Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Reviews 58 Divergence by C. J. Cherryh

Reviews 58
Divergence by C. J. Cherryh 

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Divergence is the 21st Book in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner Series, so I recommend not reading this book first.

This is a "series" arranged in trilogies with short plot arcs and one long, over-reaching plot arc for the entire story of Bren Cameron, a human translator sent among non-humans.

Divergence is all about power-politics, and how the Atevi (the Aliens) avoid the sort of all-out War humans tend to use to settle matters.

All of these novels are tightly focused on Bren Cameron's point of view, but with occasional accompaniments of a young (ruler to be) Atevi child who has learned to understand humans (somewhat).

Divergence emphasizes how Bren Cameron has come to understand, on a deep level, just how much he will never, ever, understand about Atevi.  He now lives among Atevi, is honored by (some) of them, and his human friends and family find him truly odd because he's become so very Atevi in behavior.  In fact, Bren finds himself a little odd.

So in Divergence, Bren takes action only once, and perfectly properly, then sits out action-situations
that he formerly would have plunged into and derailed by his human reactions.  He uses mature good sense instead of human impulse, and tweaks the Atevi politics just a bit, here and there, helping to bring peace to a troubled region of the Atevi civilization.

The novel ends off with a springboard into the next novel, as Bren and a train load of Atevi head for the estate Bren now calls home, anticipating a little time to breathe before the next emergency.  I don't think they'll have much time.

Much of Divergence is simply Bren thinking over the salient moves by Atevi in previous novels, understanding now (as never before) how these moves have led to the current opportunity to make peace.  It is a long reprise of previous events, reminding the reader of which events are the most significant for understanding what must come in the next novel.  This makes the book almost one, lone, expository lump.  But Cherryh's writing is so deft, so cogent, so tightly pointed, that it is an absorbing good read.  The previous novels are so well written, the characters so vividly portrayed, that the reader remembers each of these movers sand shakers of the Atevi world as they are mentioned -- full context.

That is why I recommend this series so highly, but start with the first novel, Foreigner.

If you've been reading the Foreigner Series, study Divergence closely for exposition techniques.  Long-long passages summarizing and reminding of previous novels in the series, but re-interpreting events you thought you understood but now know ever so much more about.

The real hero of Divergence is The Dowager.  In fact, she's the real hero of the whole series, according to this new interpretation of events.

And now she's feeling her mortality.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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