The first book in C.J.Cherryh's eponymous series, Foreigner begins an epic tale of the survivors of a lost spacecraft who crash-land on a planet inhabited by a hostile, sentient alien race. From its beginnings as a human-alien story of first contact, the Foreigner series has become a true science fiction odyssey, following a civilization from the age of steam through early space flight to confrontations with other alien species in distant sectors of space. It is the masterwork of a truly remarkable author.
©1994 C.J. Cherryh (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
One of the strangest books I have heard or read after James Joyce's Ulysses. I feel myself very brave that I managed this to the end. I got constantly tangled with the names, they were much too similar. Phew!
"A Sci-Fi Neville Chamberlain"
I have been considering the Foreigner series for awhile and since Audible has recently added some more titles to the series I decided to take the plunge. I've hesitated because several reviewers have commented on the slow pace of the first book, Foreigner: Foreigner Sequence 1, Book 1, and I tend to get frustrated with slow books. However, several reviewers have said that the series picks up after Book 1 so I decided to try at least two books in this series. I have now finished Foreigner and Invader (Book2) and I've made my decision. I won't be spending any more credits on this series, but it isn't the pacing that is putting me off, it's the main character that I just cannot stomach any longer.
The setup and backdrop for the Foreigner Universe is absolutely wonderful. A colonial starship goes off course and a group of colonists is forced to set up shop on a planet in an unknown star system already inhabited by a sentient species. C J Cherryh is terrific at painting an anthropological sci-fi study of a foreign people with their own culture, politics, biology, and language. Unfortunately, she makes us look at this interesting scenario and fascinating "others" through the eyes of one of the most emotionally volatile, naive (immature?), bumbling characters I've ever read. It's not that you won't like Bren Cameron. He's hard not to like because the guy is decent and trying so hard, but he's supposed to be the best ambassador (paidhi) to the atevi that the human settlement has to offer and he is completely CLUELESS. (Poor humans with their fate in this inept ambassador's hands!)
Foreigner and Invader are both told from a Third Person Limited Point of View and the POV is Bren who spends ALL of both of the first two books in varying emotional states of terror, panic, hysteria, confusion, and depression. In addition, Bren suffers both poisoning and severe bodily injury so he's in pain, both emotional and physical, throughout both books and we, the listeners, are stuck seeing all the action through this guy who cannot ever get it together. To make matters much worse, Bren over-analyzes his own feelings and actions and everyone else's to the point that you just want to smack him. Ultimately, he is so caught up in his shorts he is about as effective in dealing with the atevi and his own human government as Neville Chamberlain was in dealing with Hitler.
Foreigner is not bad, it's just not as great as it might be. Cherryh's prose is quite good, I loved the characters other than her POV Bren, and she tackles some interesting questions about culture and society. But she can beat a dead horse like no one's business (where are the editors????) and she has created a diplomat that thinks like a 15-year old. Sorry, that's not fair to teenagers, but Bren truly does not think like a man with a fully developed PreFrontal Cortex. He is constantly second-guessing himself and agonizing over facial expressions and apologizing for EVERYTHING. As interesting as Cherryh's world and the atevi are, I just can't watch any more of it through Bren Cameron's eyes.
I will give some major credit to Daniel Thomas May as the narrator - he is a consummate professional! Even when Bren is cycling through endless reiterations of second guessing himself, even when Cherryh is describing irrelevant details of a room to the nth degree, even when Bren is having one of his boring, confusing, bizarre dreams (yes, this device is used repeatedly and I hated those parts), May maintains a strong narrative voice that greatly enhances these books and makes some of the tedious parts more bearable.
Considering I've now listened five of the six books that Audible has of this series you could say I've enjoyed it.
The series follows the life of Bren Cameron in his role as a translator, ambassador, and diplomat. Cherryh does an excellent job of creating a complex character in Bren. The plot of the series isn't overly complex, and the main body of the plot is in the details. You get a really personal look at Bren and all the stressors in his life; family, job, and identity.
While there is some fast paced action, the truly interesting stuff is seeing how Bren will react to all kinds of provocations in his role as a diplomat.
My only complaint is Cherryh loves to set up vast conspiracies and mysteries only to solve them in the last 45 minutes of a 15-18 hour novel, followed by little to no conclusion. Then when you pick up the next book she skips ahead a few years and slowly fills in the story of what happened after the last novel. It isn't a horrible plot device but you don't really get a solid conclusion to one novel without reading the start of the next.
"The start of a great series"
C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series is one of the best alien-interaction series ever written, IMHO, and this is the first book in that series.
The series centers around Bren Cameron whose role is that of the sole interface (Padhi) between humans and the Atevi. Humans have landed on the home of the Atevi, and have been isolated onto a single large island to prevent further wars caused by misunderstandings. The Atevi are a sentient species that is hardwired to think differently from humans and this has led to a previous war that nearly wiped out the human contingent despite the humans far more advanced technology. Bren's job is to be the interface, translator, interpreter, and diplomat between the species, and is the only human living amongst the Atevi.
Foreigner is a complex book, and is the start of a series that develops in complexity over time, but there's a fair amount of world-building that has to happen in this first book. Don't let that put you off, it's more than worth it.
The entire series is read by Daniel Thomas May, and he does a superb job. The voices are easily distinguished without hammy and inappropriate accents, and his reading is never intrusive, but always clear and well-paced. If you're just starting this series, I envy you. Though I find myself going back and re-reading every few years from the very beginning.
