So, just finished PROTECTOR by CJ Cherryh. The Foreigner series is so satisfying, in a slow-paced intellectual way — all complicated politics all the time, convoluted talk-heavy diplomacy occasionally interspersed with attempted assassinations and other violence. Of course, this is the 14th book in the series (the 14th! Wow.), so by now the reader is very, very familiar with all the continuing characters and with the ateva society. We don’t need a fast-paced adventure or a hot love affair to care about what’s going on — if we did, we would hardly have made it to the 14th book, right? We want the whole complicated situation to work out, we’re rooting for Tabini-aji and the whole ateva society, and the peripheral human societies, too, annoying as they can be.
So: Cajeiri is finally getting his dearest wish for his birthday (the fortunate ninth birthday, following what we have to admit was a pretty infelicitous eighth year. Maybe there’s something to all that ateva numerology after all, hey?)
The human kids have finally made it down onto the planet, so we’re getting to actually know them for the first time. I like them all; in just a few words Cherryh has turned them all into real people. And how awed they are by ordinary river pebbles and things, since they’ve never been on a planet before. Very nice! I’m glad these kids are clearly going to be around for at least one more book; it wouldn’t surprise me to find them all continuing to be present through the rest of the series.
Naturally there are political complications wrapped around the birthday party, and it’s nice to see that the good guys are finally in position to take out a huge chunk of the opposition, now that they’ve finally figured out who that is. The plot for the third book in this particular sub-trilogy of the series is pretty clear, though no doubt something complicated will happen that we don’t yet see coming.
I’m pretty sure that this series is aiming at eighteen books. The series has just about got to include a sub-trilogy where the kyo, so often referred to since we met them, actually do show up again. If I were guessing, after the next book where the aji’s political situation will get resolved, Cherryh will do one last sub-trilogy where she brings back the kyo and everyone meets some major crisis and we actually get to a more complete resolution that leaves the whole world and all three species in a better place. I can see her setting it up. At least, I think I can.
Anybody else out there following this series? It’s certainly not what I would suggest for an intro to CJ Cherryh — far too long, and slow to get started, and not everybody likes complicated politics. But for creating an alien species and society that feels utterly real and complete, well, I don’t think it’s ever, ever been done half as well by anyone else.