Foreigner (10th Anniversary Edition)
|Author||C. J. Cherryh|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
The Foreigner universe is a fictional universe developed by science fiction and fantasy author C. J. Cherryh. The series centers around the descendants of a ship lost in transit from Earth en route to found a new space station. It consists of semi-encapsulated trilogy arcs (or sequences) that focus on the life of Bren Cameron, the human paidhi, a translator-diplomat to the court of the ruling Aiji of the atevi aishidi'tat. Currently fourteen novels have been published between 1994 and 2013, and a fifteenth is awaiting publication. Cherryh has also self-published two ebook short story prequels to the series, "Deliberations" (October 2012) and "Invitations" (August 2013).
Cherryh calls the series "First Contact."
- Trilogy arc 1
- Foreigner (1994)
- Invader (1995)
- Inheritor (1996)
- Trilogy arc 2
- Precursor (1999)
- Defender (2001)
- Explorer (2002)
- Trilogy arc 3
- Destroyer (2005)
- Pretender (2006)
- Deliverer (2007)
- Trilogy arc 4
- Conspirator (2009)
- Deceiver (2010)
- Betrayer (2011)
- Trilogy arc 5
- Intruder (2012)
- Protector (2013)
- Peacemaker (due April 2014)
- Trilogy arc 6
- <untitled> (in progress)
- Short stories
- "Deliberations" (2012)
- "Invitations" (2013)
The Foreigner series opens with the failure of a starship. A brief preamble to the first book describes a system failure that leaves the starship Phoenix stranded in some far-flung reach of space, without any idea of how to get home, completely unable even to locate Sol in the visible stars. Phoenix is carrying colonists and equipment to establish a new space station to extend Earth's interstellar trade empire.
Sketched in the preamble is the heroic effort to refuel Phoenix in the environs of a hostile sun, and navigate the lost starship to a more habitable environment. Lost to this effort are many of the best and bravest of the crew.
The habitable environment that the damaged starship can reach is the homeworld of the atevi, a green and living world, already populated by aliens with steam age technology.
The humans build their station in orbit around the atevi world but tensions build between the colonists and the Phoenix crew. The Pilot's Guild, comfortable with the power it has accrued during the emergency, and stripped of its best elements by the battle to refuel, has become oppressive and oligarchic. When the refueled Phoenix leaves to explore the local space and establish a further station the colonists become restless.
When Phoenix is slow to return, some of the colonists choose to abandon the station in parachuting landers (much akin to NASA's Project Mercury), despite the efforts of the remaining Pilot's Guild to retain the colonists and control, until the space station becomes unviable and is abandoned entirely.
On the surface the humans encounter the atevi, a race of dark-skinned humanoids, for whom math is as intrinsic as breathing. Atevi possess no concept of liking or loving another person, but instead place utmost importance on loyalty or man'chi. Man'chi is not merely a cultural construct, but is an intrinsic drive, a natural instinct to follow a leader, and is therefore a difference between the two races that cannot be bridged.
After an initial period of peaceful co-existence, cross-cultural misunderstandings lead to the War of the Landing. Despite their vast technological advantage the colonists lose, and swiftly. In the aftermath of the war, the atevi government abandons the island of Mospheira to allow the establishment of an enclave for the human colonists. Only one human, the paidhi (interpreter), is allowed to live among atevi and learn one of their languages. All communication between the atevi and the humans is via this single point of contact.
On the island of Mospheira the colonists prosper. As part of the treaty of the landing that ceded Mospheira to humans a succession of paidhiin broker a slow, careful, managed transfer of technology to the atevi, all the while creating dictionaries so that the next paidhi can further the work of understanding and technology transfer.
Fast forward 200 years. The colonists on Mospheira are comfortable and self-absorbed. The atevi are close to technological parity, and have outpaced the humans in some areas. All seems peaceful and manageable. Against this background the main story of the first book of the series unfolds as, unknown to the main protagonist, paidhi Bren Cameron, Phoenix returns to orbit.
The remaining books focus on the interrelations among Bren Cameron, Tabini (the Aiji, the head of the most powerful atevi clan, keystone of the atevi western association, and thus effective supreme ruler of the atevi government), his atevi associates, the human enclave of Mospheira, the humans aboard Phoenix, and an alien presence in the nearer stars.
