cover image Inheritor


C. J. Cherryh. Daw Books, $21.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-88677-689-3

The human-alien tensions that marked Foreigner (1994) and Invader (1995) peak in this sophisticated conclusion to the trilogy. The atevi and the humans co-inhabiting the planet Mospheira are near the brink of interspecies war. The major hope for peace is Bren Cameron, the paidhi, or sole translator-diplomat between the atevi and the humans, who tries to bridge the inscrutable and unpredictable alien society and the small and paranoid human colony nervously marooned on its world. Bren's complex job is further complicated by the unexpected disappearance of the starship that had established the human presence two centuries earlier. Cherryh works entirely through the paidhi's eyes as Bren struggles to untangle the intricate relationships, shifting associations and convoluted motives of atevi, colonists and spacers. As he does, he realizes, to his dismay, that as his linguistic competence grows his heart goes out less to his own species than to individual atevi, even though the aliens are incapable of affection. Through her hallmark ability to craft nonhuman languages as the basis for alluring alien psychologies, Cherryh superbly resolves this epic trilogy's multifaceted conflicts, dramatizing again the idea that people can't truly know their own language--nor others, nor themselves--until they master at least one other tongue (Apr.)