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Defender    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C.J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Defender is the fifth book in the Foreigner universe, and is a direct sequel to Precursor. It is also the lead-in to Explorer, the final book in the series. As might be expected, because of this, plot development is limited and the emphasis is principally on the further development of the relations between the atevi, the land-based humans on the island of Mospheira, and the captains and crew of the starship Phoenix.

The precarious relationship achieved is jeopardised by an accidental discovery. When the spaceship Phoenix fled after the alien attack on their space station (which was supposedly destroyed), it was in fact still operational, staffed by human survivors. They might still be alive. Bren Cameron is extremely perturbed when he learns that not only Tabini-aiji but the President of Mospheira have both known of this without informing him (Tabini-aiji is the very powerful head of the atevi's Western Association, to whom Bren is paedhi). Phoenix has even been allowed to be refuelled and can take off to rescue the survivors at any time.

Bren is even more disturbed when he discovers that he is to go along on the mission, accompanying very important and politically sensitive atevi representatives. Bren is the first human to be accepted into the aliens' society, and he is very much aware of all the problems involved when different cultures are forced into close association. These problems he can cope with, but what if he cannot trust even Tabini?

This series is an extremely careful and thoughtful examination, not only of a well developed alien culture and the reciprocal impacts of its interaction with two disparate human societies, but of the triumphs and tragedies of the individuals, human and alien, caught up in the conflict. The series is an outstanding achievement and I am looking forward eagerly to the final volume. However I would advise a newcomer to start at the beginning, or at least with Precursor, before enjoying this one.

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