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. sleo

    And he has one! And we all know how that turned out! They’re shooting it up! Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

    Philosopher: I can’t even imagine comparing Jago to a dog. The Atevi concept of association is I think the equivalent of love, loyalty, and honor. She certainly seems to understand exclusivity in relationships, she honors and respects Bren. Also even if she was the equivalent of a dog (which she isn’t) – dogs are certainly capable of love as anyone who’s ever had one knows.

    As to not being able to expect Barb to understand Atevi customs, she’s had plenty of opportunity and she’s never bothered to learn. What do you think she expected when she and Bren were dating? Did she hope he’d give up his job and come back to Mosphiera? If not, and she expected to marry him, then she had a responsibility to learn about the Atevi. And she had plenty of opportunities. And look at her actions — she never visited Bren when he was hospitalized with serious injuries; she married someone else and then still expected Bren to want her (she runs up and kisses him, etc.); she hooks up with Toby and still comes up to Bren with hugs and kisses! How uncomfortable is that? I find that downright creepy. Pretty incestuous IMO, and Bren was uncomfortable with it as well. We can only imagine how Toby felt, as he was second best brother with their mother as well.

    I just don’t see the Atevi civilization as being comparable with apes. In many ways they seem almost oriental/middle eastern in their ceremonies and love of beauty. The way the Guild wages all wars for the culture seems much more civilized to me than our own behavior of waging all out war. Many lives are saved and wars are fought by a few experts who are very good at their jobs.

    I, too, am anxious to discuss Betrayer, as I gobbled it up as soon as I got it!

  2. Silverglass

    Sleo, that’s an interesting point, about waging war. There is one similarity between the atevi Assassins’ Guild and our armed forces: Our military people are trained to be the experts who go in and carry out the mission, while the majority of the people they represent are nowhere near the action. But we still have “collateral damage” (I hate that term). The atevi seem to be better at precision–they take out the person at the top and leave the non-combatants alone, mostly.

    So when is it safe to discuss Betrayer? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Bryn48

    Finished Betrayer three weeks ago. Realized I had forgotten a lot of the relationships in the series. So I ordered the two books I was missing and started at the beginning. Now up to Deliverer. Fascinating what I missed the first time through, lot more things connecting.
    Thank you for writing this series. I have been reading things out to my husband, totally confusing him, liked the idea that the leaders would be considered psychopaths by human standards.

  4. rollingstone

    Still waiting for someone to say, “Okay, Betrayer, discuss!”

    Love the comment about people who marry their dogs. Have to confess that I’d rather marry my dog than anyone else in the world. But then, I might be crazy . . .

  5. CJ

    I think you’re good to go—just anyone who hasn’t gotten this far, beware of spoilers!

  6. Bryn48

    Interesting reading. The development of Cajieri, getting a little more insight into how manchi works. The sweep of Tabini back into power reminded me of the Obama election. The trouble with the Gan and Edi reminded me of the Palestinians (50 years and still no homeland). Bren reminds me of Lawrence of Arabia, only no one listened to Lawrence, to our sorrow today.
    Bren and his development from a book trained linguist to a cultural interpreter and mediator between all cultures.
    The introduction of cell phones, amusing. So much happening, and Bren is maturing. He still interprets things through his past experiences (don’t we all?), but is more likely to catch himself when he does before he makes a mistake in his dealings with other people.
    Thank you CJ for continuing this series.

  7. Wepox

    I have been reading the comments with some interest. On the subject of Bren and his “humanity”, I believe that the Atevi are actually counting on his alien nature to further their agenda, I feel for him as he struggles to maintain a clear head in the midst of a critical situation trying to see the layers of meaning and portent. it is like playing several games of chess at once. Interestingly enough, Cajieri is seemiingly coming to the same conclusions as Bren about situations at 8yo. This development in his character and training indicates a very interesting future for the Ashiditat.

  8. Silverglass

    Wepox, you might have something there. Bren can’t help seeing everything from a human’s viewpoint, even though he also has insight into the atevi mindset–but he keeps bumping up against things that make it very clear that however close he gets, he just doesn’t have the “wiring” to deal with things the same way atevi do. It’s a kind of “double vision”: trained through experience to appreciate the atevi view, but hardwired under it all to react as a human.

    And yes, Cajeiri is making astonishing leaps, even though he’s still a kid. Atevi children seem to mature faster than human ones, in terms of instinct and cultural imperatives. Or at least, they do when the father is a brilliant leader and his son gets the right gene mix ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, he has Bren as a mentor, which seems to push Cajeiri’s intelligence and instincts in interesting directions.

