Foreigner, Invader, and Inheritor, and will jump into the review of Precursor (1999).
Three years have passed since the events of Inheritor.
Bren still lives among the atevi as chief human ambassador, with Jace
working closely at his side as translator and linguistics expert.
The atevi have made huge strides in the three years to develop
technology, including a functioning space ship. With things
going smoothly in the intervening time, and violence with the
Mospheirans and orbiting station essentially non-existent, it comes
as a major surprise to Bren when in short order he’s informed by
Tabini of three things: Jace is being pulled from his staff and sent
back to live with other humans in the orbiting station, secondly that
Bren too is in for a space ride, his presence also required in the
space station to find out why Jace was recalled, and thirdly Bren
needs to take advantage of the trip to broker key trade agreements so
that the personnel aboard the station get the resources they need and
the atevi get access to the technology they desire.
Negotiations initially going smoothly, when an appointed meeting
doesn’t take place, and no word is sent about a re-schedule, Bren
starts to get suspicious. But with rumors floating around that
hostile aliens have been found in a nearby star system, things start
to get tense.
Precursor is a novel that escalates slowly but steadily.
Cherryh maintaining the style of the first trilogy/story arc, her
prose remains on point, unpacking all of the political nuances Bren
must think of and handle in representing the atevi, even as the
situation becomes less and less stable. The diplomat-as-hero a
tough one to pull off, Bren’s story is spiced up by just enough
hostilities, and threats thereof, to make the proceedings
engaging—Cherryh perpetually tweaking the threat dial with little
details. A further interesting aspect is the reversing of the
cultural tables. With atevi in the human environment of the
orbiting station, they are now guests and humans, hosts.
(Spoiler: it seems we are not as good as the atevi.)
In the end, Precursor is an organic (not ham-fisted)
extension of the Foreigner story that plays with elements from the
previous trilogy while introducing elements for a second arc.
Story content kept heavily focused on alien-human relations and the
subtleties of diplomacy, fans of the original series will find
nothing lacking as the second kicks off.