 1:31pm

Well, finally finished reading this last night, to my wife's chagrin...

Then spent lots of time catching up on this incredibly long thread (got to get done sooner in the future) Now it's my turn. Though I am not sure what else I can add to the whole thing. Most things have been covered.

I liked the beginning 2 parts, great set up and wish there was more to it. Has there been a prequel written yet? or does the series answer the questions well as it goes on? The we meet Bren. From the meeting until we get sent out to the country side he seems whiny and not nearly as together in reality and politics as one would expect of a diplomat in such a touchy and important position. If I had stopped reading before we met Illisidi I probably wouldn't have picked it back up. As it is the last 3rd of the book redeemed it and really set the stage for the next one and I plan on continuing the series.

As far as the emotions thing. They obviously had them but suppressed them like the Vulcan's. The problem is what they react to and how is very different than a human would expect. Points of reference make a huge difference. If you can't adjust your frame of reference it is almost impossible to communicate with some one who has a very different one. Not sure where I'm going with that. Need to eat lunch and refuel the brain.

feb. 2, 2008, 3:12pm

#78 - Such horror! There's a SF/F bookshop in town (kind of detour to get there though) and when I realised they had all the Foreigner books in store I went there and bought them, two to three at a time. That's VERY unusual for me, I've bought most of my books on-line since I first discovered back when all webpages were grey... must've been the mid-90's.

But I just couldn't wait to get to the next book, and the next, and...

What do you think of Inheritor?

feb. 2, 2008, 4:14pm

I think I mentioned it before but the back story in the first few pages was awkward in parts. I realize some people forget or haven't read the other two books but I was anxious to get on with it. Then it went into what I call the "thinking mode", where Bren thinks about everything but doesn't speak, doesn't interact, doesn't MOVE. Yet again I was anxious to get on with it. This section was blessedly short.

Suddenly, the action picked up. We met a new character, another character who we had heard about but hadn't really met, we spent some time with Algini and Tano, and Banichi and Jago came home. I'm somewhere in the middle of the book, enjoying it very much.

I liked Invader more but Inheritor is well worth reading.

I picked up a copy of The Morgaine Saga (is the title right?), a thick copy with three Morgaine books. Looking forward to that one day soon.

I guess I'd better order Precursor from Amazon and slow down my reading Inheritor...

Editat: feb. 2, 2008, 4:30pm

Hm, so you haven't arrived at page 390 yet?

OK, this is not the exact page number I'm after, but I think it's approximately there, if I go to the shelf to check my husband will know I'm not really working, as I should... ;-)
And if you've read that far you'll know what I mean.

ETA - haven't read Morgaine yet so I cannot comment on that one.

feb. 2, 2008, 4:45pm

Yep - Morgaine saga is right. It's an omnibus of 1-3 of a 4 part series, though Exile's gate (4) is kind of an addendum as I understand. I haven't been able to find it so I don't know for sure.

It's different.
Great. But very different to Foreigner.

#77 Sk8ter-Ji 60!!? I knew it was 30+ which I'm on my way to getting, but I didn't realise I had that many still to go? How many are still in print? Do you know if there are plans to re-print any?

Regarding the series it's very annoying to have to wait 12+months for the book to appear in the UK and then in paperback when Shejidan is discussing it already. I've finally ordered Deliverer and hope to join the discussion in due course.

#81 - no prequel. It does get some further discussion, but not in terms of why/how they left earth, and what the rest of humanity is doing. Foreigner is a completely different universe to any of her other series'

#84 I know what you mean ;-)

feb. 2, 2008, 5:23pm

#85 - Yes, those 12 months can be excruciating!!! I've promised myself I get to buy the next one in hardback because the wait is long enough as it is!

I know what you mean ;-)
And soon enough TheaMak will know as well ;-)

feb. 2, 2008, 6:18pm

Oh I know already, Bus, lol!

I ordered the second TRIO instead of just Precursor, because I couldn't remember if my library had all three books - I wasn't about to take a chance!

