Cherryh, C. J. Peacemaker.

NY: DAW, 2013.

This is the fifteenth volume is what has become the masterwork of one of the best science fiction authors around. It’s also the close of the fifth trilogy, or story arc, within the series, so lots of loose ends are tied up. Ordinarily, when I review an entry in an ongoing series, I’ll say a word or two about the overarching theme, or setting, or continuing characters, or something.

But after close to 6,000 pages, and with no end in sight, there doesn’t seem much point — except to note that you shouldn’t even think of starting this saga anywhere but at the beginning. After all that has gone before, there’s no way the author can make allowances for casual drop-ins.

I will say, though, that the story picks up on the first page about an hour after the close of the previous volume, with the padhi-aji, Bren Cameron, headed back at high speed on a secret train to the atevi capital in company with Ilisidi, the Dowager, Cajeiri, the young heir to the ajinate, and a crowd of very annoyed Assassins, who have recently discovered the menacing forces behind the disruption of their Guild ever since the three-year overthrow of Tabini, the aji, or ruler of their world. Oh, and those three young humans from the space station are along, too, having been brought down for Cajeiri’s very important (for numerological reasons) ninth birthday celebration (but the years are longer on the atevi world, so he’s about the equivalent of human thirteen or fourteen). If anything happens to the kids, there will be major hell to pay, along with all of Bren’s other problems. And Cajeiri still hasn’t gotten his party. There will be action sequences during which the padhi will acquire a few more scars, and there will be political negotiations and sessions of thoughtful analysis during which crucial decisions will be reached.

Bren is the focus of the story, of course, and the series traces his career over several decades, during which he has been instrumental in changing almost everything about this world and the societies in it. But the cast of major and continuing minor characters is now quite large and Cherryh doesn’t scant any of them. Cajeiri, especially, was introduced as a second POV character and his take on the world is very illuminating. Seeing the same events through Bren’s eyes, and then from the young heir’s limited (and closely protected) perspective adds another entire layer to the reader’s experience. And one of the fascinating things about the saga is that, if you’ve paid attention to the politics and the alien psychology (both very major themes), you will begin to be able to predict what’s likely to happen next, given a certain set of circumstances. Cherryh is just that good.

She has also included a useful historical outline this time (written by Lord Geigi, up on the space station, with addenda by the padhi) of events since the Landing three centuries before, the course of relations between atevi and humans (friendly, then strained, then violent), and the return of the long-absent starship and the rehabilitation of the station, through the first arrival in the capital of young Bren. The reader will have learned most of this over the course of the series, but it’s nice to have it all in one place for a refresher.

The author and I are approximately the same age (I first met her at AggieCon, at the very beginning of her career) and I can only hope I live long enough to see the completion of this amazing work. Like a number of other fans with whom I’ve compared notes on the experience, I also have some ideas of my own on future plot points that she ought to consider. I can’t recommend the “Foreigner” series highly enough to any science fiction reader of intellectual bent. Clear some time on your schedule for the next few months, line up all the volumes on your shelf so you can go straight from one to the next, and dive in. Take your time and pay attention as you read; you won’t regret the investment.

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