Recent Reading: TRACKER by CJ Cherryh

Okay, first new-to-me book of April! Also a book I read almost exactly on its release date. That sure doesn’t happen very often. It was a good choice: TRACKER is a very good installment in the Foreigner series.


For the first time I can remember, the scene on the cover does not match anything in the book. Yes, sure, Bren has breakfast with the dowager a couple of times, and yes, on the balcony. But it a balcony overlooking the city, not a swirly cave overlooking forest and a distant town. What is with that? Also, I just don’t like how Bren is pictured here. This is by Todd Lockwood, and I must say, I have liked some of his other covers for this series much better.

On the other hand, the story is fine. The first generous third is calm day-to-day life, at Najida, which is very standard for the Foreigner series, of course. I am so pleased that Jase finally got his fishing trip. Anway, we open when the human kids and Jase are finishing up their visit. Then the humans go back to the station. Cajeiri is, of course, very upset to lose his guests, especially since he has no idea whether he’ll ever get to have them visit again. I really enjoy Cajeiri’s pov. He gets quite a bit of pov time in this novel, and I’m glad.

So, the kids and Jase leave, the paidhi starts dealing with a backlog of ordinary business, and then the kyo ship arrives and wham! Crisis.

I’m quite pleased about how Cherryh handled the political situation. One can see that there’s going to be trouble, but at the moment Shawn is still firmly president of Mospheira and of course Tabini is VERY firmly aiji, so no problem there. This means that Bren is able to operate at his best, representing both the mainland and Mospheira, with plenty of authority. When a particular troublesome individual makes trouble on the station and declares that Bren doesn’t have authority on the station, the reader just about laughs, because even though Bren is having to finesse the situation in some ways, this is so not true. I really enjoy getting to see Bren act as the top-level diplomat he is.

Of course you know that this is the first book of the new trilogy-subset in the series. Of course you know that the thing with the kyo and the broader political situation is the Big Issue. But Cherryh puts in a subplot involving Cajeiri and the human kids that is exciting, faster paced, and most of all resolved in this book. It is perfectly okay to read this one before the next comes out; there is no dire cliffhanger waiting to skewer you.

There, that should make you feel better as you approach the end and start to wonder how Cherryh can resolve that situation in so few pages. It’s fine. I didn’t even think it seemed horribly rushed.

My new favorite character, not at all to my surprise, is Irene. I already liked her very much just from the glimpses we’ve had of her so far. She has Future Paidhi written all over her. I will be absolutely stunned if that is not where she’s heading. I can hardly imagine that Cherryh will keep the series going so that we actually see Irene succeed Bren — I would sort of expect Cherryh to wrap up the series with this trilogy — but at this point, who knows?

Listen, we HAVE to create a major award for series, for which series become eligible the year their last book is published and maybe stay eligible for a couple years after that to let people catch up if they want to. Maybe a couple different categories, one for trilogies, one for series of four or five books, one for longer series? Then the Foreigner series should simply blow away the competition. At least, it would if I got to be a judge for the award.

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8 thoughts on “Recent Reading: TRACKER by CJ Cherryh”

  1. Hugo for Best Series, awarded every five years at WorldCon (2020, 2025, etc.) for works completed in the previous five years. I’ve yet to think of a reason that wouldn’t work.

  2. It seems to me it definitely would work. And maybe a different award, too — maybe one that’s tied to the Nebulas or an award like the World Fantasy Award, with a panel of judges.

  3. Yes, I loved the thread with the kids, as well as the set-up for the new adventure with the kyo and the Reunioners.
    One small detail I loved was how she finessed Irene’s colorshift, from being almost as dark as an ateva, but with dark eyes, when Cajeiri first met her; to being called pale and standing out in the darkness when they were riding mecheiti at Tirnamardi. From the talk on her blog it was a small slip-up, meant to emphasise Irene’s smallness and frailty (having forgotten it was Irene and not Bjorn who was described as darkskinned: we only know his haircolor is dark); but here she has retroactively made it clear it was her hair that she’d bleached; and she does it in such a way it becomes a logical part of the plot and probably one of the ways Irene reacts to the tension between herself and her controlling mother. Irene is turning into a strong character, and I’m glad she didn’t get accidentally whitewashed.

    I thought the swirly cave on the cover was meant to be the draperies, but in that case I’d expect to see a bit of the appartment through them: they always breakfast out on the balcony, and I thought the draperies were hung at the open door from the appartment onto the balcony. There’s a garden below, then the view of the city at the bottom of the hill, and far in the distance a snow-capped mountain range (the Bergid, IIRC). That view must be regarded as poetic license, I fear.

  4. Yes, I also noticed how Cherryh carefully shifted Irene toward darker coloring. She did do a good job there.

    I think the swirly cave is indeed probably meant to be draperies, but it doesn’t work for me. *Too* subtle, and I just don’t buy the view. Poetic license, I guess, but Lockwood has usually done better than that!

  5. This is the first Foreigner book that’s come out since I’ve basically finished the series, and I can’t decide if I should read it now, or wait until the trilogy is done. I’ve noticed that Cherryh tends to leave strands unresolved between books in a trilogy and that sounds like a frustrating reading experience. But waiting for three years sounds…long.

  6. Maureen, I’ve been reading them as they come out right alone, so I’m not sure I can say. I found the way she tied up the subplot satisfying enough that I don’t feel like I was left at the edge of a cliff — even though we are just at the start of a very big unresolved issue with the kyo. But that’s me! I re-read PEACEMAKER to get ready for TRACKER, so there was no way I was going to wait to read it!

  7. I just finished reading Tracker and had to see when the next book would be available. I also read Peacemaker twice anxiously waiing for Tracker. Note I’ve read entire series more than once. I can’t wait for # 17 – April 2016!?! CJ you are a wonderful storyteller.

  8. Athelda, I think you’re the only other person I know who’s read the whole series more than once. I admire CJC so much for what she’s built in this series!

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