Omg, I'm a SEVERE binge reader and this series is destroying my self control. ;)

Anyway, while I was looking up Cherryh's bibliography, I started to wonder about the titles. Obviously, the titles signify something general about the story to come and it set wondering what each title could mean. It was a great time killer.

Okay, I can't stand it any more -- I going to peek at page 390!!!

feb. 2, 2008, 11:32pm

#85 Foxy-ji --

I lied.

Carolyn hasn't written 60 novels. She's written 59.

The count of 59 excludes CYTEEN II: REGENERATION (galleys STILL haven't come back, as of 2 days ago), or FOREIGNER #10: CONSPIRATOR (still being written). This number also doesn't include novels Carolyn co-authored or contributed to; anthologies, omnibii, short stories, collections of short stories, or shared universes, etc, etc, etc. It also excludes translated works.

I counted CYTEEN I as one book, not three. The publisher cut it up into 3 volumes, but Carolyn never intended for it to be published that way, and by mutual agreement, it will never be divided again.

Many of Carolyn's works have never gone out of print. GATE OF IVREL & CYTEEN are two that come quickly to mind. Novels that have been allowed to go out of print have been re-issued, often in an omnibus. The market when Carolyn was first published was for 80,000 words. The current market is for ~120,000-150,000 words (if my recall is correct) -- so her older, shorter books are combined for re-issues.

For less common or out-of-print books, is a good source, as well as eBay. has the current omnibus reprints.

Here's a good site for you. Start counting!

feb. 3, 2008, 9:44am

I couldn't do it...I opened my book and then shut it without looking at page 390. I'm just not a peek-at-the-last-page kind of reader.

I'll reach 390 (or thereabouts) eventually...oh, Ilisidi just popped back into the picture, feisty as ever...

feb. 3, 2008, 11:04am

TheaMak, I just checked, it's page 361 in my DAW paperback edition ;-)

feb. 3, 2008, 12:11pm

*puts hands over ears*

Not listening Bus....

feb. 3, 2008, 3:54pm

You don't need to listen to me - just read on!

feb. 3, 2008, 7:00pm

Forty more pages and I'll be there!

BTW, the action has picked up nicely. I have noticed that once she gets her stride going, it stays even throughout the rest of the book. I'm enjoying this one. :)

Editat: feb. 4, 2008, 8:15am

To make life easier for those who are new to Cherryh's work, a fair amount of her work is being re-released in omnibus paperback editions by DAW books.

Her webpage is good but individual pages inside of it have not been updated in a long time.

Better off going here for a complete listing of her work.

feb. 4, 2008, 8:27am

This is also a good place, I use it more often than the Fantastic Fiction db -

feb. 4, 2008, 8:50am

I read THE SCENE last night Bus, late I might add and I have to go to work tired today :(. I don't want to give away spoilers, so I won't say much more except - it was very well done.

*smiles for the rest of the morning*

feb. 4, 2008, 8:57am

I think so too.

Cherryh is very good at writing suspense, and at teasing both her characters and the reader - you want something to happen to them, and you have to read and read and read and read in hope that EVENTUALLY... but you can't know, she may kill 'em off instead, or they misinterpret each others intentions or... and so you worry... and read on and... ;-)

At least that's the way it is for me.

feb. 4, 2008, 2:42pm

She definitely kept the suspense going - although I never would have suspected Banichi's involvement.

One thing about Cherryh is that she does deliver. I'm sure there are things I'm missing on this first read, but I haven't had any major questions go unanswered yet. And I don't feel like I'm chasing the carrot-on-the-stick either. (I read all the way to book nine of The Wheel of Time before I realized that there was NO ENDING in sight. Oy! What a waste.

Amazon has just shipped the next trio, so I guess I'll be patient...

feb. 4, 2008, 2:48pm

98 > the Wheel of Time book 12 will be the last one in the series and it is being written by Brandon Sanderson (if you didn't already know.)