"Fresh, deep, & intriguing"
Everybody's on the brink of war: humans against atevi, atevi against atevi, even humans against humans (small surprise). And trying to balance on that brink is Bren Cameron, a human/atevi language expert plunged into politics and violence.
He's struggling to understand alien motives, to find decent answers to explosive problems, to advise and explain without betrayal, and to hang onto his humanity while submersed in alien culture. Oh--and while Bren dodges lies and bullets, his mom is ill, his brother's marriage is on the rocks, and he himself is dangerously attracted to the younger of his alien bodyguards.
Daniel Thomas May does an outstanding job narrating this fresh, in-depth, and fascinating look at the dangers and rewards of alien contact.
"Absolutely classic sci-fi"
The Foreigner series (Sequence 1) is a truly wonderful and absorbing trilogy that should appeal to sci-fi fans and "non-sci-fi-fans" alike. It's a simple premise of "humans meet aliens", but it's so much more about the political intrigue, social dynamics and linguistic "tar-pits" that you could ALMOST forget you're reading about another species on another planet. In fact, in parts of the first book, you could ALMOST imagine we're talking about Native Americans in the Far West during the expansionist days of the early USA.
The writing is brilliant. I read Sequence 1 (yes, in the old days of paperback books - lol) and then LISTENED to Sequence 2, falling in love with the series all over again. I am now LISTENING to Sequence 1 again and limit my comments here to Sequence 1. The trilogy is carefully and beautifully thought out. The alien culture and language are described in fair detail, and the relations between the characters are even more interesting to me now, having Listened to Sequence 2: the bonds of trust aren't yet in place, the cross-cultural and cross-linguistic understandings are much more rudimentary. This author knew where she was going and where she was starting from. Keeping a story line and its context solid across so many books is quite a feat. And as if the books didn't fit into several genres already, you could also take them as a mystery series because there are riddles to unravel and several false leads before you get there: EVERYONE is suspect at one point or another.
Last comment: Daniel Thomas May has a VERY pleasant reading voice to listen to and he reads over the alien words and names fluidly and with no hesitation. I can EASILY listen to these books for many, many hours at a time.
"A world I never want to leave"
For the last several weeks I have been absorbed in the audiobook world of Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh. I am now on book 13 of 15. This series is so very compelling. It's mostly concerned with the activities of a human envoy to an alien species, and a lengthy expose of detailed diplomatic negotiations with forays into action and warfare. It is surprisingly interesting, to the point that I must listen at all times and not give attention to anything else. I worry about what I will do when the last book is done.
Excellent. Complete with politics and the character of Bren Cameron is very good indeed. His gift for understanding the aliens is beautifully done. Can't wait for the next book.
Like the way he deal with the dowager. Very smart and witty. Enjoyed the repartee.
Will want some more books on the foreigner series.
"Great narration, great story."
Old book, I consider to be classics. C. J. Cherryh is a master,creates a universe of political intrigues placed on an alien planet.
Bipolar world in a state of cold war AKA cold peace for 200 years.
The world of mathematically irrational beings(atevi), who use numeroogy in every moment of their life, even language is not just spoken, but calculated for the propper form.
And all of political comunication are made through just one man "paidhi" translator the only human who is allowed to leave human reservation and converse with atevi.
Great narration it's worth listening!!!!
"First Audible book I couldn't finish..."
I give up... I got over halfway, but I cannot finish this book. It is one of the most boring plot lines I have ever read. The main character is so childish and whiny, I just can't take it anymore. I know negative reviews generally don't get good clout here, but I have to be honest and warn off potential listeners to this waste of time.
This is not the right way to go about writing a story. There are reasons that we have rules about good writing. Why is it that an established author is allowed to break them, while beginning writers are chastised and told to "go rewrite"? This is unfair. We should be just as hard on big-name authors when they goof-up as we are on new writers.
The general rule is this: The protagonist of the story needs to ACT, not REACT. He needs to have a clear goal. The main character of this book is totally passive, and I have no idea what he wants to do. Everything happens TO him, because he is completely under the charge and authority of the alien Atevi. He cannot venture outside the boundaries they give him, and he cannot get any information that they do not deign to let trickle down to him. This results in endless pages of monologues about wondering what is going on. Well guess what? WE DON'T KNOW EITHER! All he does is ask where his guards are, and whine about not getting his mail. Finally I reached the point at which I couldn't stand it anymore. Seriously, what's the big deal about MAIL? Someone is trying to kill the guy!
I was reminded a lot in this book about how foreigners feel in Asian cultures, where concepts that Western culture take for granted can be construed as offensive or unintelligible. Maybe Cherryh used that as inspiration to create a similar situation between humans and aliens - and the Atevi do feel alien. Just not interesting.
It can be good to try something unconventional, and the plot and world that is developed here certainly qualifies. But it just doesn't work. I cannot believe Cherryh could build a nearly 15-book franchise out of such a weak, uninteresting plot line. I can only assume it must appeal to fans of her other work. However, this is the second Cherryh novel I have tried and failed to complete, so I have to conclude that her writing is not for me.
"Slow, well explored first contact"
Actually, this book takes place mostly 150 years after first contact. But there is still a cultural divide that makes working together almost, but not quite, impossible. This book does a great job of speculating about a language and a culture that is — dare I say it? — foreign to our own.
At times I was very frustrated with this book for the exact same reasons the main character was. At no point did I think that things were happening that didn't make sense. It was well constructed and was an interesting way in exploring a foreign culture. I look forward to reading the sequel.
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