About the Foreigner series: Spoiler alerts

There is the general spoiler page for general questions.

I’m making this set of pages for more specific questions.

The rule is: do not ask or comment about a book until it has been at least a month in issue. I think that will make everybody happy re spoilers.


  1. DTD84

    On the subject of relationships, Bren and Jago have been carrying on for some time now, and I find myself wondering are humans and Atevi similar enough to have offspring? Maybe a Foreigner lore buff can correct me if that was covered in a earlier book. I can only imagine what kind of glorious pandemonium that would cause in Atevi society and human society! I would think it would make for a great story arc, and even give us a closer look into intimate atevi relationships and traditions etc. between atevi parents and their children. To Ms. Cherryh, have you ever considered exploring that topic?

  2. Ruadhan

    I sometimes wonder if a good part of Bren’s mother’s clinginess was a fear of losing him. Recall, humans *lost* the War of Landing; the atevi must circulate in the cultural subconscious as extremely frightening boogeymen. Certainly the people who backed Deana’s crew were behaving in reactionary fashion (me: You want to take on the *atevi*? Dudes, they *thrashed* you back when you had all your tech and they had muskets! And while your population (read: supply of cannon fodder) has rebounded, the tech gap has narrowed to non-existence. Why are you ignoring this blatantly obvious reality gap?)

    I see both Bren’s mother and Barb as essentially weak women, but weak in different ways. Bren’s mother wanted to keep mothering him — but the only way she could demand access to him, once he was out on his own, was to play the drama card and get *him* to care for *her*. Hence why Toby wouldn’t do. The trouble is, she ended up pushing him further away, which is probably the one thing she didn’t want.

    Barb, on the other hand, seems to have been the sort of girl who grew up wanting to Be Somebody, but expecting that the only way she would achieve that would be through the man she married. She came awful close with Bren, and losing him must have been a major blow to her ego. After all, she figured she was doing everything right, and he wasn’t meeting her halfway the way he should have. Never mind that doing so would have made him less effective in his job, which is something I don’t think she either understood or even wanted to understand. She’s Mospheiran: isn’t that enough?

    I would not be surprised if the reason Barb and Bren’s mother got along as well as they did was because they shared a deep fear of the atevi, and what the atevi could and were doing to Bren.

    Bren, for his part, has ‘gone bush’ and can’t actually be trusted in his opinion of this. Which is fine, as far as I’m concerned – I admit to being an avid voyeur of the process.


  3. Silverglass

    Ruadhan, that’s a very good analysis. And I, too, am fascinated by the balancing act that Bren is doing between being human and “becoming atevi” (as much as that is possible for a human).

    DTD84, I forget which books it was mentioned in, but the question of human/atevi cross-breeding was answered- not possible. I don’t know if that means only via regular sexual reproduction, or if there is so much difference on the cellular level that even in vitro tinkering wouldn’t work.

  4. Ruadhan

    I suspect Ariane Emory I (and possibly II), using the resources of Reseune, could make a viable atevi/human hybrid. But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation (and probably for a different thread, too!)

  5. purple_reading_giraffe

    What I want to know is where did 2 of you get Betrayer before release? Can I get on your list for future books (I think I can wait a week, now, for my copy to arrive). 😛

  6. sleo

    I preordered my copy from Barnes & Noble and it came last week! I was surprised and thrilled. But now it’s already read and I’m waiting for the next one – Intruder, is it?

  7. purple_reading_giraffe

    Ah, so B&N beats out Amazon – and I thought they had availability dates they had to stick to, so I thought you had a secret source. At least I still have anticipation 🙂

  8. smartcat

    B&N consistently ships pre-orders approximately two weeks before the publication date. 8) 😉

  9. rollingstone

    Okay, I admit to playing Devil’s Advocate in the Barb/Bren/Bren’s Mom debate. Ruadhan, your summation of the relationships as relayed in the books is pretty accurate. I do not, however, agree that Bren’s Mom was a weak person, as she raised two upright men all by her lonesome. I try to see the story from the secondary characters’ points of view, since we only get Bren’s and Cajeiri’s sides of the story, and as we all know, Bren’s conclusions concerning others’ motives are often wrong. Also, A) he’s a man, therefore does not have a women’s perspective into his relationships; B) his opinions are colored by his feelings, which are pretty well stunted; and C) he has no experience with parenting, and therefore little if any sympathy in that regard. Where Bren sees “clinginess” and need, another might see deep parental concern. I do realize that Bren was rather busy when his Mom was dying, but he could have gone to visit her if he had made it a priority. By NOT doing so, he missed an opportunity to convey to the atevi the depth of caring that should exist between a human mother and child. By warping his actions concerning his family to fit in with atevi customs, he fails to convey to the atevi both the nature of human relationships and his own emotions, which he keeps so bottled up he may break out in hives. Bren responds to Barb as if he is still twenty years old and incapable of an adult emotional perspective. I just don’t see Barb as the villian in their relationship. It’s egotistical of him to believe that he has anything to do with Toby and Barb’s feelings for one another. I’m hoping to see some true heroism on Barb’s part in the upcoming book. Y’know, if Jago doesn’t shoot her first.