Editat: feb. 4, 2008, 2:57pm

although I never would have suspected Banichi's involvement.
No, that was very clever. And in book #4 you're up for another (mild) surprise in that general department... Or at least I hadn't guessed; and neither had Bren! ;-)

When rereading I can view Bren and his musings in another light, I now know some of the answers he's chasing and that makes me able to see the atevi point of view in those situations. In retrospect that's obvious, but it surprised me - I wasn't prepared for that, and it added an extra dimension to the story.

As to the 'no ending' business I'm not sure I want an ending to the Foreigner books. It's like a real good TV series (a-hem, I'm actually thinking ST:TNG...), the characters becomes your friends, and you want them with you forever. Or?

Anyway, the first book in the fourth trilogy is in the making as we speak, so I hope we will see more of Bren and company in the future :-)
But maybe book #12 (which is contracted for) will tell us the ending?

feb. 4, 2008, 4:53pm

#100 he's got to die at some stage. There's a lot of intregue around him and he doesn't have banichi's mass when it comes to stopping sharp objects. Besides by the end of #12 he's going to be old....? there are some major time jumps already chronicled late 40s by Deliverer?? Which by the way was delivered TODAY! Hurah and Hurray. Finally I get to read it!

feb. 4, 2008, 6:03pm

#101 but we don't know how long (Bren's) humans live. And how has the atevi planet affected the mospheirans?

#100 I think the problem I had with TWoT were the trailing storylines that would be addressed in the next book...or the next...
Sometimes entire storylines (and their characters) would be put off for TWO books - not worth it.

I don't know if I can reread all those books or just jump in where I left off. Oh well, millions of other books to read. :)

feb. 4, 2008, 8:27pm

Cherryh has the effect of making me care about the characters. During the course of the nine books I would find myself wondering where certain Atevi had gotten to and being quite pleased when they showed up again later on. Such as Tano and Algini.

feb. 5, 2008, 1:27am

#101 - Late 40's? My estimate is about 40...?
*those sensitive to material that can spoil future reading, stop here!*

26, going on 27 in Foreigner; then in Invader - that is some days later.
Then in Inheritor another 6 months have passed, which makes him 27.
Then 2-3 years more in Precursor (30), and another 6 years when Defender starts (36), and 2 years at the end of Explorer (38).
Destroyer, Pretender & Deliverer all plays out during a couple of months, at most.

Anyone have another timeline?

feb. 5, 2008, 2:04am

#101 again - Yes, of course he have to die at some point! Hopefully not until the end of book #12, though... And, it will be a sad day.

feb. 5, 2008, 2:52am

I would be quite surprised if Carolyn ever *truly* kills off one of her main characters. She told me about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle making the "mistake of killing off" Sherlock Holmes -- which "caused him (Doyle) no end of trouble" bringing Sherlock back. The point CJC's anecdote was that she doesn't ever plan to make Doyle's mistake.

Note my emphasis of "truly", above. Those who have read a certain CJC Hugo winner will understand exactly why I am qualifying this statement. Because most of you haven't read the book I'm referring to, I don't want to be any more explicit, for fear of ruining part of the story for you.

feb. 5, 2008, 9:32pm

Well, I finished it this afternoon. I've got to say, I'm rather disappointed. I really, really wanted to like this book, but it just didn't work for me.

Intellectually, I think it had a lot going for it. Cherryh's done some interesting things with Bren's reactions and preconceptions. I appreciated how his understanding of the atevi evolved as the book progressed. I also found it interesting that the style reflected what was going on in his head. So often, it really felt like I was riding along inside his skull, listening to him figure out what was happening.

But unfortunately, the style was also the thing that put me off. I think I'd have enjoyed it very much in a shorter format, but after a while it just got to be too much for me. I constantly felt like I was decoding Bren's thoughts into something that made sense to me. (Not necessarily a bad thing, given that Bren himself is forced to decode everything going on around him, but not something that really engaged me, personally). I found myself skimming. There were a couple of bits, (ie, his first encounter with Ilisidi and the very start of that whirlwind ending), where I was fully engaged, but neither moment lasted. Sigh.

It was interesting at times, but I can't really drum up much enthusiasm for the next book. I'll probably read it eventually, but I'll be taking it out of the library instead of buying it.

