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A Gay Man’s Review of CJ Cherryh’s “Destroyer”

    Two years have passed since Phoenix left the Earth of the Atevi and the still in progress renovation of Alpha Station to head to Reunion station in a nearby star system in order to rescue the remaining human colonists from a mess that Phoenix had inadvertently caused.  Bren Cameron — paidhi-aiji and Lord of the Heavens — along with the aiji-dowager Illisidi, and Tabini-aiji son and heir to the aishidi’tat of the Western Association realize the instant that they get back into the Atevi star system, something has gone terribly wrong. 
    Communications from Morgari-nai are down, and traffic from Alpha Station indicates that the Atevi Government has fallen some eight months into the mission to Reunion Station.  Tabini-aiji is missing, the Assassins Guild is debating actions, and an upstart aiji from an old line has seized power in Sherjidan.  It’s up to Bren Cameron, Illisidi and Cajeiri to head to the planet and find Tabini, setting things right and back to where they once were… 

    I have to say that I had some trepidations about picking up the latest installment of CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series.  The last trilogy had been terribly dry, not to mention the second book in the second trilogy — Defender — felt like nothing more than 300 or so paged of filler.  While the story did in fact pick up someplace in Explorer, it was still a rather dry and bland foray into the Atevi universe — largely due to the reality that adventure is often long periods of boring, with short periods of excitement.  Least of all is Cherryh’s insistence that Bren Cameron is a worrier excessively fussy, and a borderline disaster queen of epic proportions. 
    I mean really — six books in and the man still thinks that everything that he does will backfire and bring the entire world crashing in the next world-spanning war of Atevi against Humans.  How many more years need to pass before the man realizes that sometimes things will fall no matter what one does to prevent it from happening? 
    Fortunately though, in the most recent installment of the trilogy, while Cameron has some moments of being rather fussy, and taking personal blame for some of the events that had occurred while he was away trying to save Reunion from the Kyo; it looks as though he’s grown up some and stopped thinking everything is his fault.  While he still has a few moments, at least it’s not taking chapters for him to realize that perhaps he should focus on what’s here and now, instead of trying to figure out what lead to it. 
    Many of the incidental characters are still pretty much in place since the last foray into the Atevi Universe:  Bren’s brother Toby, his ex-girlfriend Barb (although, I’m still trying to figure out how ex-fiancé got brandished around in many of the books and jackets as there had never truly been any discussion about marriage between the two characters until well after the fact that they had broken up),  Lord Geigi — who’s still on-station with Captain Ogun running things, Shawn Tyers — once Cameron’s manager and now President of Mospheira, and Lord Tatiseigi.  Then there’s the usual cast of characters from the Assassins Guild:  Banichi and Jago, Tano and Aligini (who join up with Bren when they all head planetside), Cenedi and Illisidi’s "young men".
    There are one or two character from the earlier trilogies that are gone, and in one instance not in the least bit missed.  And more than a few characters that had almost started a war between the humans planetside, and the Atevi that had been mentioned briefly in the beginning of the story that were dropped either as a foreshadow of things to come, or simply a red herring to keep the reader guessing:  most notably Deana Hanks’ father Gaylord Hanks, and the Heritage Party.  While it would be interesting to see their part in this, I think it would be best to stay clear of that again.  There are enough instigators in the story as it is; and this is a story that seems to revolve around the issues of the Atevi. 
    Once Phoenix, and crew reach the Earth of the Atevi, it’s a breakneck run from the station to Mospheira and then again to the Western Association in order to both finding Tabini or trying to establish order to the chaos on the mainland before events push things to the point of civil war.  I was particularly happy with the fact that, Cherryh stayed closer to the reality that adventure is nine-tenths fact finding, and long transitions, and one-tenth action — which she keeps a rather intense one-tenth, particularly when Cameron, Illisidi and Cajeiri reach Tatiseigi’s capitol/homestead: Tirnamardi. 
    In this book, Cherryh finally does a little more exploration as to the establishment of man’chi between Atevi as well as kabiu (which appears to be something along the lines of Feng Shui with a message).  Although — I will that the establishment of man’chi still leaves me asking a few questions, some of which are more along the lines of zoological. 
    I have only one gripe to this book; and it seems to be one of those continuing persistence to changed premises going on with a story being told over the course of a decade.  In the book — Murindi’s sponsor in all this Direiso Katagini is clearly implied to have been removed from power through assassination (based on the wording and the history of the Atevi) — yet in the previous books prior to Phoenix leaving the Earth of the Atevi — Direiso was implicitly left alive in Inheritor due to the fact that it was mentioned her death (through assassination) would cause a power vacuum of which would take quite some time to stamp out or take control of in some manner or another. 
    This isn’t the first time that this has happened, as there was the incident with Pratup Tanum who lead the rebellion against Captain Ramirez: who had been shot by Cameron and survived the shooting, yet in the following books was written off as killed.  If anything, it creates a "huh" factor in the books making this reader wonder whether something had been edited out of the books that was somewhat important to explain the progression of events within the book, or if Ms. Cherryh is actually getting old and beginning to forget important tidbits that were established in previous books; not unlike Tolstoy and what happened in War and Peace
    Bottom Line: (¶¶¶½ out of 5 stars)  Better than the second trilogy by far, and a welcome return to the Atevi world, and Atevi sensibilities.  I was particularly amused with the incident on Toby’s boat, when Jago (still lovers with Cameron) realized Barb on the boat was the Barb that Jago offered to file Intent on, on Cameron’s behalf.  And once again, am looking forward to the next book in the story to see what happens with the group trying to re-establish order in nation on the brink of civil war. 

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