Friday, May 3, 2024

Inheritor (Foreigner #3) by CJ Cherryh

It's probably going to take me forever to finish reading all the books in CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series, of which Inheritor is book 3... And for the sake of those who're not conversant with the world, I'll keep this review short and try to give general points.

Human ambassador/diplomat Bren Cameron continues to be adrift in Atevi society, which is, as always, a potentially lethal minefield for those not adept in the subtle power dynamics of a non-human civilisation. And that's the mistake many humans make when interacting with the Atevi – they simply don't have the hardwiring to understand core human concepts like love or caring. Atevi social dynamics is primarily focused on power and associations of individuals to others and groups that hold power.

In learning an intricate language that is has complex mathematics embedded in its linguistics, Bren finds himself even more alienated from human culture and meaningful interaction – a position which is made even more precarious as factions within the minority human community are viewing him as a traitor while certain groups within Atevi society would gleefully see him dead, too.

The planet's power dynamics have been thrown completely out of whack by the arrival of the human space ship, with the spacefaring humans in dire need of supplies they can only obtain from the planet. We see human and ateva alike vying for primacy in a new space race, as the Atevi assimilate human technology that might make them all but unstoppable if they gain interstellar travel. 

Added to the mix are two human diplomats from the space ship who are now negotiating on the ground – for people who've known only the confines of life on board a vessel for generations, the adjustment to living on a planet is traumatic. 

Cherryh does a deep dive into interpersonal relationships within a distorted, multicultural society in a complex, nuanced way, which may make this a trademark slow read, but as always, she subtly works to pull the rug from beneath your feet near the end, with sudden, frantic action that had my heart racing.

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