Inheritor is the third novel in C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and follows on directly from Invader, the second book. The series is broken up into trilogies, so Inheritor also represents the end of the first trilogy, and what an ending it is.
Six months have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix — the same ship which brought a colony of humans to the hostile environment of alien atevi nearly two hundred years ago. During these six months, the atevi have reconfigured their fledgling space program in a bid to take their place in the heavens alongside humans. But the return of the Phoenix has added a frighteningly powerful third party to an already volatile situation, polarizing both human and atevi political factions, and making the possibility of all-out planetary war an even more likely threat.
As with the previous novels, everything centres on Bren Cameron, the human representative to the atevi who now finds himself having to face three ways between the atevi, the planet-bound human population and the crew of the returned starship which has sent down two representatives to the planet — one to the atevi and one to the human population.
Cameron then finds himself trying to deal with both atevi politics, an overwhelmedh spacefarer who has never stepped foot on a planet and a human government whose conservative and populist elements are deliberately seeking to undermine him. And if he gets it wrong, war is looking like a very real possibility.
What makes this novel, as well as the previous novels in the series really stand out for me is the sheer alienness of the atevi. Their politics, culture and society are all non-human in ways that are often opaque and which consistently defy human expectations. This is emphasised by C.J. Cherryh’s consistent refusal to provide any point of view other than that of the main character. What Bren Cameron knows, the reader knows and — importantly — what he doesn’t know, neither do we.
This allows for a novel packed with plot threads and conspiracies working within conspiracies, all hinted at but never clarified. And it all comes together spectacularly in the final few chapters.
The more I read of the Foreigner series, the more I want to read.