Editat: feb. 6, 2008, 4:32pm

Although we don't get much detail, what do you think about the original decision of the colonists to settle on an obviously civilised world? "natives with rights, but not exceeding our rights"

They did have a reasonable choie not to disturb it, and to work with the Guild at the 4th planet. Surely the colonists didn't have rights to a world they'd just discovered?

#107 - fair enough. Cherryh does have a distinct style that certainly isn't to everyone's taste. It would be a dull world/universe if we were all the same!

feb. 6, 2008, 7:18pm

The humans didn't have rights to the planet but what they did have was a huge sense of superiority that guided their every move.

I think that that was also a major cause, along with the inherent misunderstandings between the two peoples, in the war (of the worlds). The Mospheirans couldn't imagine losing to the "primitive" atevi. But they did and for the next 200 years paid to keep the peace.

Books 4, 5 and 6 arrived today! Yay!

#107 I wouldn't give up on the series x. I loved the second book and was hooked for good.

feb. 7, 2008, 12:57am

I think I would have chosen an inhabited planet as well, in their situation. Maybe it's not 'right' but as planet-person, accustomed to living down a gravity well, I'd not want to live on yeasts for the rest of my life.

What the colonists could have done was to be a bit less human centred in their view but honestly I think it was a easy mistake to make.

*possible spoiler warning (for those who haven't read beyond book #1, that is)*
The interesting thing is the mospheirans have retained their two distinct mindsets, one pro space and one not, both deeply rooted in their individual histories - 200 years have not done much to integrate the former 'master class' of the station with the 'grunts'.

feb. 7, 2008, 8:40am

Just started book 4 last night. I like the way it jumped right into the storyline without the boring fill-in.

I wonder if the mospheirans remained divided because of their isolation from the atevis? It seems like although the atevi advanced throughout the years, the mospheirans were so busy controlling the atevis' advancements that their own evolution was somehow retarded.

I find it interesting that while at this point in the book there is still strict segregation but what's going to happen when the mospheirans and the atevi HAVE to cooperate in a much broader way?


feb. 7, 2008, 2:45pm

#111 - ...the mospheirans were so busy controlling the atevis' advancements that their own evolution was somehow retarded.

I think that's a plausible explanation; I also think that the mospheirans thinking of themselves as in some way related to a world/planet none of them know of have something to do with it - they try to emulate instead of invent. And their society being an closed enclave they have chosen to lock themselves in, not to explore even the things they are allowed to explore.
At least that's a thought.

feb. 7, 2008, 7:47pm




Which will be the most advantageous and to whom? If the mospheirans identify with the atevi more than the ship that abandoned them, then it makes sense that they might have feel some sort of relation to the planet. I suppose they could even begin to believe that they have the same "rights" as the atevi.

feb. 8, 2008, 8:11am

As you're reading #4 at the moment I feel that I can't contribute without spoiling your read...
Tell me when you've finished and we can continue on that particular track!

feb. 8, 2008, 9:02am

I have a road trip with my daughter's singing group this weekend, so I hope to read quite a bit on the bus.

I think it's down to you and me Bus. ;) I'll let you know when I finish book 4.

feb. 9, 2008, 12:25am

I'm holding back also -- I don't want to give away anything that happens past book #1

feb. 10, 2008, 6:35pm

Should we have a thread for Books 2 and after? Maybe a thread for each book?

feb. 11, 2008, 11:16am

Yes, maybe... only I have a slight problem with remembering exactly what happened when, so best solution to me would be one thread for books 2 to 9...

feb. 11, 2008, 2:18pm

That works for me. I don't have a problem knowing a few things before I read them, in fact, I was on this thread before finishing Foreigner, it helped me understand a few things.

BTW, Precursor is great. I think this one has moved into the favorite spot for me.

feb. 11, 2008, 3:08pm

As I mentioned in that 'what are you reading' thread I felt 'this is just like Star Trek' the first time that I read Precursor. I kind of saw Enterprise-looking corridors and doors and...
But I agree, it's a great book!