The first eight books of the series are told exclusively from the viewpoint of Bren Cameron, the paidhi at the time of Phoenix's return. The ninth book, Deliverer deviates from this style in that a number of passages are told from the point of view of Tabini's young son, Cajeiri.
Major characters and other important persons
- Bren Cameron, paidhi and later paidhi-aiji, translator to the court of Tabini.
- Tabini, Aiji of Shejidan, supreme leader of the atevi.
- Ilisidi, the Aiji-dowager, grandmother of Tabini, and twice denied the throne by the hasdrawad; a house of the atevi parliament.
- Banichi and Jago, Bren's male and female (respectively) Assassin's Guild guard, assigned from Tabini's own staff in the first novel.
- Cajeiri, eight year-old son of Tabini, presumed heir to the aishidi'tat.
Cherryh frequently misspells the name of the riding animals used in the books, generally going between mecheita / mecheiti and mechieta / mechieti. The official spelling is mecheita / mecheiti as stated in the entries dated 10/18/04 and 10/19/04 of her Progress Report:
Mecheita is a hoot---on the same page, usually meticulous me has "mechieta," "mecheita," "mechieita," and I'm wickedly tempted to standardize it as "ie" in the singular and "ei" in the plural, just to drive the copyeditors berserk, but hey, it would drive me there first. It is officially "mecheita, pl. mecheiti."
Each arc consists of three novels. Each arc deals with an entire storyline, although there are cross-connections as the series has progressed. Roughly 10 years of time are supposed to have elapsed (per the novel) from Book 1, Foreigner, to Book 8, Pretender.
- Arc 1 (Foreigner, Invader, Inheritor): focuses on an assassination attempt against Bren Cameron, an act illegal by the peace treaty made following the War of the Landing. The attempt proves to be a conspiracy by factions of humans and atevi to depose Bren as the paidhi, or official translator between the two cultures. The Starship Phoenix returns, causing the entire system to come out of balance, causing political unrest on both Mospheira and the mainland, and while the atevi change from simple rocketry to advanced single-stage-to-orbit shuttles, radically altering their economic and industrial base in the process.
- Arc 2 (Precursor, Defender, Explorer): focuses on Bren as he is elevated by Tabini to be the Lord of the Heavens, making him a lord of the aishidi'tat with authority to negotiate. Bren is then charged with taking Tabini's heir, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi, Cajeri's great grandmother, to see to a threat of aliens encountered by Phoenix, but Bren and the aiji-dowager must first solve a mutiny aboard Phoenix.
- Arc 3 (Destroyer, Pretender, Deliverer): focuses on the return of Bren Cameron, Ilisidi and Cajeiri from deep space and their encounter with the alien Kyo. They find the aishidi'tat in tatters, Tabini-aiji rumored to be dead, and Murini, the pretender-aiji, on the throne in Shejidan. The kyo will expect to meet a unified planet under the rule of Tabini-aiji. Bren, the dowager, and the aiji must restore order before the kyo arrive for negotiations.
- Arc 4 (Conspirator, Deceiver, Betrayer): set in the immediate aftermath of the third arc, and is set against the shifting political relations between the different Atevi ethnic factions. With Tabini restored in Shejidan, Cameron must find a way to stabilise the Eastern and coastal regions where he has his own Lordly estate. The peace gained with the restoration of Tabini's rule is threatened by long standing ethnic and cultural differences between the ruling Ragi Atevi and the more conservative Edi and Eastern clans.
- Arc 5 (Intruder, Protector, Peacemaker): currently in progress.
As with many of C. J. Cherryh's novels, this series could be best described as anthropological science fiction, focusing on the interface between our human customs and understandings and that of an alien race whose motivations, thoughts and even feelings are diametrically opposed to our own. Broadly speaking, the series could also be described as Space Opera, especially the second and third story arcs. It also contains elements of political thriller, with the complex racial and cultural interplay between humans and atevi, and between ship crew and colonist.
The atevi have no feeling of love, but rather man'chi—a loyalty-web to one's leader, one's leader's leader, and so on outward until the Aiji of Shejidan, leader of the aishidi'tat or union of all atevi. Political boundaries are not based on territory, but on association—where their man'chi lies.
