I’ve been reading CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series–I just finished Invader and am going on to Inheritor next. I came across her name in several places simultaneously, one of them being Jo Walton’s “If you like the Vorkosigan books” post on Tor.com.
She said, “There’s a lot of thematic similarity, but I should warn you that Cherryh is grim. Some awful things happen in Bujold, but the overall effect of the Vorkosigan books is uplifting. Cherryh can be more like the middle part of Memory going on relentlessly. I love Cherryh, but she’ll never be comfort reading.” (source) And she is so right–anyone who’s read Memory will know exactly what she means by the middle part and anyone who’s in the middle of reading Cherryh will be struck by the similarities.
(Side note: I love it when you come across something that puts into words exactly what you think or feel about something and haven’t quite figured out how to say.)
Anyway, my point is that even the Foreigner books, which I understand are less like the middle part of Memory going on relentlessly, are quite like that. Poor Bren Cameron never gets a rest. This is not usually my cup of tea–I get too invested in characters, unless they are badly written, for me to be okay with endless misery. And yet, I keep reading. I think, “Good golly, will the man never be able to find time to breathe?” and at the same time, “I can’t wait to see what happens NEXT.” This is really some excellent writing.
But I’m also curious about why it strikes me this way, when I could so easily see having the opposite reaction. I think it’s something to do with the fact that although I am pained by the pain of the characters, I also still have hope that things will work out. That Bren will get his rest, even if it’s just for a week. This is a primary consideration for me–I am willing for a LOT of bad things to happen if there’s a sense of hope in a story. Here, I think, it’s still there. We’ll see if I feel the same way after Inheritor.
There’s also the fact that Bren is simply a type of character I really like–the kind who just does what they have to, with some internal difficulties but also the sense that life is not lived simply for one’s own pleasure and enjoyment. Also, politics. Also, I like the atevi. Also, Jago. So, despite the middle-of-Memory-ness of the books so far, I am totally planning on finishing the series.
Another note–I don’t have a specific age for Bren, at least I don’t remember one, but he’s young for a paidhi and could easily be in his middle to upper twenties. I would talk it up to New Adult fans, if they’re willing to consider a sci-fi title (though this is Bujold rather than Asimov–“soft” scifi versus “hard” and how I hate those terms).