Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Grand Master CJ Cherryh

Here is a great post at SF Signal, in honor of CJ Cherryh’s becoming the 32nd SFWA Grand Master.

SF Signal posed the question: What is your favorite Cherryh work, and where should a reader new to her backlist start? People invited to participate in this post are J Kathleen Cheney, Joe Sherry, Paul Weimer, Nancy Jane Moore, Ian Sales, and me.

Now, you really should click through and check out everyone’s answers to this question, because it’s fascinating how practically everyone picked different works. It seems like virtually every well-known Cherryh title is represented somewhere in that post. Downbelow Station is almost the only work that appears in more than one answer. I find that surprising; I’d honestly have expected more convergence even though Cherryh has such a big backlist from which to choose.

To be sure, I cheated by naming four or five works where someone might start. It seemed impossible to narrow it down to just one.

So, if you’re familiar with Cherryh and have time to click through, who do you most agree with and who do you most disagree with?

And if you’re new to Cherryh, which of the works mentioned do you think sounds most appealing?

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7 Comments Grand Master CJ Cherryh

  1. Kim Aippersbach

    That was a helpful introduction to the rather daunting vastness of Cherryh’s works. However, it did not help me decide which book to buy! I’ve been hemming and hawing about trying another after giving up on Cyteen (I know, I know, I need to read further before stopping. I will try again one day!) In the end I let fate (in the form of capitalism?) decide and bought the complete Morgaine books just because they’re 4 books for 10.99. I’ve got a long plane ride and a week on the beach for Spring Break, so, perfect timing!

  2. Kootch

    I can’t narrow the choice down to one because people get hooked on a particular author in differing ways. Foreigner did it for me, that picture of Bren with Banichi and Jago was just too cool! Downbelow Station anchors the whole of the Alliance-Union series and Pride of Chanur is ideal if you’re into non-human life; I found some of the inter-species interactions just hilarious! If you’re into fantasy, Fortress in the Eye of Time is the ideal entry. It’s richly complex and full of characters easy to love. For me, once I read Foreigner then I was just into everything Cherryh!

  3. Elaine T

    I was pleased to see 40,000 in Gehenna suggested, as I’ve always been fond of it, even if I did and still do read it inside out.

    A bit surprised by the multiple rec’s for DOWNBELOW as – you know I own every CJC book printed, right? – I’ve always found DBS slog. It never gelled until I got look at the setting through the much smaller scope of MERCHANTER’S LUCK ( and it’s still a slog). Even if it did win an award I’d point people to other books first.

    Really surprised someone suggested the Russian trilogy – very few people like them, AFAIK, although the reworked e-books are definitely an improvement over the originals.

    The only suggestion I didn’t see was for the Celtic fantasy, such as THE DREAMING TREE. (a while back the Teen pointed me to a youtube of a song “Tree of Swords & Jewels”. I said, gotta be based on the CJC book. Long string of comments under it
    had lots of suggestions what the song could be about, none of them having to do with the book. It’s a mind worm, BTW, be warned before playing it. That particular video doesn’t seem to be there anymore, but others are. Teen dug out the books and read them. Prefers CJC’s fantasy to the sf, which is rare.)

  4. Rachel

    I know, it IS hard to decide what to try when everyone’s favorites are different! I agree that Downbelow Station is a slog. Too many pov characters is the essential problem for me, I suspect. I get that Downbelow Station is the lynchpin for the Alliance/Union universe, but so what? The smaller stories are just so much more approachable imo.

    Someone in the comments wondered where the Dreaming Tree was, and actually I did like Arafel’s Saga a lot; gave me a permanent liking for Celtic names.

    Kootch, I totally agree, the covers for the Foreigner series are just wonderful.

    Kim, I hope you enjoy the Morgaine books! I have just been re-reading those myself.

  5. Bret Grandrath

    I have been buying Cherryh’s books since Gate Of Ivrel was published. I liked her writing and enjoyed the books but in 1982 within months of each other Merchanter’s Luck and Pride Of Chanur came out and I was hooked. I devoured them both and went back to reread everything and search for any I had missed. As people have mentioned the first read of Downbelow Station was kind of a slog but after reading Merchanter’s Luck it really comes alive. I read a condensed version of Pride Of Chanur in Science Fiction Digest and was so impressed I stopped reading and waited for the paperback so I could get every word.
    For the new to Cherryh reader I suggest reading the back covers of a few of her books and something should be right up your alley.

  6. Esther M

    CJ Cherryh’s Alliance Space, which includes Merchanter’s Luck and Forty Thousand in Gehenna, has just shown up in eBook version. This volume also currently appears under Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited selections (although misclassified as non-fiction). For those looking for an electronic version of Forty Thousand in Gehenna, this volume is only slightly more than the separate price of Merchanter’s Luck.

    I didn’t intend to comment on the original question, but I’d probably start someone off on the Chanur series, or Cuckoo’s Egg, instead of jumping into the Alliance/Union universe, where the pacing is faster and the framework more complex.

  7. Rachel

    Thanks, Esther! I’m glad to see someone else picking out Cuckoo’s Egg — and good to know about the ebook omnibus.

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