  9. Wepox

    Silverglass, I agree that Cajeiri is being trained by Illisidi and Bren in unconventional ways (to an Atevi way of thinking) however, his wiring is being activated by his new associations. His interactions with Taro-ji and Garo-ji are becoming bonafide associations with intact Man-chi, even the two newcomers are being affected positively and drawn in to his Ashid.
    The interesting thing is that Bren is beginning to glimpse the Man-chi and how it flows, he began to realize it in Marid when he called another leader (Machigi) Aiji-ma, He could feel the “wrongness of it and felt the twang of his actions reverberate through his Ashid. He may never get the whole picture, but i think he may just be able to “interpret” manchi and associations before he retires.

  10. Wepox

    I have read with some interest the discussion about Bren and his relationship to Barb, Toby and his human homeland. Since we can agree that Bren has “gone native” in his Atevi persona as Lord of the Heavens, and Paidhi to Tabini, that would indicate that his true human self has been submerged and is not currently functioning in his consciousness. As such, he would be forced to put on his human suit when he meets with his fellow humans. Since he has not been actively thinking as a human nor facilitating his human relationships, his timeline is stunted. He only thinks about and forwards his human self when he is forced to BE human, so his reactions and responses will naturally be out of sync. Barb and Toby have grown and matured but Bren is still in effect a young human male. Of course he will still be thinking in terms of Barb wanting him when in reality she is probably just being a loving and caring sister in law. Just a thought.

  11. Sapphire

    For me, the issue of Bren’s relatives is not at all interesting, and actually puts me off the books.

    I utterly detest the selfish, manipulative Barb and the equally manipulative mother. I think Toby (unlike, say, Jase) is a boring and stupid character, and the idea that such an idiot was ever any kind of ‘agent’ for the Mospheiran government is extremely unconvincing. They go here, they go there, and here and there again. They are an extremely boring distraction from the fascinating main thread of the story โ€“ which should, however, now move on a bit and return to the excellence of Explorer and other earlier books, which I have recently been rereading.

    I loved the development of Bren’s relationship with the atevi, particularly Banichi and Jago, in the first three books (the ‘idea’ of salads, for instance, which recurs in later volumes, is really amusing). This relationship needs continuous development. Relationships between beings do change constantly, so an argument to the effect that Bren has now reached a certain point with the atevi beyond which he cannot go further would not wash with me.

    I apologize for being so critical, but really, the insertion of this human ‘family’ into the story is a waste of space and spoils what would otherwise be a most interesting read.

  12. Wepox

    Sapphire, Personally I also find that Bren’s humans are boring. However, I feel that he needs them to recharge himself after being deep in the Atevi culture. It does seem that each time he encounters human family members it is apparent he has drifted farther from his humanness.
    In comparison, in Clavell’s Shogun, the English Pilot Blackthorne has been forced to immerse himself in the Japanese culture while being held hostage for his knowledge of guns, foreigners and navigation. His crew of sailors are being held in another part of town housed with the “untouchables”; tanners, butchers and the like. Blackthorne visits them and realizes that he can no longer go back to being English, he has ultimately turned Japanese.
    In a similar fashion, Bren is turning Atevi, his mindset is shifting towards Atevi associations and man-chi and away from human friendships and love. He is turning Atevi, and we are watching the process happen. it is not a switch thing and doesn’t happen quickly, he is going to fight the shift even while he strives to speed the process. That is part of the story as much as the Banichi/Jago/Tabini/Illisidi/Cajeiri interactions with Bren. We are watching a man immerse and ultimately disappear into a foreign culture, I think seeing him struggle with his shrinking Humanity is as important a part of the story as his growing Atevi-ness.

  13. Sapphire

    Wepox: I agree to a certain extent, but don’t necessarily want to hear more about it. The atevi themselves and Bren’s interaction with them are far more interesting than some pointless distractions relevant to his family. He is actually very happy with the atevi he has grown close to โ€“ ‘loves’ them, in fact โ€“ and his mother and Barb’s utterly selfish clamouring for attention are distractions that he doesn’t need or welcome, particularly when he is dealing with crucially important, planet-saving issues.

    And personally, I don’t think his humanity is shrinking – he interrelates extremely well with relatively ‘sensible’ humans such as Gin, Jase and Sabin, and understands them. He is just interested in and cares more for the company of the atevi.

