C. J. Cherryh
Foreigner Cover



Bren Cameron is the paidhi -- what is known as an interpreter between the alien atevi and the humans who are exiles on their faraway planet (as a result of a navigation mishap that took a colonization ship from earth very far away from where it was intended to go -- think Voyager from Star Trek). Cameron tries to somehow bridge the gap between the two very disparate cultures, thereby preventing a recurrence of the war that was waged 200 years earlier upon the humans' arrival.

This is not an easy task, since atevi and humans have very little sensibilities in common -- atevi have no concepts of love, friendship, or trust. And on top of this, Cameron's life is in danger from rival factions on the planet who are trying to usurp power.

The concept is good, and Cherryh handles the concept of first contact and sentient aliens very well, not falling into the trap of anthropomorphizing them as most authors would do despite their humanoid physiology. Quite the opposite, in fact, and this is the very reason the book endures in my opinion.

Her run-on sentence writing style gets old pretty fast, however, and she spends too much time in Cameron's head. Most of the book is told from the view of his unfiltered thoughts and can be quite boring at times. It may well be worth continuing in this long series because of its original concepts, but I can't read them all consecutively for the pain of drudgery. Foreigner could easily (and should have been) only about a third of its actual length.