Friday, 10 April 2015

Quirk - CJ Cherryh
The Pride of Chanur by CJ Cherryh

Reviewer: JW Hicks, author of Rats

The Pride of Chanur is the first book in the Chanur series. Its quirk? It tells the story of a human stranded amongst aliens from the alien point of view.

I came across this particular book in the reduced books basket in my now, sadly closed-down, local bookshop. Once bitten I was infected and just had to search out more from this exhilarating, mind-expanding author.

I own the five books that comprise the Chanur series. They stand in pride of place on my keep-forever bookshelf. I even named a new kitten Tully, after the human member of Captain Pyanfar’s swaggering, tough-talking hani crew of feline females.

Cherryh writes top-of-the-range science-fiction and fantasy. A best selling author, her compelling stories have won more awards, plaudits and fan worship than there’s room to write about here.

Pride was the book that started me on the Cherryh path. It led me to the Faded Sun, an epic trilogy, and then to the Alliance-Union series which deals with independent merchant spacers seceding from the totalitarian grip of their home world, Earth. All unputdownable reads.

In Pride, Meetpoint Station is the neutral ground where the disparate species of the Compact co-exist in uneasy peace; until the Outsider appears – the human, Tully. Smooth-skinned, blunt toothed and clawless, Tully is a member of a hitherto unknown species. This escapee from the treacherous kif, holds the key to the future of the Compact.

We first see Tully as a ‘something’ skulking on the Meetpoint dock, a thing ignored and unreported to the station authorities. From here on the story gathers pace, and with no pauses for explanations, readers have to go with the flow, but as with learning a language immersion brings clarity.

Tully throws himself on the mercy of The Pride’s crew. ‘Because they laughed as they worked.’ This puts Captain Pyanfar in a direful quandary. Allowing this alien sanctuary could lead the hani to future glory or disastrous ruin. Pyanfar is aware that the information possessed by him could very well imperil the peace of the Compact.

As Tully learns the hani language, he discovers the nature of these fierce cat/lion creatures and also their complicated ‘fellowship’ with the other species of the Compact.

Tully must decide if he can trust the hani with his route to Earth. There is also the distinct possibility that, re-captured by the kif, that information will be forcibly removed from him.

The rewards of discovering a new space-going species? Incalculable.

Cherryh, unlike far too many sci-fi writers, focuses heavily on female ‘heroes’. The Pride’s crew are female, except for their adopted human, Tully. It’s Tully, the space-going male that shakes their ingrained belief that males, being hair-triggered to the point of irrationality, are safer left on-planet. Working with Tully, they come to believe that hani males are worthy of much more than the on-planet role allotted to them.

Pride is a standalone novel, but I defy anyone to read it and not go searching for the rest of the series.

Questions and Answers

As before, I sought CJ Cherryh’s website, and once found I decided to email her, not expecting an answer. To my surprise she replied and was willing to answer these questions.

Are you a planner? Do you mark every pathway of the novel, and know every twist and turn of the plot? Or do you have the start and ending fixed and let the rest run as it will?

I don’t even have the ending.

How do the story ideas come? What sparks them?

Studying the universe.

What books do you read?

Science, archaeology, craft, sf and fantasy.

Which books can’t you forget?

Ancient works like Virgil.

Has any of your work been filmed, televised or broadcast?

One was put on, I understand, as a playlet, at a festival. Numerous have been optioned. Never produced.

My personal faves are the Chanur series, The Faded Sun trilogy and the Alliance-Union series, in that order. Which are yours?

Whatever I’m working on. Has to be. But a sentimental favorite is the Morgaine series, because that was my mum’s favorite.

Look her up, take a stroll through her list of publications. If you happen on The Pride of Chanur, give it a go.

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