  14. sleo

    I don’t agree at all that Bren has ‘gone native’ or drifted from his humanness! I think he’s done a brilliant job of mediating between two very different species. I continue to assert that Bren’s mother was a selfish, self-centered, demanding woman and Barb is a nitwit! If anything, Bren is too nice to her, and I am occasionally amused by Bren’s musings about what Jago might do to her.

    I like your points, Sapphire. Bren does actually interact with humans who have brains and sense!

    The politics in Mosphiera remind me uncomfortably of our world today (where the politics drives me completely nuts). And I don’t agree that atevi leaders are any more sociopathic than our own! I could cite example after example of evil and insanity in our own government, but don’t think a current political discussion adds anything to the book discussion. However, the manchi concept isn’t much difference than human loyalties and alliances.

    I loved the newest episode and am charmed with Cajieri and his obvious intelligence. He seems to be learning human ways right along with his atevi ways and I would see that as a good thing. Very good indeed.

  15. sleo

    I always thought of ‘going native’ as a pejorative term, having heard or read about it in stories about people who go to stay with peoples less refined or cultured, like Paul Gauguin when he went to live in Tahiti (when he produced some of his best art, BTW).

    And, indeed, here’s the definition from Wiktionary: To adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants, especially when dwelling in a colonial region; to become less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive, or simpler social environment. โ€ƒ

    And I’m resistant to looking at the atevi as ‘less than’. Different, yes, but not inferior.

  16. Sapphire

    Sleo: very good points in both your last posts โ€“ I think you and I are attuned with regard to these books.

  17. Linda

    Newbie to the blog, here. have been enjoying Ms. Cherryh’s work since the 80’s! I just finished re-reading the Foreigner series. While Bren’s Mom, Barb, et al have a certain nuisance quotient, I personally think the emotionally loaded interactions serve as a neat contrast with the largely function-oriented relationships he has with the Atevi. While the Atevi relationships appear to run pretty deep–as does Bren’s level of involvement, the fact is that they wouldn’t exist if he wasn’t who he is, doing what he does. However, it seems unlikely that this character will ever go back to the human culture and “retire”. He’s seen that play out with Wilson, and it didn’t look appealing…Just my 2 cents..

  18. sleo

    Thanks, Linda, that’s a good observation about Bren’s human relationships being a contrast to the atevi. I was reading the Wikipedia about Cherryh’s work and it says this about the Chanur books: The books are a metaphor of breaking mental barriers, finding oneself in adversity, and growing above petty interests towards global strategies and greatness.

    It struck me that this is what is going on in the Foreigner series as well. Bren is breaking mental barriers and growing in his deepening understanding of the atevi. In this process he is far from losing his humanity. He is developing it.

  19. Wepox

    Sleo, Linda, et al

    I have to agree with you in your assessment of Bren in his interactions with the Atevi. He has built a persona of Atevi graciousness and good manners and all the while he still has his “human nature” to deal with. I will revise my opinion of his “losing” to his “subduing” his humanity.I think he feels that his Humanity is a liability and yet at the same time this is the very attribute that Tabini finds appealing.
    I feel that Bren is struggling to inhibit his human nature so that he isn’t “tainting” his Ashid. He unabashedly loves his companions and yet tries unsuccessfully to hide it from his “friends”
    For me the parallel is with the Faded Sun Trilogy. The Mri are very foreign in how they interact and process information compared to human thinking. Duncan becomes Mri in his very core, utterly relinquishing his humanity to the Mri. in this way Bren is much like Duncan. Bren no longer sees any benefit to being human. not that he sees the Atevi as superior but that they are more civilized, despite the assassinations and having every encounter being rife with potential for personal insult. The Atevi are just more interesting than humans.

    • Sapphire

      Wepox: yes, I would agree with that assessment.

      (Just don’t get me started again on that massively annoying, selfishly demanding waste of space and words, Barb, Toby and the mother.) ๐Ÿ™‚

      On my reread of the sequence, I’m well into Explorer now. What a fantastic book in all respects – especially with regard to relationships and interactions between Atevi, humans and to a lesser extent the Kyo. The action sequences are full of tension and you almost feel you are there, something that Ms Cherryh seems to be particularly good at conveying. It’s even interesting to see how minor characters like Kaplan have developed from being quite surly and wary to trusting and absolutely loyal, and how Jase has grown up so much to a courageous and decisive individual.

      As for the Atevi, my admiration for them just continues to grow. There is a scene (in one of the later books I think), where Bren bathes companionably with several of his close male Atevi associates, which I thought was quite heart-warming given how much stress they are all under in general.

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