Ooookay. Two things:
First, I accidentally ordered a copy from the SFBC after preordering a copy from Amazon. Therefore I have an extra copy, which I’d be happy to mail to anyone who wants it. I realize this is likely to be a low-demand book, because if you’re not already reading the Foreigner series, you probably don’t want to start with the 20th book. But if you meant to pick it up and haven’t yet, drop me a line.
I was so annoyed by Resurgence.
Yes, yes, I know, I shouldn’t say that if I want someone to take the extra copy off my hands. But I can’t help it. CJ Cherryh really seriously changed her mind about a situation from the last book, Emergence, and this more or less spoiled the entire reading experience for me. That is SO provoking in a series novel I was really looking forward to reading.
Here’s what happened: in Emergence, a man named Nomari turns up as a candidate for the vacant lordship of the Ajuri clan, which is important to stabilize the overall political situation. He is slightly older than Cajeiri’s mother, to whom he is slightly related. Though his background has made him something of a chameleon behaviorally, the reader gets to know Nomari as honest, brave, self-educated, deferential or forceful as required, and above all dedicated to rescuing the Ajuri from the terrible situation in which they’ve been mired for several generations. He is not putting himself forward because of a blood claim to the title, so much, but because he thinks he has a chance to get the job done and he believes someone needs to do it.
Most important, at the end of Emergence, Nomari is confirmed as Lord of Ajuri by Tagini. There can be no mistake about this. He gets a phone call from Tabini and is asked immediately afterward, “Are you confirmed?” He answers, “I am. He said I was. Is that it?” Tatiseigi tells him, “It certainly is. You are indeed equal to myself.” From then on, Tatiseigi addresses him as nandi – lord. Nomari is assigned high-level Assassin guards, the customary ashid, on the grounds that he will need protection as he takes over Ajuri. He leaves Tatiseigi’s house on the clear understanding that he is taking over Ajuri, having had over a hundred of his own people declare allegiance to him.
Well, apparently all that was just a dream or something! None of it happened! Resurgence opens with Nomari still being considered for the lordship! There’s no ashid; he’s being addressed as nadi, not nandi; he hasn’t gone to Ajuri, but is instead being taken to the capital to meet Tabini and maybe be confirmed.
I paused. What in the world? Is this going to be explained somehow? Nope. Not a word to justify this disorienting change in Nomari’s position and circumstances. He is also presented as both younger and more unsure of himself than in the prior book. Remember, this is a man who is several years older than Damiri, but here he’s frequently referred to as a young man. That happened occasionally in Emergence too, but the picture we’re given in Resurgence just consistently describes a younger man than seems reasonable. There are shades of the Lost Prince trope, suggestions that his people hid him because he could be The Rightful Heir. To some degree, this could be glossed over. The change in demeanor and – much worse – status just makes no sense at all.
Now, I know that changes like this happen all the time during revision, but what the hell? I don’t know whether CJC changed her mind, but it seems like she just forgot all this, because you cannot persuade me that she couldn’t have smoothed this out better if she’d spent ten minutes thinking about how to put Nomari where she wanted him for Resurgence. It also seems like her editor(s) absolutely fell down on the job. How anybody could read this newest installment and not realize how severe the disconnect is . . . I have no idea. Granted, I just re-read Emergence because I always re-read one or two of the more recent books before reading the new one. If her memory is that bad, then CJC’s editor needs to do the same thing!
Okay. So this was a serious problem for me.
As an added note, I could have sworn that Machigi – you know, the important guy from the Marid, with whom Bren negotiated in a much earlier couple of books – was already with the dowager at Bren’s estate of Najida well before Bren came back from Mosphera. When Resurgence opens, that appears not to have happened either. In this case I can persuade myself, more or less, that maybe I misunderstood the timing of events in Emergence – but I don’t think I did. I really don’t think so.
Besides the abrupt continuity issues, how was the book?
Regrettably, in every other way, Resurgence also stands out as an inferior book for the series, surely the weakest of the entire set. In Emergence, a lot happens, Nomari is developed into an interesting secondary character. Damiri takes an important role, where she is presented positively and in detail for almost the first time in the entire series. The problem with Ajuri clan gets resolved. Tatiseigi declares that Damiri’s daughter will be his heir, resolving that ongoing problem. On Bren’s side, he is introduced to Mospheira as an important atevi court official for the first time, which is quite satisfying.
In Resurgence, nothing much happens. The dowager sweeps Bren, Machigi, and Nomari up into a scheme to deal with a political problem in the south, involving the Marid and various things that link up to earlier books. This is all fine and good, but we spend an awful lot of words on it and it all seems tangential and, frankly, somewhat forced. It looks to me like the dowager and Machigi could have dealt with all that without involving Bren or Nomari. I get that the dowager is also taking her own sweet time assessing Nomari, but I don’t care – his status was resolved at the end of the last book and it just infuriates me that CJC is pretending that didn’t happen, or has forgotten that it did happen, or whatever. Nothing much is going on with Cajeiri either. The whole book seems like an almost complete waste of time, and then it stops short without resolving anything important. For the first time, I feel like CJC has nothing much in mind but generating words in a row to keep the series going, and as a definite fan of this series, I hate that.
So … I know, that was not exactly a sales pitch, but I still have this extra copy if anybody would like it.
[While I’m on that subject, I eventually did find my original copy of the 4th book of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series, but not til I ordered a replacement, so I have two nice hardcover copies of that as well. Anybody want that one? It’s an excellent series, and though I read it straight through, I believe a reader would find that the volumes do stand alone fairly well.]
Now, in order not to kill the series, or (worse) let it die a gradual death from a drop in quality, where might CJC go from here?
First, her attempt to write in trilogies within the larger series has somewhat fallen apart. The 16th and 17th books form essentially a duology, then the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st are clearly going to form a quadrilogy at the very least. The titles signal that, as Convergence, Emergence, and Resurgence are all the same style of word. I presume the 21st book will continue or perhaps finish some moderately self-contained story. Then what?
If Cherryh meant to stop, she really should have done that after Visitor, perhaps, if not earlier. Given that she means to keep going, I think she should wind up the current set in some satisfactory way with Book 21, preferably in some way that resolves the continuity problems she just introduced – and good luck with that, because I cannot imagine how to do that plausibly, but she could at least hand-wave at the problem – and move on. If there is nothing much to do except fiddle with the details of the broader political situation, then stop fiddling with that, jump ahead in time, and start again with Cajeiri in his teens or twenties. That would allow enough time to have passed to set up a new set of problems, up to and including a return of the kyo and, of course, the enemy with whom the kyo is at war. Let Bren become a secondary character, go ahead and let the aiji-dowager and Tatiseigi die – I know, but they’re really old – bring Seimiro in as an important character, and Irene too for that matter, and go from there. We have the set-up for the next generation. Take advantage of that and move on.