I'll wait a bit, and if you don't start the 'the Foreigner series discussion' thread, I'll do it. Eventually. If you don't do it before I get around to... ;-)

feb. 12, 2008, 7:33pm

Finally finished last night:

Japan did come to mind while reading this, but not in order to try and find a parallel culture. I was trying to think of how I would feel living in a country whose culture and ways of thinking are so different from mine. Japan came to mind, I lived there for a year when I was younger. My difficulty was, I look Japanese so everyone expected me to act/be Japanese and were sometimes offended when I didn't. They had no such expectations of and reactions to the other foreigners I met there.

I wonder how much of the difference between humans and Atevi is due to hardwiring differences and how much due to cultural differences. If a human was allowed to grow up amongst Atevi, or vice versa, would that person grow up understanding the people the grew up with or would they still be as confused and disoriented as Bren became?

Writing style - I did find it hard to get used to Cherryh's writing style. I found myself constantly rereading to figure out what she meant. I didn't find her sentences run on but that she jumped around from thought to thought and it was hard to follow her. But I guess that was the whole idea as we're supposed to be seeing events as Bren and human thoughts do jump around like that. But I found it made this book hard to read and stay focused on.

Overall, I got frustrated with Bren's inactions. So much was happening around him and he had no control over anything. Except the one time he does react (by going back to get Banichi) and he gets smacked, twice, by his own side, for his efforts. Although this did make me wonder if Jago was showing her feelings for Bren here, like a mother reacting to her child getting into danger by getting mad at him after she knows he's okay. Or is that too human? I'm not sure I want to go on reading the series and I'm glad this book didn't leave us hanging but I am curious about a couple of things, like Banichi and Jago's ongoing relationship with Bren

feb. 13, 2008, 2:19am

Sandragon, I have an Indian, as from India, friend who went to seek his roots. When he came back to Sweden it was with a sense of 'coming home' - maybe similar to your Japanese experience; before he left he didn't feel like part of the swedish culture. But when he got to India he discovered that he wasn't part of that culture either.
I think Bren experiences something like that.
And I have had the same thoughts about how much is hardwiring and how much is cultural with the atevi/human difference. I think some of those questions gets answered, or at least are discussed, in later books.

feb. 13, 2008, 4:14am

"he gets smacked, twice, by his own side, for his efforts. Although this did make me wonder if Jago was showing her feelings for Bren here, like a mother reacting to her child getting into danger by getting mad at him after she knows he's okay. Or is that too human?"

Too human.
My reading is that Banichi Jago and at that time Cenedi are all in the Man'chi of Tabini/Illsidi, as they expect bren to be. The sensible course of action is to leave Banichi to make his own way while they flee. This preserves the Aji. Bren's actions run counter to this, confusing manchi hence Jago and cenedi are upset - is Bren really in Tabini's manchi?

Of course he can't be, he doesn't feel man'chi - but just as Bren still can't stop expecting himself to be liked rather than appreciated as useful by the atevi so the atevi can't stop expecting Bren to feel man'chi

feb. 13, 2008, 12:03pm

OK, well I'm stalled. I decided to read the thread to see if it would drum up some interest in finishing the book, and so far, it's not. (Well, and there's this fascinating Wilkie Collins novel I'm embroiled in.)

My problem with it is the same one I had with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You just know some really interesting stuff is happening somewhere, but because of the author's choice you're stuck with the neurotic navel gazing of a character who has been pushed to the side of the action. With Harry, you're already invested in the character and you realize that he's just going through a hormonal rough patch, and also that JKR has everything worked out and will hip the reader to what is going on eventually. I don't experience the same confidence in Cherryh. It seems like an excuse for lazy world-building. Are the atevi "mysterious" and "unpredictable" or are they just slopplily drawn?

I did like the beginning parts, especially when we got to see things from the atevi's POV, but then it just got boring to me.

feb. 13, 2008, 12:29pm

If you just don't like it I'd say fair enough. Not everything is to everyone's liking!

