This is the Third trilogy of books in the Foreigner Universe. I’d read the first cycle when it originally came out many moons ago and I really dug it. The main protagonist, Bren Cameron, is atypically thoughtful and consistent. He never pulls a Gordon Freeman and becomes a complete badass, and he also doesn’t pull a Rand and get godlike powers. Most of the books are about his internal deliberations as he tries to interpret and decipher the actions of the atevi. The atevi are an humanoid alien species that exists with the humans in this universe. Strangely like us, they also differ in some important ways, and that is the main crux of every storyline – Bren is the liaison/interpreter/diplomat to this species and provides a vital role in human/atevi relations.
This particular cycle picks up after a 2 year space romp (disclosure: i never read the 2nd cycle ) when Bren is returning home from a rescue mission. He has saved around 4,000 human colonists from a space station set upon by another alien race. ‘Natch, good ole Bren smoothes things out with the kyo using his skills and heads back to report the good news. The main impetus of the story is a brewing rebellion that happens on the planet in Bren’s absence. Not that his presence is the sole reason for it, which is refreshingly new for a change of pace. Most of the actions in the story happen outside of Bren’s direct influence, and he often comes into the events as a fellow participant, not the primary instigator. It gives the story an interesting angle and goes along well with his status as outsider to the atevi. That’s about as much as I’m going to talk about the story. Its a really quick read, and is moderately entertaining, so you should read it. I’m going to spend the rest of the review talking about the story/plotting/tropes rather than the specifics of the actual plot.
First things first: The covers are fucking horrible.
I mean, I guess we can’t get Michael Whelan to do everything, but the covers are of especially low quality for these series. On top of that, the 2nd cover in particular is egregious in depicting Bren as this super duper white guy surrounded by the suspiciously African American looking Atevi. C.J. has done a really good job of avoiding that at all in her books; the atevi come off more as giant, black Japanese people, but the subtext is there for those who are looking, and the cover is just a really poor translation of what the story is about. In addition, Bren looks a little googly eyed. lol
In my best estimation, I’d say a little bit of the steam has run out of the series. Its still a good grind, but the best part of the book was Bren’s exploration of the culture initially. I guess I find it hard for Bren to constantly underestimate himself and to never feel at ease with where he is in the atevi culture. It might be accurate, but I feel like the character has hardly developed at all and is constantly assessing things from a non-changed perspective. This same feeling of stagnation is also present in the main story line. All of the truly interesting antagonists have either been explored or co-opted into the main story line so there doesn’t feel like there is truly anything dangerous or interesting occurring. I like to call this "David Edding’s Syndrome". If you want to see this in action, read the Belgariad and then the Mallorean. The 2nd is like a pale imitation of the former.
Another harp on the plotting is the lack of any true resolution. The books are almost more snips of time, and the ending of the final book doesn’t bring with it any true resolution to the events that mostly concluded in the 2nd book. It could be argued that the inclusion of another character’s viewpoint in the third is a significant event for the, I felt like it was more of a gimmick and didn’t really give us anything interesting. Frankly, Bren is more interesting, and it felt odd to flip back and forth like that from Bren and the other character’s perspective. The other character was ostensibly atevi, but didn’t feel emotionally different, which has been an important part of the story. Giving us the atevi thinking ruins part of the mystique of the story, rather like pulling up the curtain on a magic act. Its not important for us to know what the atevi are thinking, but rather to see how Bren interacts with them as the surrogate for the reader.
Anyway, decent read. Thanks Betsy! I enjoyed being able to read some space opera again and veg out over the long weekend we have.
Recommendation: Borrow or buy the paperback versions. The hardcover is nearly $26(!!!!!) per book.