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Defender by C.J. Cherryh
Published by DAW Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
In the fifth volume of the series begun with Foreigner, Bren Cameron continues to navigate his way through the tangled webs of relations between humans and atevi. At every step lies peril, made all the worse by the new necessity for close co-operation between the two species, a co-operation that is exceedingly perilous because of fundamental biological differences in the neurological hardwiring of the two species.
Atevi have no word for love, no word for friendship. They are physiologically incapable of understanding those human drives, but their outward behaviors can seem deceptively similar enough to human ones to lure humans into believing that they share those feelings. That has already led to one disastrous war, and in order to prevent a second, contact between humanity and atevi was restricted to a single ambassador, the paidhi. But that arrangement became no longer workable when the long-lost starship suddenly returned with word that there was a third intelligent race out there. A race implacably hostile to humanity, who had destroyed their station in another system.
Tight co-operation between humans and atevi has been working astonishingly well for the past several years, yet Bren remains constantly aware that it could all come apart far too easily. This time the stakes are even higher, since failure could leave their world defenseless to the depredations of the unknown alien race out there.
And now things have grown even more complicated, as Bren discovers that nobody has been completely truthful. One of the ship-captains was bypassing him and conducting a secret deal with the aiji, the atevi leader. The ship-captains had concealed the existance of a surviving contigent on the "destroyed" station, a crew that could inadvertantly give away the location of the atevi homeworld, just by existing. All this deception threatens the shifting matrix of loyalties among all three factions -- ship-humans, settler-humans and atevi.
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Review posted August 3, 2002
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