  10. Ruadhan

    @rollingstone: I don’t disagree with most of what you’re saying. I do disagree with the degree, however. For instance, I don’t doubt that Bren’s mom loved him. I do doubt that that love was as good for him as could be wished. You yourself has said that Bren’s feelings “are pretty well stunted” — how do you think that happened? I doubt that it was from his mother’s well-documented respect for them!

    Bren was not just ‘rather busy’ during his mother’s last illness. He was in the middle of a fast-moving, rapidly-evolving set of events with dangerous consequences for both atevi and humans. He had a good idea of what the stakes were, and the relative values of the actions he could have taken, to himself, his family, and to the world at large. And face it, why shouldn’t he value his work with the atevi over his connection with his family? The atevi didn’t have a track record of crying wolf and wasting his time.

    As for showing the atevi the value of human family, I direct you to think what they derived from watching him jump to his mother’s tune all those other times. I suspect that they’re learning just as much from his relationship with Toby, and that it’s much more positive.

    Bren’s relationship with Barb was doomed. There are no villains here, merely a mismatch of personalities and goals. If Bren had been an old-style paidhi, they might have made it work — him ‘going to the office’, as it were, and then coming home to her. Once PHOENIX showed up, however, his role changed drastically, and more, he got used to having people around him (principally Banichi, Jago, et al, but also people like Shaun Tyers) who he could count on and depend on to support him in that role. Neither Barb nor Bren’s mother could be counted on or depended on for that — in fact, both were actively antagonistic, and rationalizing it as ‘caring’ for Bren’s humanity.

    I called both women weak primarily because of this antagonism, because at its roots, I think it comes from fear, because they did not understand what it was he was doing or why, but worse, neither tried to find out. It’s too late for Bren’s mother to make up the gap. Barb… I don’t know. Maybe she’s trying now, in her really-not-kabiu way.

    Then again, maybe she deserves shooting. It would simplify things.

  11. HRHSpence

    So, lets see, Ari has a huge Aquarium, and Bren has a chiropractor, so is there anything else in your blog that will end up in the stories? Ice skating, perhaps?

  12. rollingstone

    OK, Ruadhan, I’ll give it a go. I did read the book, after all, so I’m familiar with the timeline of events. I was talking about just prior to his leaving Shejidan the last time he was home before Phoenix left port–Bren himself regretted not taking that chance to go and see his Mom.

    Regarding Bren’s emotions, that was a bit tongue in cheek, but I was referring to the necessity of keeping an Atevi “face” during the worst of his emotional crises, and having to stifle his own feelings in order to do so. That’s not Mom’s fault. I never thought Bren should put his family above his work–obviously, that’s the nature of the job. But his resentment of his family’s needs is juvenile. As far as relaying the value of human relationships, what’s wrong with Atevi knowing that Bren’s mom is a pain in the butt? The woman is getting OLD, she’s ALONE, she’s given the best of herself to her kids, so give her a break already! (My own grandmother is pushing 90, blind as a bat, still drives with a lead foot, and gives the occasional middle finger to the law–it doesn’t make her a bad person that she believes this is okay. And yes, we’re trying to stop her, but she’s damned stubborn.) And there’s this memory Bren has of Mom, when he was struggling with his studies and she demanded he “just DO it, Bren” or something to that effect. So she was quite instrumental to his success. I agree that his relationship with Toby is a positive one and good for Atevi to witness.

    I don’t think Barb is the villian in the relationship; I didn’t say that Bren was either, but he certainly changed his view of her after his little session in Malguri’s basement, when he couldn’t remember her face. He had already realized that their relationship was doomed BEFORE Barb didn’t visit him in the hospital, so either he was saved from having to break it off by her marrying Paul, or he would have continued the relationship knowing full well he had no real emotions for her. So he’s done with her but gets mad and demonizes her when it’s over. Unfair!

