C. J. Cherryh
Foreigner Cover

Foreigner #1


OK first up - I love C.J. Cherryh - I have collected nearly every novel she has ever written, but I've only read a handful. Basically, I was so impressed with Downbelow Station and her Thieves' World stories I decided to get it all and work on it over time. So, C.J. requires some time and thought with her books - they somehow come out at a James Patterson-like clip, but contain intellectual material I truly believe to be more in the realm of Gene Wolfe or Neal Stephenson. (but don't get too excited yet).

This Foreigner is not the best example of her work, in fact it is almost a study of things that make her difficult to read. The entire novel pretty much takes place in the head of the main character. He worries about the same things over and over again. There is just a little action towards the end of the book. You know those foreign films in black and white from the 1930's you're supposed to love so much? But actually spend the whole time asleep on the couch? It's kind of like that - a tough slog, and I hear the second book is more of the same, and after that the series takes off. Could be true, I don't know.

In good news, many of her strengths are evident: the creation of an alien culture, in this case the atevi, is unmatched by any writer from any time period in any genre. Boom - that's why you read C.J. Cherryh. The creation of an interesting world, with interesting, novel problems and ideas are unmatched. Other people's aliens will suck after you read her books. It is not the post-modern trickery of Gene Wolfe, or the history lesson in a novel of Stephenson, but her world-building takes as much intellectual juice as any of those guys' work.

If you're looking for a first book with C.J. I would recommend Downbelow Station and branch out from there. If you like that one, Foreigner is simpler in terms of fewer characters, but more complicated in terms of a highly developed alien species & conflict. Thanks for reading!