Author:  C.J. Cherryh

Title:  Foreigner

Genre:  Science Fiction

Publication Date:  1994

Number of Pages:  378

Geographical Setting:  an Earth-like planet in another solar system (mostly set in the city of Shejidan and the estate of Maiguri)

Time Period:  the future – unknown year

Series:  Book 1 in the Foreigner series

Plot Summary:  Centuries after the Phoenix starship brought humans to an unknown galaxy, to a planet populated by the atevi, the two races have found a way to co-exist separately but (somewhat) peacefully.  The humans keep to the island of Mospheira, except for one – known as the paidhi, the interpreter – who lives and works amongst the atevi as a diplomat and technology consultant.  Bren Cameron, the current paidhi, has spent his adult life immersed in the government of the atevi, sitting in the inner circle of the aiji, the lord of the central association.  One night, a would-be assassin makes an attempt at Bren’s life, and his reality is turned upside-down.  In a society where there is no atevi word for “trust,” but fourteen for “betrayal,” Bren must tread carefully to protect not only his own life, but the delicate relationship between humans and atevi.

Subject Headings:  space colonies; politics; human-alien encounters; culture conflict; loyalty

Appeal: detailed setting, engrossing, political, relaxed pace, builds in intensity, contemplative, thought-provoking, imaginative, world-building, well-crafted, densely written, complex

3 terms that best describe this book:  thought-provoking, world-building, builds in intensity

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

God’s Crucible: Islam and the making of Europe, 570 to 1215 by David L. Lewis:  Even though the humans and atevi did not live amongst each other, the exchange of technology and resources was central to the development of both societies.  Lewis examines that theme a little closer to home, focusing on the cultural interplay between Islamic and European culture.

 Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue by Eric Felten:  The most complex concept in atevi culture is that of man’chi – the atevi form of loyalty.  The term is so abstract that Bren is not able to come up with a concise translation.  In his book, Felton explores the role loyalty plays in life and what our loyalty-based decisions reveal using anecdotes from the Bible, literature, and other sources.

Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System by Ray Jayawardhana:  Before the accident that led them to the planet of the atevi, humans spent five centuries searching for a planet that could sustain life.  In Strange New Worlds, Jayawardhana explores the history of human curiosity and finding new planets, and also guides the reader through the numerous recent planetary discoveries, showing that a new Earth is possibly within our grasp.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Crossfire by Nancy Kress: A group of wealthy humans led by billionaire Jake Holman travel to the planet Greentrees to establish a new earth colony, only to realize that they landed in the middle of a war between two alien races.  Imaginative and thought provoking, Crossfire may appeal to those who enjoyed reading about Bren’s ethical dilemmas in Foreigner.

The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin: Shevek, a naïve physicist and theorist attempts to share knowledge between two dissident planetary societies, igniting unprecedented change.  Like Foreigner, The Dispossessed is the first book in a thought-provoking series set in the distant future.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin:  In a kingdom of decades-long seasons, seven families plot and scheme to amass power and gain control of the throne.  Fans of the Foreigner series may enjoy Martin’s complex and well-crafted political fantasy saga.

Name:  Mieko Fujiura


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