Why I Read It:
For Shara's (from Calico Reaction) Theme Park book club
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be this: unfriendly. Why? Two big reasons:
1. This book is confusing as hell. Even though there's a prologue of sorts at the very beginning of the book that explains the whole intergalactic war situation to the reader, the book STILL manages to be confusing. It's throwing all kinds of names and places at you that aren't described in the prologue and it's all very "sink or swim". It doesn't help that the "action" of this book is mostly political intrigue, so it's all very slow-moving and tedious stuff to be sinking in.
2. The writing. I feel bad saying that I think this is poorly written because Cherryh is a huge figure it science fiction writing and she's very well respected in the science fiction community. But... it was poorly written. There's weird sentence structure (to the point where I'm re-reading sentences over and over again because they just don't make sense), weird punctuation, and my edition of this book had a ton of typos to boot. I was kind of appalled at how many typos my edition had actually, considering it was supposed to be a 20th anniversary edition. This book had been in print for TWENTY YEARS, and it's still being printed with this many mistakes? Yeesh.
There are other problems too, like there being WAY too many point-of-view characters. It's at least a dozen, and this is only a 530+ pages to a book. Because of this, it made it hard to become attached to any of the characters, or for me to really care about any of them. Almost anything I felt for anybody was purely surface-level. It's not a very good sign when major characters die and I find myself not caring even a little bit.
I was also kind of uncomfortable with how the hisa were portrayed. They're so in love with humans (most humans anyway) and are essentially their slaves but are HAPPY to do so in exchange for small gifts. This makes them very lovable and easy to like, but this idealistic depiction of colonialism made me uneasy.
Where Cherryh excels is world-building. Even though I found this story slooww, and didn't care very much for the characters (I didn't dislike them, but mostly felt apathetic towards them), this giant sprawling universe that Cherryh has created is very vast in scope (as can be seen by the amount of books she's written in this universe alone) and I love all the thought that went into it. For that reason alone I would potentially try out another of Cherryh's later books.Final Verdict:
This is not an easy read. This book is very confusing and hard to get into; it's a good thing that I've read other sci-fi books before reading this, especially Elizabeth Bear whose stories are very "sink or swim". However, Bear's writing was much easier to read, as Cherryh's writing is just... not good. Poor structured sentences and horrible punctuation made the prose needlessly difficult to read at times. Too many POVs also made it difficult to connect and truly care about any of the characters. I did like the world-building though, which is obviously very well thought-out and expansive.