Monday, February 4, 2013

On To a Fading Sun

Since it's been such a long time since my last blog, I'll finish off the thoughts of that one at this beginning.  Concerning The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey.  I liked it.  I can't say that I had any serious, set-in-stone, expectations about what Peter Jackson would do with the story but the movie was fun.  Some of the scenes were wonderfully enacted, scripted and played, for fans of the books, and others were silly to create fans for the movie.  I suppose it was a juggling act.  As I mentioned, regarding the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, there had to be certain elements added and enhanced to entertain a movie going audience, rather than a literary audience.

Considering that statement, I believe the books, the first four of that world of Middle Earth, were presented to a more literate world, and therefore a more interested public.  I know that they were first printed in Great Britain and the language is the English of that nation, but we in the United States could read and appreciate it as well.  Those books had a profound impact on the future of literature and gaming.  They still impact our sub-cultures, although I wonder how many have read the books these days rather than watch the movies.
Anyway, leaving movies behind, this blog is supposed to be about books… the books that fascinated me and continued to grip me.  Oh, here's a kind of side thought.  I've found that most of the readers I know only read a book once.  They may read a book twice if they really liked it.  It struck me as odd.  Maybe I'm the odd one.  I know I used to read The Lord of the Rings set once a year from when I first found it.  I read Glory Road by Robert Heinlein once a year as well.  There were many books I read repeatedly.  They were good and fun stories and reading them again and again was like visiting worlds I loved.  Yes, I suppose I'm the odd one.  Like I've said previously, I read The Host, by Stephanie Meyer several times in a row.  Waiting for the movie. 
Do we read a book just to say we did?  I read for pleasure, or because several friends in the YOTB group I'm in at the library insist I do.  (I'm glad I did)  That book was Rising Up by Pamela Bender, a fictionalized family saga.  (One of those stories to cry over and through).
So, back on track…
C. J. Cherryh… author.  I can't even list the number of books she's written.  If you want to know, go to her website, it's very well kept… she's webmaster.  She's one of those authors who I would seek out at the bookstore with the familiar yellow spine from DAW.  (Yes, back to when they had bookstores in the malls)  I know I did not keep up with her prolific writing over the years… don't know why.  (Well, my life took some of my time and money is always tight)   I still have bookshelves.  (I'm selling my house, so I'm starting to minimize my holdings.)  So when I was thinking of which book to mention here, I looked at one of the authors taking up a large amount of space… in the one paperback section.  I have many of her books in hardback, too.
The Faded Sun Trilogy: Kesrith (1978), Shon'jir (1978), Kutath (1979).
I've read these books several times over the years and again this last weekend.  I'm not a speed reader, I don't skim.  This is a science fiction story.  It's a story of conflict, peace and genocide, fears and policies… it's a futuristic story and an ancient story.  It's a story that stands in any time.  The characters and the various species are fascinating, even the humans. 
We meet the mri.  In their tongue it means 'the people.' 
C.J. Cherryh creates an intricate culture and reveals the elaborate details in bits and pieces as the story goes on.  From the kel, veiled and robed warriors, the sen, scholars, to the kath, mothers and caregivers… we learn of a culture that has existed for hundreds of thousands of years.  Humans have only known the kel, through a forty year war.  They've learned that they were mercenaries hired by the regul to war.
The regul are an extremely long-lived trader species with eidetic memories and elaborate, intricate, self-serving politics.
Okay, here's the back cover of the first book… I don't usually do this but in this case it's worth it.
"This is the story of three people: Sten Duncan, a soldier of humanity; Niun, last warrior of the mri, humanity's enemies; Melein, priestess-queen of the final fallen mri stronghold.
"This is the story of two mighty species fighting for a galaxy: humanity driving out from Earth, and the enigmatic regul struggling to hold their stars with mri mercenaries.
"This is a story of diplomacy and warfare, of conspiracy and betrayal, and of three flesh-and-blood people who found themselves thrown together in a life-and-death alliance."
That last statement is the most important for anything I've ever read of C.J. Cherryh's.  Her characters are flesh and blood.  They live in our imaginations for the manner of her writing.  A book can only hold so many words, and when a page or two draws you into a story and compels you to continue, you know a master is directing those words.  From the first you're frustrated for the mri Niun, trained by weapon masters but untried, a young warrior held back from war, while all his peers leave for glory.  And now the war is over.
Melein, Niun's true-sister, raised kel but then pulled into sen by Intel, She'pan, Mother, Priestess, Queen of these mri, to a separate life and training.  She is concerned for her brother but Intel keeps her close. 
Sten Duncan, human, a Surface Tactical Force officer, an expert at surviving in hostile environments and behind enemy lines.  Now he is aide to the human envoy, governor-to-be, George Stavros, heading to the planet Kesrith, aboard a regul ship.  We learn of his frustrations, anger, bitterness of war… all in recognizable human terms in alien environs.
The people, the worlds… the creatures called dusei… all of it woven into a brilliant tapestry of story.  Once again it was a story that held me, keeping me up late into the night and turning from one book to the next until I was finished.  I recommend it for the samurai-like nature of the kel, the comradeship and characters, the intrigue and stars.  There's nothing about it that I wouldn't recommend.  The, perhaps, unfortunate thing, is that having read these familiar books I might be digging into the next of her books on my shelves.  I'll wait and see.
If you want a copy of her early books, I recommend going to her website first -  C.J. Cherryh is an author to investigate from her first books through whatever she has currently.  She inspired me to read a little more often than she inspired me to write, but when writing I've often considered her worlds and style.