cover image Precursor


C. J. Cherryh. Daw Books, $23.95 (438pp) ISBN 978-0-88677-836-1

In the fourth volume in her widely praised Foreigner series (Inheritor, etc.) Cherryh sends diplomat and translator Bren Cameron into space to conduct a tense three-sided negotiation among the Pilot's Guild on the recently returned human starship Phoenix, the atevi--the planet's indigenous sentient species, whom Bren now serves--and the Mospheirans, the human colonists whom the starship long ago abandoned in the atevi's world. Although there are beings of good will on all three sides, xenophobia, cultural preconceptions, factionalism and old animosities roil the situation, as do deteriorating conditions on the long-abandoned space station where the negotiators meet. Worse, a presumably hostile third intelligent species is lurking in the galactic neighborhood and may be in the process of tracking down the Phoenix. Making things even more difficult for Bren is his complicated relationship with his mother, who is driving him to distraction--via electronic mail--with her insistence that he reestablish a relationship with his recently injured former girlfriend and with her refusal to take seriously the danger she's in at the hands of Mospheirin factions hostile to Bren's mission. The novel features well-developed characters, Cherryh's trademark sophisticated political negotiations and strong prose. Of particular note is the author's ongoing exploration of the atevi, one of the more fascinating alien cultures ever imagined. Taken as a whole, this series, which promises to consist of six volumes when complete, represents mainstream SF at its very best. (Nov.)