    OF COURSE Mom and Barb don’t understand exactly what’s up with Bren’s career, but he doesn’t knock himself out trying to bring them up to speed, either. And I don’t at all see that neither of them tried to understand him. Security aside, a little bit of explaining some facts of life, whether they should have realized or not, might have gone a long way toward easing his Mom’s anxiety and Barb’s confusion. Antagonism is a strong word. Bren went to Barb for “comfort” but wanted to keep her at arms’ length all the same. And I’m sorry, but when a parent works hard, raises her kids with love, sees them become successful and focused on family and career (respectively), she deserves some credit and leeway for her rigid viewpoints and character flaws. You don’t have to agree with someone to give them the attention they deserve.

    Thank you for directing me to think of the Atevi perspective of Bren’s relationship with his mother. However, I doubt one learns much about parent-child relationships by observing sibling interaction. Part of Bren’s job, as I see it, is to promote understanding between species. It seems that a mutual chagrin with the actions of ones relatives is as good a starting place as any, and in fact, IS one of the factors that deepens understanding between Bren and his aishid. Recall Tano’s need to gain his own father’s respect for his career choices.

    I’m not saying I don’t like Bren. He’s complex, and despite pointing out his flaws, I really LIKE that he’s not perfect. The story is more fun when he’s wrong, anyway.

    Mom and Barb are both survivors, and I don’t see either as weak or antagonistic. Fearful, yes, but feeling fear doesn’t mean one is weak. I just don’t believe that Bren’s views of them are fair.

    Just sayin’.

  13. rollingstone

    To HRHSpence: PLEASE be careful of spoilers. I don’t think Betrayer has been out even a month, and I haven’t read it yet and know nothing of chiropractors. SSSShhhhh . . . .

    • sweetbo

      *nods* And definitely keep spoilers out of the first few lines of your posts since those come up on the left hand feed for all to see, like it or not.

  14. Silverglass

    Tossing in a few more thoughts on Bren/Barb/Mom: We need to remember that the story is written in a way that only tells us what Bren is thinking, seeing & feeling. That makes him an unreliable narrator when it comes to his family’s thoughts & motivations. But, like with any relationship in real life, he does judge them by their actions and based on his shared history with them. So it’s fair to say that all concerned could have made more of an effort to understand each other. Bren loved his mom but his job made it almost impossible to give her as much as she wanted from him. In real life, that’s also often true: We may find that those we love the most are not capable of giving to us in the same degree. In Barb’s case, their relationship not working was not entirely his fault, as Barb simply seemed unable to grasp the importance of his job; and still doesn’t grasp the nuances of atevi culture (witness the episode of the dress in the last book)–though to be fair, she hasn’t had the immersion in it that Bren has, and she finally seems to have accepted that he can’t be the kind of man that “shuts off” the job. One of the main casualties of the upheaval in atevi/human interactions is Bren’s humanity. He has to constantly suppress all the instincts and chemical reactions that make him human. There no longer is “Bren” and “the job.” They are the same, and I don’t think he will ever completely “fit in” back in human society.

    • brensgirlfriday

      exactly. well said.

    • kabiuone

      Very good thoughts on the character development, Silverglass. I would also add that I recall Bren and Toby discussing their mom during the sea passage from Mosphiera to the coast. Bren brought up the fact that he wasn’t the perfect one all the time; that, in the way of a controlling parent, when he was there, Toby was the one she wanted and vice versa.

      Additionally, Bren is a government official, no matter which government, there are secrets and confidential information that one just doesn’t bring home to family. And Bren has shifted his loyalty so that his home will never be the island again. He is quite happy with the wonderful “salads” he has around him.

      • brensgirlfriday

        exactly, exactly. my thoughts, exactly. It was a real shame that those kinds of dynamics had to happen between them…

      • brensgirlfriday

        exactly, exactly. my thoughts, exactly. It was a real shame that those kinds of dynamics had to happen between them… but Bren’s salads are far more giving than his family ever was. Still… I worry about the plot device of the elder Paidhi who may or may not have recently died… there are parallels there… I worry about our Bren, that perhaps some revelation in logic will cause him to break like the other man did.

        WE shall have to see!

        • kabiuone

          brensgirlfriday, thanks for the props. I do not see Bren cracking because he does have his aishid. The old paidhi had no personal interface whatsoever in aishiditat. And he couldn’t even communicate with the young Tabini. I always wonder about the hard-wiring in both human and atevi; where the interface intersects as far as interpersonaly relationships. I know it is the gulf that cannot be crossed, but Bren keeps trying to build that bridge.

