With the Foreigner series back on track after a few miscues upon Bren’s return to Ateva, it’s time to see what comes of Cherryh’s rediscovered traction in Intruder (2012). Where there is reason to have strong praise for Betrayer’s return to the ingredients, focus, and substance that made the original trilogy so impactful, it is up to Intruder to ensure it is no fluke. Review spoiler: it does.
In short, Intruder has all the politics, diplomacy, and constant tension of walking a cultural high wire that identifies the first Foreigner trilogies so strongly. Bren’s twitchy negotiations with Machegi in Betrayer now must come to fruition. Another way of putting this is, negotiation is one thing, but realizing the terms brings about another layer of reality and risk that words over a table only point toward. And Cherryh fully capitalizes on this. Bren returns to Shajitown, along with Cajeri, to once again set up shop in the capital. The Dowager is off organizing things in the north, and Tabini is looking to keep domestic issues from spilling into the public eye and undermining the upcoming international meeting. As more details come to light within these parties, tension ramps up for Machegi’s arrival to sign the trade agreement. For certain, not everything will go according to Bren’s plan.
It’s captain obvious to state there are different strokes for different readers. Intruder is for readers who relish in Cherryh’s ability to unpack the layers of social and cultural meaning. Another way of saying that is, if Foreigner, Inheritor, etc. tickled your fancy for worldbuilding, Intruder adds a whole other layer that is fully integrated through character, i.e. not worldbuilding for worldbuilding’s sake. The cultural divides and socio-political another and It’s not.
In the end, Intruder brings Cherryh’s A-game to the table. This is one of the best Foreigner books written (if you are into the diplomacy and delicacy of interacting societies and cultures), and shows there is potential for more, strong story to come.