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Explorer    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Explorer follows Precursor and Defender to conclude the second of the author's Foreigner trilogies. It also adds to the mix of atevi and three human groups (Mospheiran colonists, ship crew and secretive Pilot's Guild), a new set of aliens, the Kyo, to add further interest, complications, and potential for conflict.

As the episode opens, paidhi Bren Cameron, 'lord of the province of the Heavens' and his staff of atevi retainers and bodyguards are nearing the end of a journey on the Phoenix, that was prompted by its dying senior Captain's revelation that humans (many related to ship crew) survived an alien attack on distant Reunion Station. Accompanying Bren are the atevi ruler's tough, acerbic grandmother Ilsidi (my favorite character aside from the paidhi himself) and rambunctious young heir Cajeiri. Jase, one of the ship's original envoys to the atevi world and almost-brother to Bren, is now junior Captain.

As they approach the damaged station, Jase and Bren begin to unravel a tangled skein of lies about the past alien attack, and attempt to make contact with the hostile alien ship that has the area of space around the station under observation. Desperately needing to re-fuel and anxious to load the station refugees on board, their efforts are consistently blocked by a Guild that strives to retain power. Not once, but several times, Bren needs to get personally involved - in saving the ship from a Guild takeover, rescuing an alien hostage from the station, and destroying its Archive, whose secrets could make humanity vulnerable.

What I love about this series is Cherryh's brilliant representation of the potential for misunderstanding not only in contact with aliens, whose mode of interaction is based on an entirely different value system, but also between different strands of humanity. In addition to communicating with the alien Kyo (facilitated by Cajeiri's presence and racing cars) Explorer includes some of the most exciting action scenes since early in the series. I can't wait to see where C. J. Cherryh takes it next.

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