Paperback 448 pages (October 2000)
Publisher: Daw Books
Category(ies): Science Fiction & Fantasy
This is the fourth book in the Foreigner trilogy ... the ongoing Foreigner sequence. The setting is C J Cherryh political — we don't have lots of planets, we have a single world on which humans inhabit one large island off the coast of a continent full of the native Atevi. We do have interstellar travel, but thus far, we've only seen the end of one trip, when the Phoenix returned from an abortive trip elsewhere. And indeed, so far as we know, Phoenix is the only interstellar vehicle that humanity has ever built, being the original colonising vehicle for this world.
No-one remembers where Earth is, which seems a little careless.
Our hero Bren Cameron is a typical Cherryh can-do hero. (Can-do by Cherryh standards, that is.) He's the ambassador/contact/liaison/whatever between the humans of Mospheira, and the Atevi of the rest of the world. By treaty, he's the only human permitted to live off Mospheira. Emotionally, he's gone native a few books back, or as native as he can, bearing in mind the Atevi make humans look like Dwarves, don't understand the concept of liking, and have a supernal ability for, and numerological superstition about, numbers.
At the end of the previous novel, there was still no ground to space capability (the colonists of two hundred years ago came down from the station — a large self-sufficient habitat — in simple re-entry vehicles). But it has been building under Bren's tutelage, and the Atevi now have their space shuttle. Happily, it works well, as at the start of this book, Bren is going up to the station.
And that's about all that happens for the first three quarters of the book. Bren is in the dark, the Mospheiran delegation is also in the dark, and there's a lot of political and emotional stalemate, with very little actual progression. Eventually, at about page 300 or so, things start happening, and we enter a (comparatively) breakneck conclusion.
This was a difficult one to read, possibly the hardest of the sequence so far as it examines not the exotic Atevi, but the rather regimented ship and station crew. In general, it's more of a bridge between the conclusion of the original Foreigner trilogy and the much more active book 5, Defender.