What it is is not sloppy world-building, though. The point is it is seen through the eyes of Bren, and we can't see or understand more than he do at any given time. When returning to the first book a lot of things becomes obvious, because the signs are there but Bren can't parse them at that time. We are viewing everything through the eyes of an alien... ;-)

feb. 13, 2008, 12:51pm

I guess what I meant, Busifer, is that perhaps Cherryh started writing the book without having fully fleshed out the atevi, in order to sort of fill in the particulars "on the fly" as it might serve the plot. It's one way of going about it, but doesn't lend itself to tight world-building. I think it was mentioned above that there are inconsistencies. But you have read the later books and I'll take your word for it that things end up cohesive.

And as you say, chacon a son gout.

btw, Busifer, I have tremendous respect for you, even though we seem to have very different taste in books.

feb. 13, 2008, 12:58pm

No prob!
And you know - we do see them as sloppily drawn in the first book because that's how Bren perceives them. Coming back you realise that Cherryh seemingly knew exactly what she was doing, as some things that was incomprehensible during the first read becomes crystal clear.

And the respect is mutual. I clearly remember disagreeing on other books as well, but that is not what matters. Finding common ground DESPITE differences are!

feb. 13, 2008, 1:15pm

OK, here's some other things that seem like lazy world building to me:

1. The humans have progressed to the point of interstellar travel, yet the technology they bring to the atevi is strictly 20th century. I have to admit that to some degree I read scifi for the gizmos.

2. The floral & fauna are inadequately described. I have no idea really what the "riding animal" and the dragon-whatever actually look like. I never get the sense that this is actually a culture that grew up on a planet many light-years from earth. They even have pancakes, and cereal, and for that matter, breakfast.

I think they have CNN, too.

Editat: feb. 13, 2008, 1:38pm

No need to go on arguing - just let's agree to disagree? OK?
Because sometimes it's just down to plain taste, nothing else.

feb. 13, 2008, 1:44pm

I found that reading from only Bren's POV interested but frustrated me at the same time. I REALLY wanted to know what the people around him were thinking.

In the later books, does Cherryh ever go back to writing from the Atevi POV, like in book 2(? can't remember if that's correct) of Foreigner?

Editat: feb. 13, 2008, 2:25pm

128 - littlegeek,
The technology the humans brought to the Atevis was only given out a bit at a time. We seem to have caught them at a time when the technology is equivalent to ours now. But who knows what the tech is like on Mospheira? I assume we would find out more in later books.

I agree about the flora and fauna though. I would have liked to learn more about these. The biology geek in me :o) One of the reasons I love Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels is her descriptions of the life abounding in Pern.

feb. 13, 2008, 2:08pm

Busifer, I'm not necessarily arguing with you, just putting my ideas out there.

feb. 13, 2008, 3:51pm

#132 - Yes, I KNOW but I'm so easily baited; I'm one of those who just HAVE to continue arguing ;-)

#130 - In book #9 (Deliverer) we get an atevi POV, in the same sense as the 'Bren' POV, i.e. totally unfiltered. The same is said of book #10, but it's still in the process of being written so I don't really know.
What we get in books 2-8 is Bren getting more and more 'naturalised' - he starts to view things the atevi way, and thus we get to see the human culture partly filtered through atevi eyes.

feb. 13, 2008, 3:56pm

#133 Well, then I won't tell you all the stuff I liked about the book. People have covered that mostly, anyway.

feb. 13, 2008, 4:05pm

#134 - Now you have me hanging!!! Gah! ;-)

feb. 13, 2008, 4:16pm

#135 Gotcha!

feb. 13, 2008, 4:20pm

#136 - So, now you have to buy me a drink, no, as compensation?!

feb. 13, 2008, 4:21pm

#133 - Yikes! That means if I want to see things from the Atevi POV I have to get through 7 other books first O.o

But I must admit, I wasn't going to read on but you and reading_fox have intrigued me enough with the tidbits you've been throwing around about the later books that I'd already decided to try one more :o)

feb. 13, 2008, 4:26pm

#138 - Personally I think Invader, no. 2, is one of the best of the series. The characters gets fleshed out and the world and the politics starts to make sense. At least that's my opinion.

