krait: Ilisidi riding her mecheita (Foreigner - mecheita)
[personal profile] krait
Welcome to the first sixty-one pages, everybody! :D Anyone have anything to discuss?

Some ideas, since this is a reread for me (I will try to walk the delicate line between "discussion topics" and "spoilers") and thus certain details stand out to me:

1. This is the only time in the whole novel where we get an ateva's POV; before and after Manadgi, it's through-human-eyes all the way. Thoughts? (Why do it that way? What do we gain, or what is hidden, by Cherryh presenting the first contact through a nonhuman perspective? What do you get out of it, or wish had been included?)

2. While "Books" within books are certainly something I've seen before, the setup in Foreigner has always felt a little odd to me, with two very short "books" -- almost prologues -- prefacing a third, novel-length story. I'm genuinely curious about why it was set up this way! Anyone have any theories?

3. Personal reactions so far? First impressions of the atevi, or the humans of either/both Phoenix and the station?

I'll be back in a little while to post my own reactions; must run a couple of errands first, but I wanted to get the post out there in case anyone else has finished their reading!

Edit To Add: If you wish to take the discussion down a spoilery path, make any spoilery replies here and then link to them, so anyone wishing to avoid spoilers can do so!

Date: 2011-06-02 09:14 pm (UTC)
cheyinka: An ateva riding a mecheita through the snow. (atevi)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
I was really hoping to get more ateva-POV sections (do we know the adjective for their species, or is it one human - two humans - human POV and one ateva - two atevi - ateva POV?) when I first read this, and was pretty disappointed that they weren't forthcoming! (Um, I hope it's not too much of a spoiler to say that, at least in Foreigner, there aren't any more?) As far as benefits for the POV choice, I think it's some of the same benefits as seeing Tully through hani eyes in the Chanur books - we get an idea of what an ateva would notice, so we start to think in terms of what's alien about them before we start seeing it as Brave Humans Meet Weird Aliens... it makes it easier to see Ian as an alien, to keep from assuming that because he's the same species I am I understand his motivations. (I loved that he was weirded out by the pink clouds... but that would have been "look, he's from space, see?" if it hadn't been prefaced by a really foreign perspective.)

With the second M. section, we get another useful piece of data which we really couldn't have gotten without a lot of spoken infodump if we were in a human perspective - M. reflects that "the aiji", with no adjective and thus seemingly distinct from "the Tachi aiji", should have "sent an assassin, not a speaker". Especially for someone who didn't read or doesn't recall the back of the book, that's a pretty shocking aside - not a soldier or a general, not a scout, but an assassin?

As far as the setup of pre-prologue, prologue, and book goes, I'm not really a fan; I think I'd have tried to stuff some of Book 1 into a human's POV in Book 2, and start with that. One set of people to care about, and then forget because they are in the distant past, is one thing - two is an awful lot. (This is why I advised doing Book 1 and Book 2 together - so it'd be clear we didn't need to care about these guys anymore.)

[If there's a spoiler thread or post, I do want to highlight something in the first Ian POV that caught my eye, too; if not, I could post it to my own Dreambit and link it in a separate comment, maybe?]

Date: 2011-06-03 12:17 am (UTC)
cheyinka: An ateva riding a mecheita through the snow. (atevi)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
Yesssssssss I would read the hell out of an Ian and Manadgi novel! Building the very first dictionary! Going to court! Tea! Lace! Plurals! The difference between being BFFs and having man'chi! <3 <3

Alas, we got Bren instead. ;)

Date: 2011-06-03 06:56 am (UTC)
pebblerocker: A stern elderly alien woman. (Aiji-dowager)
From: [personal profile] pebblerocker
I would love that too! The time when everyone thought "Hey, they're just another type of human like us, everything's going so well and this new association/friendship is going to be awesome!" and the more they discover about each other the more it seems that it really is going to be that way. And then. Well, not exactly a happy ending to that one, but I'd still love it.

Date: 2011-06-03 08:51 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I have a weakness a MILE DEEP for alien-POV first contact stories
I'd love some recs of that!

Date: 2011-06-05 05:59 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Nor Crystal Tears sounds very interesting!

Date: 2011-06-03 12:32 am (UTC)
cheyinka: An ateva riding a mecheita through the snow. (atevi)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
Oh, also, I know the plural of the noun (well, the simple plural that we slow humans have to use) but not the adjective - is it an atevi vase, or an ateva vase? Or something else? :p

Date: 2011-06-02 09:38 pm (UTC)
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
From: [personal profile] feuervogel
The story goes that Cherryh added the prologue in at her publisher's demand, rather than because she wanted to include it, but I can't find a source for that. (googling "cherry foreigner prologue" is pretty useless...)

Date: 2011-06-03 08:18 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
From the foreword in my copy:
I wasn't going to include the first scenes at all, but [my editor] told me I should, and I think she was right.

