Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review of Convergence by C.J. Cherryh

The surprise of Visitor floored me. Like Make Room! Make Room! (Soylent Green) or Planet of the Apes, it was us all along! A second, minor surprise is that the kyo left Atevi space, leaving Bren and company with… what? A couple of things: what to do with the secret the kyo left with Bren, and also, what to do with overpopulation on the space station? Add in an atevi family feud, and you’ve got the recipe for Convergence (2017).

The title Convergence, indeed the events of the novel are a conflation of a few thnigs. As is the Foreigner series’ identity, this conflation is not without the need for diplomacy, negotiation, and compromise, however. Enter our hero Bren Cameron. The secret of the human war with the kyo burning a hole in his thoughts, Bren and his entourage head to Mospheira to deliver humanity’s copy of the treaty and to resolve the overpopulation situation on the station. Some members of the Mospheiran government displeased at having been left out of kyo negotiations, Bren must deal with aggressive questioning and general enmity to find a solution. Meanwhile, Cajeri is sent on a publicity mission to uncle Tatesegi’s home. Little does he know that the skeletons of his mother’s family’s past are about to come out of the closet.

I had a weird moment reading Convergence. At one point in the early chapters, Bren/Cherryh set the scene for an upcoming meeting with Mospheira’s president, Shawn Tyers. What would ordinarily be a dry piece of diplomacy, I found myself instinctually thinking, Can’t wait! Cherryh has gotten me so embedded in her world and characters that what ordinarily causes me to groan had me expectant of conversation to come. In a day and age when so much science fiction is dependent on sensawunda, that is a subtle success if ever there were.

I am not able to say which of the six trilogies that comprise the Foreigner series is best. Like children, each have their own qualities and role in the series. What I can say is that Convergence brings to an end what was set up by Tracker and expanded by Visitor in satisfying fashion. It doesn’t have the “fireworks” of Visitor, but it does feature a problem that Bren has yet to face, namely human negotiations. After seventeen books, this contrasts nicely with atevi negotiations.

Overall, the novel closes a trilogy which featured almost everything that makes the overall series great, save internal atevi clashes. Cultural and social (vs military) conflict, linguistics and communication, us vs. them thinking, compromise, soft skills, etc.—Foreigner fingerprints are visible everywhere. Convergence, and this trilogy as a whole, almost feel like a bookend. Bringing together all the major elements of the series thus far and tying them off with a loose bow, Cherryh could have ended the series here and I think most readers would have been satisfied. Knowing another trilogy has been published as of the writing of this review leads to the question: what next?

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