No one at Meetpoint Station had ever seen a creature like the Outsider. Naked-hided, blunt toothed and blunt-fingered, Tully was the sole surviving member of his company — a communicative, spacefaring species hitherto unknown — and he was a prisoner of his discoverer/ captors the sadistic, treacherous kif, until his escape onto the hani ship The Pride of Chanur.
Little did he know when he threw himself upon the mercy of The Pride and her crew that he put the entire hani species in jeopardy and imperiled the peace of the Compact itself. For the information this fugitive held could be the ruin or glory of any of the species at Meetpoint Station.
C.J. Cherryh had been recommended a lot recently on /r/Fantasy and so I decided to give some of her books a shot this year. I ended up picking the Chanur series simply because somebody said it was essentially “space cats” which really isn’t that far off.
Firstly, this story is your classic “first contact with aliens” except for the fact that the alien encountered, Tully, is the human which is a nice twist because all of the existing species in the novel are all very different from humans and so we’re seeing it from their point of view.
The worldbuilding in this is absolutely brilliant and so I’m definitely going to read more of her books in future as I absolutely adore it. So much detail has gone into everything and I particularly love the attention paid to linguistics in this book (I love languages) as it even mentions how the “hani language” spoken is that of the family that had first contact with the rest of the species of aliens (who together are known as “The Compact”). At one point in a later book, to ensure they aren’t understood, some of the characters speak a different Hani language and I appreciated this so much as so often aliens in books just have one single language and unless they’re hive-minds then that just isn’t very realistic.
The hani are the main species that we see as they’re the main characters and as mentioned, they’re pretty much space cats. They are essentially humanoid lions and their culture is very similar to that of lions where it’s the women who go off and are traders and explorers while the men stay at home.
The plot of the story revolves around protecting this stray human that has wandered onto their ship and ends up dealing with a lot of political intrigue. The plot isn’t the fastest or most exciting so if you’re looking for a fun space adventure, this isn’t it but it is a richly rewarding book so I still strongly recommend it.
As I’ve not read any of her other books, I can’t say whether this is the best series to begin with but if you enjoy strong worldbuilding and lots of politics then I strongly recommend it. I’m now onto the fourth book and should complete the entire series soon!
Also as a final note, the covers for these books are absolutely fantastic. The cover for the second book is probably going to end up as one of my favourite covers of the year because it’s just that brilliant.