feb. 13, 2008, 4:29pm

#137 Well, I will tell you this: I was an Anthro major in college. But I didn't finish that either! ;-)

feb. 13, 2008, 5:14pm

It is Cherryh's distinct style - "tight third person" you never in any? of her books get general panoramic descriptions, only what the POV character sees. This means that new things are detailed, but commonplace descriptions are glossed over. Yes it can be annoying, but it's also wonderful for the imagination, enough hints to allow you to form free pictures of your own.

feb. 13, 2008, 7:47pm

#139 Book 2 has just recently been replaced by Book 4 as my favorite. Very snappy scenes on know...up there. :o
Also, Bren is turning into such a stud, oh my goodness, he's so sexy!

feb. 13, 2008, 7:50pm

#138 I wholeheartedly recommend Book 2, I think you'll be hooked in just a few pages. They only get better from there. I'll be finished with Book 4 tonight and can't wait to start the next one.

feb. 13, 2008, 8:23pm

Too many other books I need to read before I get to Invader. Can't binge read like you Thea :o) A couple of library books to read before they're due, a couple from my tbr pile (I promised myself, darnit, that I would make an attempt to make it smaller this year) and then I'll get Invader from the library. So I won't be seeing any of you in the new thread until next month it looks like.

feb. 14, 2008, 1:20am

#142 - You can't be serious!!! Of all possible things I think sexy describes him the least, at least in my view. But yes, the scenes up above are good ones!

Shouldn't we hold this part of the discussion 'over there', at the other thread, btw? ;-)

Nine books later I have decided Jago is my hero. Please don't analyse that, I want to stay ignorant.

feb. 14, 2008, 7:46am

141> Yes, one of the things I really liked about the "horses" was that I could imagine them just as I wanted. They're very cool in my head :-)

feb. 14, 2008, 8:36am

#145 Okay, sexy at the other thread...

feb. 14, 2008, 8:43am

#146 The covers on the paperbacks have interesting pictures of the atevi and their metiera (help me Bus! I don't have time to go look up the word). But I had envisioned them as camel-like, very much like they were depicted on the book covers. I loved their ornery personalities and I found it a bit of foreshadowing that Bren was able to control (albeit with difficulty) is own bad-tempered creature.

feb. 14, 2008, 9:09am

It's 'mecheita' I think. And I too think of them as camel like. They have footpads, not hooves, (but in book #9 it's said they have clawed feet), and long snaky necks. Like camels ;-)

Diving over to the other thread, for the other issue!

Editat: feb. 14, 2008, 4:19pm

I dreamed about Bren and the Atevi last night!

In my dream, the child Bren finds an Atevi artifact in a field on Moshpheira. It's quite a large shard, bigger than Bren at the time, and the humans are confused by it because it looks like it is part of a space craft. It has everyone in an uproar. And that's why, in my dream anyways, Bren decides to study to become the Paidhi. So he can solve the mystery.

So, am I being prescient? Does any of this come up in the next books? :o)

feb. 15, 2008, 6:51am

Eh... no, but it was a nice dream :-)

feb. 15, 2008, 9:06am

#150 It would make a great prequel...maybe you could write to CJ and drop your ideas on her... ;)

feb. 17, 2008, 2:31pm

OK, so how's this for timely. I finally finished book 1 and I think I am going to go to the book store for book 2. I wish it was on the Kindle, several of Cherryh's books are but not this series.

I thought the conclusion of book one had good tension but was resolved in a clumsy, here come the heros, OK all done... way.

Hope you all are right about book 2. Later.

feb. 17, 2008, 2:57pm

I'm holding my thumbs for you, Maggie1944.
Hopefully you'll like #2 better!

feb. 17, 2008, 4:45pm

Thanks, I ran right out and got it. Now just to read it between all the other commitments. I think I have to read my ER book next.

feb. 17, 2008, 6:04pm

Yea, Maggie! I enjoyed #2 much more than #1. Come join us in the other thread when you get started.