A third intelligent species makes its appearance in this sixth superior installment in Cherryh's much praised Foreigner Universe series (Defender; Precursor; etc.). The starship Phoenix, manned by a human crew but with a significant contingent of the gigantic, nonhuman atevi aboard, has spent the last year in interstellar transit from the atevi home world to the ruins of Reunion Station, where the repressive Pilots' Guild still clings to power and a mysterious and deadly alien starship lurks on the fringes. Diplomat and translator Bren Cameron and the Phoenix's newly appointed junior captain, Jason Graham, must keep the peace between two powerful, but short-tempered women: Sabin, the ship's senior captain, and Ilisidi, the imperious atevi matriarch who has been entrusted with looking after her species' interests on the voyage. When they reach Reunion Station, the Pilots' Guild first refuses to allow the starship to refuel and then attempts to take it over by force.
Sabin's ill-fated attempt to negotiate the release of the fuel leads to some suspenseful complications. As with previous volumes in this intense series, detailed character development, highly charged dialogue and an eye for subtle differences in cultural preconceptions are of central importance, although Cherryh also manages some fine action scenes. This is serious space opera at its very best by one of the leading traditional SF writers in the field today. (Nov. 5)
Forecast:There may be nothing flashy or cutting edge about Cherryh, hence she's not going to attract a lot of younger readers or people new to the genre, but she will continue to do well with established SF fans who appreciate fine writing and traditional story-telling. The dust jacket by leading SF cover artist Michael Whelan clearly identifies this as space opera.