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Conspirator: The New Foreigner Novel    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Conspirator is the tenth (following Deliverer) in C. J. Cherryh's engaging Foreigner series, which only gets better as the author raises the bar of challenges for her stranger in a strange world hero, Paidhi Bren Cameron, and his atevi associates.

Bren's people have been marooned for two centuries on the atevi world in an uneasy truce with its inhabitants after early conflict. Bren Cameron is a brilliant linguist/diplomat trained to be the liaison between humans (who live separately on the island of Mospheira) and the atevi, ruled by Tabini. Bren's responsibility has been to oversee the gradual transfer of human technology to the less advanced atevi.

Through the series, new groups have been added to the mix of atevi and Mospheiran colonists. The starship Phoenix (which had left its human colonists isolated on the planet) reappeared, adding its ship crew and secretive Pilot's Guild to the political arena. Then, a human/atevi joint expedition into space - including Bren, Tabini's acerbic grandmother Ilsidi and young heir Cajeiri - made contact with a new group of aliens, the Kyo.

The space travelers returned to find Tabini's Western Association overthrown - their presence onworld then became a catalyst for Tabini to take back control. In Deliverer, young Cajeiri was kidnapped but was seriously underestimated by the adults around him, a trend that continues, as he gets himself - and Bren Cameron - into all kinds of new trouble in Conspirator.

As the story opens, it becomes advisable for many reasons for Bren to retire for a time to Najida, his seaside estate in Sarini province. He's accompanied as always by his security staff, including his lover Jago and her father Banichi. Bren invites his brother Toby and Toby's girlfriend (who used to be Bren's and definitely has issues with him) Barb to stay, something he would never have done if he'd realized what was ahead.

As always in recent episodes, a bored young Cajeiri is the catalyst for Bren's latest adventures. He runs away from home (along with his security, young siblings Antaro and Jegari) to join his human friend and mentor at Najida. As a result, his great-grandmother Ilside and her entourage also join the party. A subsequent escapade at sea leads Bren to take Cajeiri along on what he expects to be a routine visit to a neighbouring estate, merely a formality.

It's anything but, as they're suddenly attacked and separated. As before, Cajeiri shows intelligence and resourcefulness - as well as impulsiveness - in his responses, helping to save the day and change the political landscape of the region - 'Policy had just shifted and the wind had begun to blow, a sea wind into the heart of the continent.' And Bren has the unenviable task of informing Tabini of what they have done.

This Foreigner series - which explores not only first, but continuing, contact between human and alien cultures - should be read from the beginning as it might be challenging to pick up on mid stream. That said, it's highly entertaining and highly recommended.

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