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Foreigner
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Foreigner

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Author: C. J. Cherryh
Publisher: DAW Books, 1994
Series: Foreigner: Book 1
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: First Contact
Hard SF
Colonization
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Synopsis

It had been nearly five centuries since the starship Phoenix, lost in space and desperately searching for the nearest G5 star, had encountered the planet of the atevi. On this alien world, law was kept by the use of registered assassination, alliances were defined by individual loyalties not geographical borders, and war became inevitable once humans and one faction of atevi established a working relationship. It was a war that humans had no chance of winning on this planet so many light-years from home.

Now, nearly two hundred years after that conflict, humanity has traded its advanced technology for peace and an island refuge that no atevi will ever visit. Then the sole human the treaty allows into atevi society is marked for an assassin's bullet. The work of an isolated lunatic? ... The interests of a particular faction? ... Or the consequence of one human's fondness for a species which has fourteen words for betrayal and not a single word for love?


Excerpt

The air moved sluggishly through the open garden lattice, heavy with the perfume of the night-blooming vines outside the bedroom. An o'oi-ana went click-click, and called again, the harbinger of rain, while Bren lay awake, thinking that if he were wise, he would get up and close the lattice and the doors before he fell asleep. The wind would shift. The sea air would come and cool the room. The vents were enough to let it in. But it was a lethargic, muggy night, and he waited for that nightly reverse of the wind from the east to the west, waited as the first flickers of lightning cast the shadow of the lattice on the stirring gauze of the curtain.

The lattice panels had the shapes of Fortune and Chance, baji and naji. The shadow of the vines outside moved with the breeze that, finally, finally, flared the curtain with the promise of relief from the heat.

The next flicker lit an atevi shadow, like a statue suddenly transplanted to the terrace outside. Bren's heart skipped a beat as he saw it on that pale billowing of gauze, on a terrace where no one properly belonged. He froze an instant, then slithered over the side of the bed.

The next flash showed him the lattice folding further back, and the intruder entering his room.

He slid a hand beneath the mattress and drew out the pistol he had hidden there - braced his arms across the mattress in the way the aiji had taught him, and pulled the trigger, to a shock that numbed his hands and a flash that blinded him to the night and the intruder. He fired a second time, for sheer terror, into the blind dark and ringing silence.

He couldn't move after that. He couldn't get his breath. He hadn't heard anyone fall. He thought he had missed. The white, flimsy draperies blew in the cooling wind that scoured through his bedroom.

His hands were numb, bracing the gun on hte mattress. His ears were deaf to sounds fainter than the thunder, fainter than the rattle of the latch of his bedroom door - the guards using their key, he thought.

But it might not be. He rolled his back to the bedside and braced his straight arms between his knees, barrel trained on the middle of the doorway as the inner door banged open and light and shadow struck him in the face.

The aiji's guards spared not a word for questions. One ran to the lattice doors, and out into the courtyard and the beginning rain. The other, a faceless metal-sparked darkness, loomed over him and pried the gun from his fingers.

Copyright © 1994 by C. J. Cherryh


Reviews

Foreigner #1

- fredvp71
  (5/20/2010)

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