Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday #1 -- Foreigner

Last week I mentioned that I had gotten Silks from the library. It is pretty much what I expected: classic Dick Francis, first-person, fairly suspenseful, with a steeplechase tie-in. What I didn't know is that "silks", as well as referring to the colors worn by a jockey, is also a slang term for Queen's Counselors, the specially qualified barristers (lawyers) who plead high-profile cases in British court. Read it and find out the connection!

What I really want to talk about today, though, is the sci-fi series I've been working through, the Foreigner books by C.J. Cherryh. This is my second time through, and I liked them enough the first time to buy a few of them in hardback as they came out, rather than waiting for the paperback or the library copy (although I now have a great system with the library that I'll talk about another time.) Each book has a single word title, beginning with #1 Foreigner and ending with #9 Deliverer. They are sort of a trilogy of trilogies, though I think you could read them out of order and still enjoy them.

The books center around the planet of the atevi, an alien race much taller than humans, with black* skin and golden cat-like eyes. A human colony ship, due to a computer error, lost its way and has no idea how to return to Earth. The nearest hospitable planet belongs to the atevi.

You may think you know where this is going, but that's all really just back story. The main character in all the books is Bren Cameron, the paidhi-aiji, that is, the official human translator from and to the atevi. After some years of peaceful-seeming cooperation, it became clear that humans and atevi were hard-wired to think in vastly different ways, so in order to keep peace and prevent serious and deadly misunderstandings, both races agreed to live separately and have only one very specially educated paidhi. Bren lives several hundred years into that system.

Roger and I both love these books, and in a discussion not long after I restarted the series, we decided that that is mostly because the books deal with true communication. A great many events happen throughout these books, but the whole point of the series is the work required to make sure that all parties understand them in the same way. Highly recommended!

* That's black like coal or asphalt, not the African "black". The books have human characters of all races and ethnicities. Unfortunately, nobody told the cover illustrator for books 7 and 8. Definitely don't judge these books by their covers!

1 comment:

Jen said...

Those sound like good books. I'll have to keep a lookout for them.