Deliverer may be my favourite of the whole atevi series so far, and that is because it gives us Cajeiri’s point of view. Cajeiri is an atevi, an alien, he’s the son of the aiji, the ruler of the Western Association that comprises most of the atevi world—Cherryh doesn’t make the mistake of having planetary culture or politics monolithic, anything but. Cajeiri has been brought up largely by his great-grandmother and for the last two years in space, but now he’s back on the planet and he wants pizza and movies and most of all his human friends. Cajeiri’s so understandable, and yet still so alien, standing between the human and atevi worlds and powerless, while Bren, the human translator, now has his position of power and comfort, mostly on the atevi side of the line. They’re both caught between cultures, in very different ways, and Deliverer goes straight at that.
And since I complained about the cover last time, I’ll say that I especially like this cover, with the mechieti against the snow.
You don’t want to start here, though, I’m afraid, I’m pretty sure you need the context at least back through Precursor.
Cajeiri being back with his parents, away from everyone he cares about, is heart-rending. It’s also very interesting to see how much Cherryh does with language—rascal, nefarious, scoundrel—that’s perfectly good English but out of everyday use, to help reinforce the alien. The moment when he realises he’d begun to forget what his human friends look like until it all came back when he was speaking to Jase, brought tears to my eyes. Cherryh’s very good at evoking the helplessness of childhood, the lack of control of your own life that it entails. Cajeiri’s eight years old, an infelicitous year, and he’s certainly suffering from a lot of infelicity and outright misery. Once we reach the kidnapping and the way he escapes from his kidnappers with the help of his memory of Dumas and the human archive, I want to cheer. It’s just splendid.
Is Cajeiri too human? I don’t think so. I think the ways in which he’s human are clearly from the influence of the books and movies and friends he’s had who are human. I don’t think he’s ever less atevi for the human influence—he’s just culturally between the two cultures, as Bren is, from the other direction. You don’t ask whether Bren’s too atevi, though various ship people and Mospherians do ask that from time to time. But if the Treaty of the Landing is what has made human-atevi relationships work all that time and there seriously is a danger of another human-atevi war without that, I can see that happening when Cajreir’s aiji, unless he gets really good reasons to distrust that, and distrust that in himself.
Who is the deliverer? The plot that drives the plot concerns Caiti and the East—and again we see a reversal, the East has been the solid reliable place, within Ilisidi’s control, and now it is in turmoil. Caiti is an idiot, he’s dealing with Murini, everyone recognises how stupid his plan is, and indeed if it wasn’t so stupid Cajeiri wouldn’t have been able to get away. Bren rescues Cajeiri, and is perhaps the deliverer, but the kidnapping itself delivers him from the tedium and rules and closed-in life he has been hating.
Ilisidi facing down Drien and making her shift man’chi is excellent, and works well connecting to things we’ve heard about but not much seen. It’s a pity that Cherryh has forgotten the province was called Maidingi in Foreigner, but it can’t be helped. I still want to know what’s going on in space in more detail than one phone call can give—even if it is an eventful phone call.
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.