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Review: Pretender by C. J. Cherryh

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Review: Pretender by C. J. Cherryh

Postby Bmat » Sat Nov 18, 2006 7:45 pm

Destroyer by C. J. Cherryh

Review by Bmat

Bren, translator and mediator between Humans and Atevi, returned from a two year space voyage to find the Atevi home world in a tense situation. An opponent had deposed Tabini, the most powerful Atevi ruler, Bren’s employer and sponsor. For two years, Bren had interacted with Tabini’s grandmother and son aboard the spaceship. They had deflected an alien race, the Kyo, from attacking the Atevi. However threats from space still existed, and even though Tabini trusted Bren, many Atevi did not. Without Tabini in control, the Atevi might well not begin preparation needed to protect the planet from the new threat.

Bren’s group needed to find a place of safety in order to decide what to do toward discovering if Tabini were still alive. They needed to protect Tabini’s grandmother and Tabini’s son and heir. Complex loyalty issues among the Atevi made the right choice of seeking allies imperative.

Destroyer is the first of the third Foreigner trilogy, (fortunate three.) As the story unfolds, the events of the previous books in the series are gently reviewed. The descriptions of life aboard the spaceship and on the planet are well written. Typical of the Foreigner series is a slow pace in which details of Bren’s internal conversations and of comparisons between sociological and genetic predispositions of Atevi versus Humans are discussed. The action scenes are described vividly. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion so that the reader does not need to feel as if the main story of the book is unfinished, which sometimes happens in series. I feel that Destroyer is at least as strong as the previous books.

I did have a problem keeping the names of people and of towns and areas straight. There were so many similar names that it was confusing.

I recommend reading the previous books in order to learn and understand the background, the relationships and the behavior of the characters and of the Atevi race and the humans in the story.


I copied my review of Destroyer to this post, since a great deal of the same information still holds.

Pretender continues the story of Bren and the Atevi. In Pretender, the former leader of the Atevi takes steps to regain power. Hardships are suffered, doubt of self and of others manifests, and motives, of self and others, are examined. A question that occurs to the reader is whether Bren, and humans in general, do after all have some of the same emotional wiring as do the Atevi.

As before, previous events gradually are covered within the story without interrupting the present story to devote time to what happened before. It would be best for readers to start at the beginning of the series, even so.

The book, typically for the series, has expositive portions of considerable length. I enjoyed the explanations, internal discussion, and the vivid descriptions. It is the kind of book where one forgets one is reading, the story plays this vividly in the writing. Pretender seems more obviously than the previous novels a vehicle for moving the story forward than of a story on its own, although the novel does contain a complete segment of the overall story of Bren and the Atevi.

I recommend Pretenders and the entire Atevi series for fans of science fiction featuring development of alien cultures and worlds, and for those who enjoy human/alien interaction and comparisons. I am ready for the third (fortunate three) and last of the three- three part series.
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