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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Destroyer by C. J.Cherryh

Destroyer by C. J. Cherryh. New York: Daw Books, 2005. No ISBN listed.

Don't read this book unless you've been following the entire series. While I suppose you might make sense out of it after a while, to really appreciate what's going on you need the background of the previous six novels: Foreigner (1994), Invader (1995), Inheritor (1996), Precursor (1999), Defender (2001) and Explorer (2002). Coming in 2006 is the followup to Destroyer: Pretender.

The premise involves a human FTL (faster than light) ship that somehow gets lost in hyperspace, and ends up at a world inhabited by a humanoid species that are larger, more powerful physically than humans, but barely entering their first industrial age when humans arrive. Inevitably, the two species quarrel, and the humans on planet are relegated to a single island.

Meanwhile the spaceship goes off trying to find their way back to earth, or to find other possibly more suitable places within range of the atevi (as the aliens are called) planet. Much of Cherryh's work involves the attempts of alien races to understand and interact with one another, and her stories are brilliant expositions of the difficulties inherent in any such interactions.

In this case, humans are introducing technology to the atevi, since they need to establish a technological base capable of supporting their space based culture and way of life. Some of the atevi are innately conservative, and resist the more progressive views of those who realize the importance of coming to a technological par with humanity. The humans themselves are equally divided between those who wish to deal peaceably with the atevi, and those who would prefer to either dominate or ignore them. Conflict is generated on every side, and is a major theme of the series.

Cherryh is one of my top all time favorite scifi authors, and to a large degree just because of this ability to effectively portray the thought processes and differences between humans and “aliens.” Her aliens are truly alien, not just human brains stuffed into bizarrely shaped bodies as are those of many writers.

My favorite Cherryh series is the collection of Chanur novels: The Pride of Chanur (1981), Chanur's Venture (1984), The Kif Strike Back (1985), Chanur's Homecoming (1986) and Chanur's Legacy (1992). I'm also a sucker for series, and so Cherryh's work has always been high on my list. The British Fantastic Fiction web site has the best list of Cherryh's work that I've been able to find. Highly recommended for fans of scifi series.


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