Date: 2011-06-05 06:48 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I have the same copy - it's not labelled a foreword, I'm sure it's in yours, too?

Date: 2011-06-07 04:55 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Mpreg)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I was sure I read it in the Wikipedia entry, so there's obviously some kind of confundus charm at work in our copies!

Date: 2011-06-03 06:49 am (UTC)
pebblerocker: A stern elderly alien woman. (Aiji-dowager)
From: [personal profile] pebblerocker
It occurred to me that the first scenes, the starship and the hyperspace emergency and everyone being lost and trying to figure out what happened and how to survive, would be an excellent beginning to a movie. Lots of excitement and tension, lots going on! But meeting the people, remembering their names, getting a sense of what's going on and then bam! a century passes, get an idea of what's happening and bam! it happens again -- it is an odd way to start the book, and I explained very carefully what to expect when giving the book to my partner to read, in fear of him getting too frustrated to get into the main story. I think I was so gripped by it that I wasn't really bothered the first time around.

Whew, it's lucky Manadgi was brave enough to go through with making the first contact himself. Imagine if the Mospheiran aiji had sent a platoon of assassins with twitchy trigger fingers! Er... the atevi might never have had to deal with humans at all and kept the planet to themselves, which would have been a lot simpler and prevented actual war... but we wouldn't have had this story. I like it very much that Manadgi and Ian have such great good will towards each other and are each willing to assume the other is a reasonable person despite being so different and the circumstances of their meeting not being ideal.

I agree that the atevi viewpoint is excellent to have -- seeing the moon-man as tiny, fragile, pale and incomprehensible in motivation, but bleeding red blood like anyone else, helps to show the difference and the similarities to us far better than reading it through human eyes.

Date: 2011-06-03 02:30 pm (UTC)
cheyinka: An ateva riding a mecheita through the snow. (atevi)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
Yeah, Book One would make a great montage, and you could do another one after Book Two with time passing, maybe just watching Mospheira being built / expanding into cities, so as to hide that there was a huge war between Book Two and Book Three?

Date: 2011-06-03 08:47 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I was so worried about falling behind on readings/not being able to finish, that I tried to read ahead, so at least I wasn't falling behind to begin with - but then I felt I should read more and more ahead to make SURE, and suddenly on Thursday I finished the book. Oops? So if I'm the only one who hadn't read it, we can do spoiler discussion posts.

1. To me, it sets the atevi up as aliens not completely Other - someone we can relate to enough to sympathize with. But since a huge theme of this first book, at least, is Bren not understanding how atevi really feel/think, it makes ok sense not to let the reader more in on their thoughts/feelings, either.

2. Like [personal profile] pebblerocker, or more so, I was not thrilled with the first two books way of setting up a scenario and characters, only to yank them away, and set up new unfamiliar scenario/characters. SPOILER: I didn't think the inclusion of the first two books made any sense, until I got towards the ending of the third book, where we learn of the return of the Pheonix - then I wondered how she had planned to write the story without the intro. Then it would have been like, oh yeah, by the way, the humans arrived here by this ship, and there was all this stuff going on between two fractions, one of which left, but now they're back, and it's really dramatic, 'k!

3. I'm disappointed by this book's handling of women, and find it especially depressing since the author is female. The two female characters (Miyume Little, presumably Bren's x-number-of-greats-grandmother? and Ian Bretano's mother) we learn the most about in the first two books, are nervous fussers, that's really their defining characteristics. Uhm :o( SPOILER: Jago is cool, but she's cool as a character, not particularly as a female character. Barb is nothing but a convenient hole, GAAAAAHHHHHHHH :o(((

It's very, very possible that I've just gotten too used to extreme space-opera-y sci-fi like SGA, etc., but Foreigner reads rather more like hard-ish sf to me (whereas one of the reviews in my copy calls it space opera) - the way I had trouble understanding what was going on (like the "mass" introduced in the very first lines - I still don't understand what they're talking about - a planet, a star, what???), and couldn't relate to the characters, not to mention how Cherryh seems to have gotten the number one writing advice backwards and goes for tell, not show, whenever possible, reminds me of other sf books I didn't much care for, like Asimov's Foundation trilogy.

There are bits and bits of writing I liked (and I actually managed to finish reading the whole thing, so obviously it wasn't all bad!), like humans being "a biological contamination of the infinite, a local and temporary condition" - awesome writing/concept :o)

Date: 2011-06-04 03:02 am (UTC)
pebblerocker: A stern elderly alien woman. (Aiji-dowager)
From: [personal profile] pebblerocker
It would be helpful to know everyone's spoiler cutoff! For me: I'm familiar with the first trilogy (several re-reads), and have read up to the ninth book though my memories get fuzzyish on details of those; I don't want to be spoilered for the tenth and on.

