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Intruder (Foreigner) Mass Market Paperback – March 5, 2013
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Praise for the Foreigner series:
“C.J. Cherryh's splendid Foreigner series remains at the top of my must-keep-up reading list after two decades." —Locus
"This is the kind of anthropological SF of which [Cherryh] is an acknowledged master." —Booklist
"A seriously probing, thoughtful, intelligent piece of work, with more insight in half a dozen pages than most authors manage in half a thousand." —Kirkus Reviews
“One of the best long-running SF series in existence...Cherryh remains one of the most talented writers in the field." —Publishers Weekly
“This is one of the best science fiction series currently running….by this point, the series has turned into a complicated set of thrillers involving political and factional turmoil, as well as a close and detailed examination of the troubled interactions between human and alien cultures.” —Strange Horizons
"My favorite science fiction series is C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner Universe. Cherryh deftly balances alien psychology and human vanities in a character caught between being human and part of an alien race." —Denver Post
“Cherryh plays her strongest suit in this exploration of human/alien contact, producing an incisive study-in-contrast of what it means to be human in a world where trust is nonexistent.” —Library Journal
"A large new novel from C.J. Cherryh is always welcome. When it marks her return to the anthropological SF in which she has made such a name, it is a double pleasure. The ensuing story is not short on action, but stronger (like much of Cherryh's work) on world-building, exotic aliens, and characterization. Well up to Cherryh's usual high standard." —The Chicago Sun-Times
“[Cherryh] avoids any kind of slump with a quick-moving and immediately engaging plotline, and by balancing satisfying resolutions with plenty of promises and ominous portents that are sure to keep readers’ appetites whetted.” —RT Reviews
“These are thinking man’s reads with rich characters and worlds and fascinating interactions that stretch out over many generations.” —SFFWorld
“Cherryh's forte is her handling of cross-cultural conflicts, which she does by tying her narrative to those things her point-of-view character would know, think, and feel.”—SFRevu
"The Foreigner series is about as good as it gets...so finely and densely wrought that you may end up dreaming of sable-skinned giants with gold eyes, and the silver spun delicacy of interstellar politics." —SF Site
About the Author
C. J. Cherryh planned to write since the age of ten. When she was older, she learned to use a typewriter while triple-majoring in Classics, Latin, and Greek. With more than seventy books to her credit, and the winner of three Hugo Awards, she is one of the most prolific and highly respected authors in the science fiction field. Cherryh was recently named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. She lives in Washington state. She can be found at cherryh.com.
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The first weakness is a rotating point of view. Ms. Cherryh is known for her tight 3rd person voice, but segments of the book hop back and forth between Bren and Cajeiri as the central viewpoint character. In fact, the Cajeiri segments were very well done, and were inherently more interesting for the "almost-but-not-quite-human perspective" which is the central theme of the series. The dialog and narrative of Cajeiri's segments really seemed to capture the racing thoughts and essential egoism of a child, and those segments felt authentic to me as a reader.
In contrast, the only real stand-out moment for Bren in this novel (so far as exploring the human/atevi psychological interface goes) was a small scene where Bren and Geigi discuss the nature of friendship. Exploring this human/alien milieu is so central to the series that it was disappointing to see several chances for a deeper dive, especially on the subject of atevi marital and family relationships as they appear from a human perspective, given surface treatment that in past books has been followed by exploratory dialog or internal narratives by Bren that allowed the reader a deeper insight.
This series has always been at its best when exploring the subtleties of what it means to be human (or alien) by those who are caught in the gap between two frames of reference. In fact, all of Ms. Cherryh's strongest work uses this as the central authorial device (see _Cuckoo's Egg_ as a terrific example). This particular novel in the series doesn't do enough to explore that central device, though, and suffers for it.
With all that said, the biggest weakness of this novel is a glaring lack of significant plot development. The book is 384 pages long, and while I found it a quick and easy read, the entire book felt more like the initial exposition for single novel than a complete story in its own right. There was no over-arching conflict strong enough to fill a novel--rather, the whole story seems intended merely to lay the foundation for some future conflict between Tabini-aiji's family and the Ajuri clan--or perhaps between the ship and the atevi--related to a proposed visit by Cajeiri's childhood friends from _Phoenix_.
I'm not at all sorry to see a Foreigner novel that doesn't revisit the same "run for your life, they're after us!" plot segments that frequent the series (some scenes with Cajeiri carry the same emotional pitch, but definitely cover different territory from a plot standpoint), but I really felt a bit cheated as a reader to finish the book without feeling like anything of emotional significance had been truly resolved, rather than merely introduced as foreshadowing.
Lastly, the editing was only fair. There were several spelling typos and obvious word deletions/substitutions that, while not egregious, interrupted the flow of Cherryh's generally excellent narrative voice. It was certainly not a terrible editing job--many recent ebooks by other publishers look like they were edited by someone for whom English is a second language, and who consider consistent punctuation as an afterthought--but it certainly seems like there are places where someone relied on a grammar checker instead of actually marking up the text while reading the *content* of the story. In short, the editing felt rushed.
Overall, I'd rate the book at 3 stars: an enjoyable read for fans, but not a great novel in its own right. That being said, Ms. Cherryh tends to paint on a big canvas with her story arcs, so I'd certainly recommend the book to fans of the series, and to fans of Ms. Cherryh's prose style. From past experience, I'm confident that the slow start to this new arc will pay off in later installments.
But the 13th novel, Intruder: Foreigner #13, is somewhat different. Taking place over a relatively short span of time, it sees Bren Cameron in a new role, negotiating an exceedingly complex, immensely ambitious series of agreements aimed at bringing peace among the native Atevi; aside from Bren, there are no human characters in this novel. The novel does not have the frantic, almost claustrophobic desperation of some of the previous entries in the series, in part because Bren has grown in confidence and skill.
This is definitely not the book to start the series; for that, read "Foreigner: (10th Anniversary Edition)." But if you have been following the series from the beginning, this 13th volume is beautifully crafted, with crisp writing and finely drawn characters, leaven with some delightful, unintended absurdities. Highly recommended. And I can't wait for #14 ("Protector") and #15 ("Peacemaker").