First, let me state without a blush that I am of the opinion that as an author, Cherryh on her worst day is better than the vast majority of science fiction authors at their best. I will also say, however, that I wish the Foreigner series was not so insanely popular. I like it, but I don't love it. I'd really rather see CJC Herself spend her time and energy on other projects, like the sequel to Cyteen that she has in the works, or perhaps seeing whether Compact Space (i.e., the Chanur
books) is ready to offer up any more tales.
Still, I didn't expect to be so disappointed with Pretender. In
Destroyer, the previous book, human translator/ambassador Bren Cameron had arrived back on the Atevi homeworld after a long, eventful space voyage to find that Tabini, his staunch ally (and also the grandson and father of his travelling companions, Ilisidi and Cajeiri), had been overthrown as leader of the powerful Western Association. Amid many adventures, Bren and his allies gained refuge in the ancient home of peppery, elderly Lord Tatiseigi. The current volume covers a very
short span of time thereafter, as Bren and his allies suffer fallout from an internal battle for control of the powerful Assassin's Guild, gather themselves additional supporters (including Tabini, who reappears ... this is not a spoiler, it's in the cover blurb), and make a wild cross-country dash to Shejidan, the capital, where Tabini is to re-convene the governing body of the Alliance and Bren will give his report on what he found Out There.
That's not a lot of action. It's certainly not enough for a book of this length (404 pp. of moderately large type). And so we get page after page of Bren worrying. And rehashing. And speculating. And going through things in his mind in extreme detail, to make sure that we understand what's going on, I guess. I found myself skimming huge chunks of book, desperately searching for dialog or action - both
of which, I must say, are wonderful when they finally show up. But there isn't enough of either to sustain the whole. This reads all too much like the second half of Destroyer - and indeed, the back cover blurb really covers both books!
( Read on - includes a few minor spoilers )
On an equally crabby note, I have decided to hate Visio. It keeps connecting org chart boxes where I don't want it to connect org chart boxes. I have never used such an out-of-control product, and I am perfectly comfy with things like Corel Draw, Photoshop, and PowerPoint, among other things, thank you. This program is possessed!!