  15. rollingstone

    Very well put, Silverglass.

    Just bought Betrayer this morning. Oh, happy Day!

  16. NosenDove

    Atavi society works because Ms. Cherryh makes it work – while she does give glimpses into the inner workings – a herd based society of thinking people – could there actually be such a society? Perhaps Ariane Emory could properly appreciate or criticize Atavi society but Ms. Cherryh has her in a different universe.

    But it makes for extremely good reading in any case.

  17. philospher77

    Just a comment on the “there are things that government people can’t tell family” bit. My dad worked in a classified position. To this day I still don’t know what he really did. And, I did not have a close relationship with my dad. I do not know how much of that was because of his job, and how much was just him, since I get a sneaky suspicion he may have had Asperger’s as well, since he was a really non-social person. Never wanted to associate with anyone but his family, but didn’t really interact with us when he was home either. If Bren fits into that mold (having secrets that he can’t tell, and having learned to internalize the Atevi custom of “keeping face”)… he is going to have a very hard time with human society. When his job posted him away for 6 months, with very limited contact with his family, it didn’t really impact me much, because he wasn’t really “there” when he was home. And when he died, I felt … sad, but not really devastated, because it wasn’t much of a change from when he had been alive.

    So, Bren’s mom might be reasonably afraid that she is seeing Bren developing into such a person. Let’s face it, Bren has no human friends left except his brother. He has little chance of ever getting married, having kids, or settling back into human society when he retires. To some extent, he reminds me of researchers who work with apes, and get so fixated on them and their relationship with the group that they are studying that they put aside all human interactions. To be honest, I find his relationship with Jago to be understandable while reading the books, but when I think about it outside of that context, it seems a bit creepy. I can see the lure of the exotic, but to become romantically entangled with someone who does not even have a concept of “love” or the same emotional hard-wiring? That just seems to me to be on the line of people who marry their dog. A lot of people are emotionally connected to their pets, and they still comprehend that they are “different:.

    And, remembering that the paidhi’s job is to be a conduit between human and atevi society, I am not sure that that is a good thing. Bren is getting very good at seeing the Atevi side of things, but I fear that he is losing his ability to advocate for humanity. He seems perfectly content for humans to stay on the reservation, and at some point that is no longer going to work if the human population keeps increasing.

    As to Bren’s relationship with Barb… I also agree with the person who said that he is being entirely unfair. They weren’t a good match, but he does bear some of the blame for stringing her along by using her to try and stay human, without really reciprocating how she felt. Which makes me wonder some times how much of his anger with her is really sublimated guilt for doing that, and if their relationship might not improve if he apologized to her for that. Yes, I think that Barb is also to blame, because she did seem to be looking for some reflected glory by dating Bren, but she was young at the time, and young people do silly things. But can she be blamed for trampling all over Atevi customs if no one has bothered to tell her what they are? And I do think that Bren keeps seeing her through his past experiences, and needs to get past that if he wants to keep a good relationship with his brother.

    And. as rollingstone stated, it is pretty egotistical for him to think that everything that happens in his relationships happens because of him. He doesn’t seem able to comprehend that his mom might have emotional needs because of being alone (whatever happened to Bren’s dad, any way? I forget if he died or was never in the picture), or that she might be having problems fitting into society because of the attention that her “famous” son is attracting. And Barb might be in love with Toby for reasons that have nothing to do with him being his brother. And I do wonder what might happen if Jago meets someone that she feels a stronger association with. She is young and female… who knows what the biological clock is like for atevi? There could come a time when her hormones kick in and she spies a pretty young atevi lad, and association just happens, because of that emotional hardwiring. That could be devastating for Bren, who has sacrificed much of his humanity in favor of his atevi associates.

    • kabiuone

      Well, I also had a top secret clearance (and a bit over that, but I’ll say no more) when I worked in aerospace. I understand not talking to family; and it would seem that Bren also has this type of knowledge.

      But, please recall that Bren no longer works for Mospheira. He worked that out in Inheritor, I think. So, he has made his choice many books ago.

      An interesting aside: I note from a slash/dot article that they are finding out that people who have botox shots not only cannot show emotion, but are now finding that they no longer have the emotions to show!

  18. rollingstone

    Can’t wait until we can discuss Betrayer!

  19. Silverglass

    I can’t imagine Bren retiring. I recal he used to fantasize about having a nice quiet place to himself, and a boat, and spending days just sailing and relaxing, not worrying about the fate of the whole world. Now he’s too busy just staying alive and trying to prevent war breaking out.

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