I am also very disappointed by the women in these books, especially since the author is a woman and the story is so appealing in so many other ways. I want them to be perfect and entirely unproblematic, and in the female characters they're just not up to standard. I'm sorry to say (considering you've only read the first) that we are not going to meet any competent, interesting human women for several books yet, and they are outnumbered by nervous fussers, extreme incompetents, emotional blackmailers and switchboard operators. We get the two competent, intelligent atevi women in the first book, another as a minor character in the second book, and the rest are wives/mothers or extremely unimportant scenery characters such as cleaning maids and the Minister for Something-or-other who stands up to ask a question in parliament one time, showing that atevi women are allowed positions of power in this world, we just don't get to focus on a single one.

When I was imagining Book I as opening scenes to an exciting film, I was also thinking of changes that would HAVE to be made for it to come across as at all acceptable: Get some women on the bridge! (Is Kiyoshi Tanaka a feminine name? Three on the bridge stated to be male, two of them viewpoint characters, one stated female in a subordinate position, how many not stated?) Maybe Taylor should be a man for whatever reason, but McDonough or Captain LaFarge could be a woman, or both. Scene with Neill Cameron and mute hand-appendage: Give half his lines to Miyume, or give her some lines from unnamed bystanders. Make her a pusher pilot instead of just a mechanic's wife, that would add some tension! It's amazing just how few women there are unless you imagine every ungendered background character as female, and it's got to be deliberate choice to make none of them active or give them a few paragraphs as viewpoint.

Then in Book II there's Manadgi, Ian, sneezing Estevez (points for implied gay couple?) and Ian's father telling his wife not to get hysterical. Bah.

Date: 2011-06-14 07:36 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (html)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Very late, highlight-to-read magick:


<span style="color: #333333; background-color: #333333;">SPOILERS!</span>

Date: 2011-06-05 06:04 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I want them to be perfect and entirely unproblematic,
Would that all one's favourite media were like that!

We get the two competent, intelligent atevi women in the first book
You know, I'd forgotten about her, because she seems modelled after so many human characters of the same ilk in countless books!

sneezing Estevez (points for implied gay couple?)
Wait, what, where - I totally missed that :o) !

Date: 2011-06-06 01:10 am (UTC)
pebblerocker: A worried orange dragon, holding an umbrella, gazes at the sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pebblerocker
Ian thinks about how when the planet turns so the sun disappears behind the negative curvature (or something spaceman-filtered like that) it's time for their meal, and Julio is probably heating something up for them at home right now -- it seemed very domestic and made me think that them living together and being together at the end of the day was an important part of what they hold onto in an unfamiliar situation. Though the fact that he doesn't think of Julio at any point during his abduction goes against that theory!

Date: 2011-06-06 01:21 am (UTC)
cheyinka: An ateva riding a mecheita through the snow. (atevi)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
There's only three pages in Ian's POV during his abduction, though, and in that time he doesn't think about his parents, either; his father doesn't think about telling Julio, but it's reasonable for Patton to expect that Julio knew before he himself did, since Julio's onworld and Patton's not. Even in Patton's POV where we hear Ian talking, Ian isn't asking for anyone at all to be told he's safe, he's asking for them not to come after him and the alien.

So there really isn't any evidence against, and good evidence for.

Date: 2011-06-05 07:26 pm (UTC)
cheyinka: An ateva riding a mecheita through the snow. (atevi)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
Cherryh writes a lot of really vulnerable/helpless male characters - there's Bren, who is the size of an eight-year-old atevi child and probably not as strong, there's Tully from the Chanur books, who is fragile-skinned compared to the hani and unable to communicate with them except through very-imperfect machine translation, there's, uh, the azi in Downbelow Station whose name I forget... even to some extent there's Justin and Grant in Cyteen and Regenesis, who are really at the mercy of everyone around them until spoilery things happen and a teenaged girl takes them under her protection!

I'm having a really hard time remembering where one book ends and the other begins, in my mental recollection of the series, but it didn't feel to me like there weren't a lot of women. Thinking about it now, though, I think it's not until #3 or #4 that we get a human woman who's noteworthy for something other than being attached to Bren in some way. :/

Date: 2011-06-07 12:09 am (UTC)
pebblerocker: A worried orange dragon, holding an umbrella, gazes at the sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pebblerocker
Ahh, thank you for the quick FTL explanation, I now have some grasp of the process :o)

Interesting point about Bren being coded female. When I first read the book I was really enjoying reading about the main character being in a world where everyone is bigger, stronger and more violent than he is, and it wasn't until ages later that I realised it's because that's the world I live in and I'm identifying with him unusually well because of it.

Date: 2011-06-07 12:42 am (UTC)
pebblerocker: A worried orange dragon, holding an umbrella, gazes at the sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pebblerocker
I really will have to read the Chanur series soon. I got Chanur's Venture in a bundle along with a couple of Foreigner ones, but haven't been able to locate Pride of Chanur yet, so I haven't started the one I've got on my shelf either.


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