DEFENDER by C. J. Cherryh
DAW Books, November 2001
Sharing a planet between humans and alien atevi has been difficult enough. But when the captain of the spaceship Phoenix dies suddenly after announcing that a long-lost orbital station is still inhabited, the uncertain alliance is shaken--possibly beyond repair. And Bren Cameron, the man tasked as the link between atevi and human is put on the spot. Somehow he has to balance the interests of not two but three parties. Because the crew of the Phoenix is not much closer to, or trusted by the humans of Mospheria than they are by the atevi.
Few if any S.F. authors do a better job in either world-building or in analyzing the psychology of their characters than does C. J. Cherryh (click here to read other booksforabuck.com reviews of novels by this author) and DEFENDER demonstrates Cherryh's skills. The atevi are a completely convincing society--alien in ways that go far beyond physical appearance. Cameron's psychological depth, his ambivalent feelings toward the atevi whom he represents and the humans from whom he springs--drives the story forward.
Unfortunately, as sometimes occurs in middle novels of a series such as DEFENDER (DEFENDER is a sequel to PRECURSOR), the psychological development forms an excessive part of the entire plot. Although humans and atevi are racing to be ready for the attack of a third, completely alien, species, this species doesn't actually make an apperance in the novel. Instead, politicking between the spaceship and atevi, and Cameron's constant worry about his role in the new order, fill the pages. According to the cover blurb, DEFENDER is the thrilling sequel. A few more thrills would have definitely helped.
I am a huge Cherryh fan (I think the Alliance/Union series ranks among the best S.F. ever written). DEFENDER isn't Cherryh at her best, but any Cherryh is worth reading.
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