Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh

Based on the recommendation of the late Bob Sabella (“Visions of Paradise”) I decided to read a C. J. Cherryh novel.  I remember reading her first two novels (“Gate of Ivrel” and “Brothers of Earth”) when they were first published by DAW Books.  After that I eagerly devoured “The Faded Sun:  Kesrith” as it was serialized in Galaxy SF.  After that, I forgot about her.  Sure, I would think about reading more of her work when I would see an award nomination but for some reason I never got around to it.  Cherryh was one of Bob’s favorite authors.  He and I had very similar tastes in science fiction so when I was looking for a good science fiction book to sink my teeth into, I picked up “The Pride of Chanur”.  If I liked it, I could go ahead and read the other four books in the series.  Well, I will definitely be reading the next four novels (“Chanur’s Venture”, “The Kif Strike Back”, “Chanur’s Homecoming”, “Chanur’s Legacy”).

From interviews I have read, Cherryh wrote this as her universe’s version of a “Star Wars” adventure.  She captures the fast paced adventure story aspect while adding more characterization and science that seems more realistic.  The main character is Pyanfar Chanur, the captain of “The Pride of Chanur”.  When a strange alien stows away on her ship, we find out that this is humanities first encounter with the main universe.  Chanur’s troubles begin when she gives asylum to the human.  The backbone of this universe is the Compact.  It established the foundations for trading between races.  Each race determines its own laws within its domain but peace is kept on the space stations that serve as the commerce centers.  Being the first to set up relations with a new race is a major boon.  Unfortunately for humanity, the Kif was their first contact.  The human ship was destroyed and only one member of the crew survived.  When the Kif docked at Meetpoint Station, the human took the opportunity to escape.  Pyanfar realizes what is going on and escapes with the human.  Since this is the first meeting, the two races cannot understand each other’s language.  Part of the back story is spent working on a translator which becomes a powerful bargaining tool. 

Cherryh incorporates space battles, turmoil on the home planet, deals between various races and much more into this excellent novel.  Without sticking in infodumps, she reveals the background of this universe to the reader.  Even though this book tells a complete story, the ending sets up the future of this series.  I can’t wait to read the next book.

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