Monday, November 05, 2018

38. The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh

I picked up this very nice hardover in Nanaimo.  I think it's a first edtion, but don't know how to tell for sure [editor's note: it's not.  It's a book club edition, story of my life].  I quite enjoyed her book Cyteen, enough that I wanted to try out her more popular Chanur series. It took me a while to find the first one and I am glad I didn't give up the search.

The Pride of Chanur demonstrates Cherryh's strong handling of emotional interactions and complex political and commercial intrigue.  Unlike Cyteen, this one takes place in a really far flung universe with several alien species, some of them so alien that they can't even really understand each other (though they trade).  The protagonist is Pyanjar Chanur, the female Hani captain of the merchant ship The Pride of Chanur.  The Hani (actually hani as none of the species are capitalized here, I guess like the way we use the word humans) are lion-like creatures, bipedal with claws, manes and expressive ears.  Only the females venture out in space, as the men are too volatile and remain back at their home planet protecting their holdings from each other and their own sons who come back and try to take power.

The book begins with the Pride docked at Meetpoint, a trading station, when a strange fugitive creature runs aboard their ship.  It takes a while for the reader to realize it is a human and we learn that it escaped from the kif, a nasty, thieving species that all the others hate and fear.  It sounds a bit simplistic from my description but in the book it quite works.  These are really unlikable creatures.  Pyanjar cannot in her conscience return the human once she realizes it is sentient (though they cannot communicate at first) but by keeping it, she risk stirring up major inter-species conflict.  And that's what happens.

A lot of this book is a really cool space chase, with the Pride at a major disadvantage.  It is Pyanjar's experience and character that is put to the test in such overwhelming odds and we the readers are right there cheering for her and her crew (and the human dragged along).  There is lots of cool space combat and tense strategy and trickery as well.  All very enjoyable stuff for me.

There are 5 books in the series, which I think make up two overall narratives.  I will definitely keep my eye out for the second one.

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