C.J. Cherryh
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Get C.J. Cherryh's *Invader* delivered to your door! Invader C.J. Cherryh
Daw Books
Copyright 1995
422 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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C.J. Cherryh continues the drama of first (accidental) contact begun with Foreigner in Invader. Exceptional for its exploration of what it means to be human, the continuing story of the young paidhi Bren Cameron reads smoothly and compellingly. Assigned to serve as ambassador between the native atevi and the tiny human colony on the island of Mospheira, Bren is thrust from a foreshortened recovery following an assasination attempt into an increasingly tense state of affairs between Mospheirans and the atevi. 
Curled Up With a Good Book The starship Phoenix, the same one that brought humans to this unknown sector of space with one ill-executed jump through hyperspace, has suddenly reappeared in the sky above the planet, and the hard-won peace the atevi and Mospheirans have wrought is suddenly in gravest jeopardy.

It has been one hundred seventy-eight years since the Phoenix left its orbit around the planet, leaving the fledgling colony to fend for itself on a world apparently amenable to human presence. But as the humans discovered in the process of changing the shape of the land to suit their needs, the atevi have an entirely different worldview shaped by their alien biology, and a great war between the interlopers and the natives nearly wiped out the incipient human population. In the years since, the humans (now confined to Mospheira) and atevi have worked out a strict protocol for coexisting. A single human translator, known as the "paidhi," is allowed on the mainland at a time. The humans mete out carefully controlled doses of technological information to the atevi in return for continuing safety on Mospheira.

The unexpected return of the Phoenix throws the established but ever tenuous detante between Mospheira and the mainland out the window. Conservative elements among the atevi believe the ship's return is welcomed by Mospheira, and their not altogether groundless fears make Bren Cameron's job exponentially more complex. Compounding the paidhi's difficulties is the presence of his successor, Deanna Hanks, in Shejidan. Upon his return to the atevi capital, Hanks should, by the rules, return herself to Mospheira. But the human State Department remains silent, issuing no recall order for either Hanks or Bren, and communicating no reply to Bren's inquiries. The atevi leadership is offended and concerned by Mospheira's apparent snub of agreed-upon protocol concerning human presence on the mainland, especially in the face of the disruptive reappearance of the Phoenix. The aiji Tabini, the atevi equivalent of a president, intending to keep Bren safe, houses Bren in the residence of the Atigeini family. Tabini's lover is Atigeini, but the rest of her family is staunchly conservative and opposed to Tabini as aiji. Bren Cameron's presence in their household is certain to provoke the Atigeini and other conservative atevi factions.

The atevi mindset, so utterly foreign to human thinking, makes the atevi language, thick as it is with numerological conjugations and connotations, nearly impossible for most humans to comprehend. Deanna Hanks is a child of a politically high-ranking human family, and won her position as successor-paidhi through narrow-interest support in the upper ranks of the State Department. Her credentials, suspect as they are, lie entirely in the realm of economics; her scores in culture and psychology have been consistently low. Considering her short temper and general lack of subtlety, Bren feels Deanna to be a poor choice to succeed him on the mainland. The continuing lack of communication from Mospheira makes her presence in Shejidan an increasingly dangerous one; she has begun making overtures to the very factions who would see Tabini brought down. The Phoenix threatens the stability of the entire world with all the implications of its unknown plans.

While Bren struggles to keep relations stable between Mospheira and the atevi with whom he has spent his time almost exclusively for several years, he wrestles too with his own eroding relationships with his family and lover on the island. An erotic overture by one of his atevi security nearly sends him over an edge that may spell the end of his ability to be human, yet would still not allow him to truly know the mind of the atevi. The intractability of his human superiors and the suspicions of the mathematically precise yet dangerously superstitious atevi leadership may be more than Bren can overcome to maintain the precarious balance on the planet that is the only home he has ever known.

C.J. Cherryh is brilliant again as she tells the tale of a single man bearing the responsibility for the future of an entire world. As Bren tries to rein in the status quo from advancing more than the necessary few inches at a time, he bears more importantly the heavy load of developing a truer self-knowledge of who he is and where he belongs. Invader succeeds on all levels, bringing the often invisible twin tensions of intercultural communication and painful self-examination to a place where they can be seen and mulled over.

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