C.J. Cherryh
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Get C. J. Cherryh's *Foreigner* delivered to your door! Foreigner

C.J. Cherryh
Daw Books
Copyright 1994
373 pages
rated 3 of 4 possible stars

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Foreigner is a novel of first contact told in trademark C.J. Cherryh style. Cherryh has a gift for conveying the aloneness of the individual, and that gift is as apparent here as in any of her novels. The constant peril of being singly human amidst a bigger, stronger population of beings whose minds work along patterns utterly alien to the human mind is conveyed absolutely. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but in Foreigner, the fate of the many rests on the shoulders of one man. For an isolated, accidental pocket of humanity to survive, one man must survive ambassadorship to humanity's tentative ally and potentially devastating enemy.

Curled Up With a Good BookThe starship Phoenix left Earth two centuries ago to continue a successful program of colonization. Targeted for a promising star system, the crew of the Phoenix and their descendants would establish a human presence in a profitable new zone. Carefully planned to a fault, Phoenix's mission nonetheless ended in a terrifying failure. A miniscule miscalculation in hyperspace dumped the vessel in uncharted space. The Phoenix had no points of reference and no way to get back home. Finding an habitable planet nearby was the only option. Finding that planet occupied could very well have been the unequivocable end of the ship and her crew.

Now, two hundred years after that fateful trip, the descendants of the original Phoenix crew are confined to exile on a tiny island called Mospheira. The atevi, the intelligent humanoid inhabitants of the planet, have a society frighteningly different from humanity's. Order is kept through registered assassination; geographical boundaries mean nothing in the complicated web of atevi alliances. A war has arisen around the issue of the alien humans and of the human relationship with a particular atevi faction. The Phoenix-descendants walk a knife's edge, averting utter extinction by feeding their atevi allies carefully rationed bits of technological information. The atevi grow impatient with the human reluctance to share all their knowledge, and the human population on Mospheira is in the most tenuous position they've been since the accidental arrival of the Phoenix.

Only one human is allowed off Mospheira into atevi society. The paidhi acts as interpreter and liaison for the leader of the most powerful atevi faction. Right now, that human is Bren Cameron, a man painfully aware of his fulcrum position, a man who knows that he must walk the razor thin line between honesty and secrecy, diplomacy and forthrightness to maintain humanity's slight toehold on this planet. When Bren is nearly killed by an unregistered assassin's bullet, he finds himself whisked out of contact with Mospheira and embroiled in the deadly intrigues of a species nearly devoid of emotion. The fate of two peoples rests squarely on Bren's being able to build a bridge of understanding between two kinds of sapients who might in the end be completely, fatally incompatible.

C.J. Cherryh outlines an all-too-possible result of first contact, whether planned or no. There are no guarantees that any other sapients humans encounter will think in any fashion as we do. The daunting task of establishing a line of civil communication with such an intelligence has by no means a certain outcome. Multiply the fragility of any accord established by two differing human cultures a thousand-fold. Such a balance often relies on a single person on either side of the divide. History will be and often has been writ large on an individual's success or failure of one person in such a case. Cherry's Foreigner is a thoughtful speculation on that whole notion.

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