Inherent to the mental structure of an atevi is arithmetical ability we would consider intuitive and a world viewed in arithmetical terms. The main atevi language Ragi is a continual mathematic construct. Properly forming statements requires effort similar to a mathematician keeping equations balanced.
Stringently asserted is the idea that the number two to the atevi is disharmonious and as unnerving as fingernails on a chalkboard is to humans. The number three however is "felicitous," and ideas are spoken using felicitous numbers (unless the speaker wishes to convey disharmony or anti-social ideas to their audience).
Another aspect of atevi culture that is critical to the stories, particularly the political thriller aspect, is that assassination is a legal and accepted means of settling disputes, provided proper protocol is followed. One files a document of Intent which liberates the target to file one back. The Assassin's Guild has the right, often exercised when Intent is filed for foolish reasons, to reject a particular filing. For this reason, the assassins' guild (commonly referred to as simply "the guild") has considerable power, despite being supposedly neutral. Assassins are also employed as bodyguards, and often need to defend against attacks by others of their own guild.
Although drawn by different artists, the cover art for the series maintains a fairly consistent look and feel. Every cover to date but one has featured the protagonist Bren Cameron as the sole human pictured along with one or more armed Atevi. This serves to visually emphasize Bren's, and the human refugees in general, patently foreign presence among this aggressive alien race. The depiction of Bren's Atevi lover, Jago, on most of the covers may both exacerbate and ease the reader's sense of the protagonist's isolation. Several of the artists hired to paint the covers have taken Ms. Cherryh's description of the white ribbons in Bren's hair and extended it to the entirety of his clothing, white, showing no attachment to any house. However, this is an artistic license. He is described as wearing muted colors: beiges, blues and greens.
An audio drama of the first three books of the Foreigner series is scheduled for production in 2013. The books will be adapted by award winning audio dramatist Sable Jak for Audio Cinema Entertainment. The production will include a cast of voice actors and an original score, with a soundscape by sound designer Tim Knofler. The roles of three of the characters have been cast: actor Wednesday Wolf will play Bren Cameron, Helen Hayes Award winning actress Gin Hammond will play Jago, and actress and singer Jane Cater will play Ilisidi. Other characters will be cast later. Jak, who is working closely with Cherryh on the project, will direct the six-hour production. The total budget is expected to be around $250,000.
- Foreigner was shortlisted for a Locus Award in 1995.
- Invader was shortlisted for a Locus Award in 1996.
- Defender was shortlisted for a Locus Award in 2002.
- Cherryh, C. J. Foreigner, DAW Books, 1994.
- Cherryh, C. J. Foreigner (10th Anniversary Edition), DAW Books, 2004.
- Cherryh, C. J. Invader, DAW Books, 1995.
- Cherryh, C. J. Inheritor, DAW Books, 1996.
- Cherryh, C. J. Precursor, DAW Books, 1999.
- Cherryh, C. J. Defender, DAW Books, 2001.
- Cherryh, C. J. Explorer, DAW Books, 2002.
- Cherryh, C. J. Destroyer, DAW Books, 2005.
- Cherryh, C. J. Pretender, DAW Books, 2006.
- Cherryh, C. J. Deliverer, DAW Books, 2007.
- Cherryh, C. J. Conspirator, DAW Books, 2009.
- Cherryh, C. J. Deceiver, DAW Books, 2010.
- Cherryh, C. J. Betrayer, DAW Books, 2011.
- Cherryh, C. J. Intruder, DAW Books, 2012.
- Cherryh, C. J. Protector, DAW Books, 2013.
- Cherryh, C. J.. "The next Bren book (the just-finished manuscript) now has a title…". Wave Without a Shore. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- Cherryh, C. J. "The Journal: Progress Report Archive 3". C. J. Cherryh homepage. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Willey, Omar. "Author C.J. Cherryh Bring Her Foreigner Series to Audio, with Sable Jak at the Helm". Seattle Star. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
- "C J Cherryh's Foreigner Series to be a Movie Audio". Sci-Fi-London. 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
- "1995 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "1996 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-15.