JLS (jlsjlsjls) wrote,
JLS
jlsjlsjls

27 days to "Peacemaker"!!!

Not that I'm excited or anything ... ;p

Just that I love this series to bits. And I've been thinking about why. It's the atevi ... and man'chi. While many excellent science fiction authors have created many intriguing extraterrestrial species over the long history of the genre's existence, most of 'em usually only exist in one book. And they're usually seen through the eyes of humans that are first encountering or just visiting. Explanation of language or culture or history tends to exist to be a plot point (and often translates far too easily and exactly). Very few authors get the opportunity to go into the ton of background detail afforded by a extremely long-running series.

In the "Foreigner" books, while the primary POV is human, it's a lone human who has immersed himself among another species ... he lives with them, speaks their language, dresses like them, eats their food (well, the stuff that's not toxic anyway), lives as much like them as is humanly possible. And does his damnedest to set aside his own innate human reactions and feelings and instead figure out the psychology and thought patterns and instincts and emotions surrounding him. Because two hundred years ago stranded humans failed to do that, made a helluva lot of "just like us" assumptions, and were nearly eradicated by the sudden war that their failure triggered.

The series began with Bren Cameron already four years into his job as paidhi, the sole human permitted to live among atevi and act as translator and interpreter between them and descendents of the surviving humans (who are now restricted to living on an island reservation granted them by the atevi); the series has so far spanned a further ten years on the job and in the life. And while Bren has made a lot of headway, he's still got a lot to figure out (and knows it too).

The atevi themselves are a fascinating concept. Every creature on their world lives in a flock, a herd, a school, a pack, a troupe ... there isn't a species in existence that lives solo and that includes the atevi. Their lives are a complex arrangement of families, clans, ethnic groups, and associations ... by nature and by instinct and by an emotion that they call man'chi, which ties it all together. It's not love, it's not liking, it's not sex, it's not loyalty; it's an overriding drive to both serve and protect, to follow and to defend the object of one's man'chi. Virtually everybody feels man'chi to somebody else, sometimes multiple somebody elses (some exceptional individuals feel it toward places as well). The tiny percent of the population that doesn't feel man'chi are called aiji ... they are the ultimate focus of man'chi, the pinnacles of the many hierarchies of the emotion, and could also be considered the atevi sociopaths. Aiji are as driven to attract and collect man'chi as everybody else is to feel it; the tendency seems to be genetic and runs in families who have become a sort of hereditary leaders (as long as they continue to produce new aiji to carry on the leadership).

All this instinct and emotional drive lives within a complex structure of etiquette which seems mainly to have developed to keep aiji from killing each other when they meet; their "followers" are neither blind nor stupid, they steer and manipulate their leaders when necessary, and won't hesitate to yell and let 'em know EXACTLY how pissed off they are with them if that's what it takes to make 'em behave. And a smart aiji is quick to obey. (Cenedi telling his aiji Ilisidi to shut up and do as she's told is hilarious. Really).

Throw in a hefty dose of political scheming, technological introduction, a space race, the realization that the atevi have done things with introduced human science and technology that humans never dreamed of, linguistics and the truth that no two languages translate exactly, some extreme mathematics (an offshoot of the whole man'chi thing ... the need to know exactly where one is in relation to everybody else has led to atevi having evolved to do math as instinctively as they breathe and this is an important part of both culture and language ... correct grammar involves calculations based on the number of persons being addressed, their individual statuses, and their interrelationships with each other and with the speaker). Oh, and a damned good tale full of fascinating characters who continue to grow and surprise as the story continues. The book I'm counting down to, "Peacemaker", is the fifteenth volume in the series (though it might be better described as a "chapter" ... this really is one loooooong novel being told in annual instalments). I know I'm going to race through it to find out what happens, then read it again immediately more slowly to notice all the details 'cause that's what I always do.

May there be another twenty years of these books. :-)
Tags: bookseries: foreigner, reading
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