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C13P70 Why

C13P70 Why published on 6 Comments on C13P70 Why

Related Links:  Mizha finally has some context on the Rainbow Goddess’ message, and why she needs to go to Pwama and the Crystal Lake there.

I recently rediscovered in my bookshelf a book I loved as a teen, C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner.  It’s always interesting to re-read books as an adult that I devoured when I was young.  Just like Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion, or Joan D. Vinge’s Catspaw, I recognize more of my context now.  I see why certain aspects appealed to me, and even more interesting, what aspects I forgot.

The main character in Foreigner is an interpreter for humans on a world where they don’t belong.  Stranded due to ship error on a planet so far out of charted space that they could not even recognize the most distant stars, humans settle on a world already populated and technologically already on its way to trains, firearms, and electricity. They meet the atevi, the people of this world, and at first it seems like they are very much alike.  That they can be friends.

Yet therein lies the critical flaw.  Atevi cannot have friends.  They cannot like or love or become attached to people.  Their loyalty lies on a very clear, to them, track.  And it is not one that humans, with their preferences and irrational attachments and liking, can understand.  A war is sparked, one that the humans had no warning was coming, and despite their technological advancements it is a war that the humans are vastly outnumbered for.  They lose, and as part of their surrender they are allowed to live on one island, with one point of contact with the atevi world.  One single interpreter.

The book mostly takes place two hundred years after the war has finished, when the current interpreter, Bren, realizes how little the two species still understands each other when a crisis makes his seemingly friendly associates turn on him in a web of intrigue.  Not a safe situation in a culture where assassination is a common way of resolving disputes.

The context I have on the book now is how familiar I must have found the setting.  It is an environment where every word must be watched, because it is so easy to offend with no intention of doing so.  Where Bren is never quite sure if someone is angry or not, truthful or not, dangerous or not, safe or not.  Where he feels exceptionally isolated from other human beings.  Where all emotion must be hidden, subsumed, and buried.  It reminds me very much of my life growing up.

The part that I forgot, but find interesting as a result, is how angry Bren is.  The emotional core of the book is Bren realizing just how mad he is and the depths of that rage.  He’s a character that thinks himself very in control, very aware of his actions.  And yet his mind is a minefield of worry, of second-guessing decisions mere moments after they’re made, and under it all there is a fury.  Atevi cannot meet his emotional needs…and humans engage them only to manipulate him.

As someone who is still afraid of her anger, and still trying to accept it and even to identify the things I even angry at, that’s also something I can relate to.  And something that, at the time, I probably couldn’t dare keep in mind when I was a teen.  I couldn’t let myself think too hard about it, because my survival in that space depended on not allowing that rage to surface.  So instead it sat inside me, and I turned that anger on myself, and I’m still working on untangling that knot.  I may be untangling it for my entire life.

And maybe, just maybe, re-reading old books can be a piece of that process.

I certainly hope so.  As a teen, I only read about four or five books in the series?  I looked up the series on Amazon, and C. J. Cherryh is still writing them!  The 19th book comes out January of next year.  19 books.  19 books.  In just ONE of MANY series.

I hope one day I too can claim to be so prolific.

I ought to write to her and thank her for her work.  It’s been an important piece of my life so far.

Have you ever re-read a book and found something new in it?  Same goes for movies, shows, etc.  What did you love as a kid, and rediscover as an adult with new insights?

6 Comments

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I’ve also read that book and it was ALSO a long time ago for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t get much further than Foreigner at the time. May have to give it another go.

And I Loved Vinge’s Psion series… Catspaw especially. (Dreamfall was a bit disappointing actually)

As far as rewatching/reading previous favorites. Yes, sometimes with drastically different negative reactions. I remember going back and watching say Speed Racer, a childhood favorite, and realizing just how much I couldn’t get into it -how silly and childish it really was. Much the same for Robotech which I watched religiously as a pre-teen teen.

I don’t tend to change my mind about books I’ve read before. But yes, certain nuances become clearer as an adult than they were as a child.

I had similar feelings on Dreamfall, although oddly enough I had a more positive reaction to it as an adult than when I originally read it as a teen. Not sure if the message just appealed to me more, or I have more context on writing?? It’s definitely not the most powerful book of the series, or the most compelling, but my perspective definitely was different later in life and that was interesting on its own.

It is odd how TV/film does not seem to age nearly as well as books? I used to LOOOOOVE Fern Gully as a kid and I made the mistake of watching it as an adult and…yeesh. YEESH. It is…not a good film.

At least Gargoyles is still amazing though.

Pwama road trip time!

I used to read a lot of Stephen King–I spent most of my middle school years binge reading all his books I could get my hands on. Since then, I haven’t really touched them, even though I still think he’s great. I’ve been rereading some of his work now, because the IT movie made me SO ANGRY that I had to go back and make sure the book was still good. Spoiler alert: it is. And it was nice to read those books again as an adult, when I’ve matured in my craft, versus when I was a kid and barely beginning.

There are books that I get new information out of every time I read them! Especially books with really deep worldbuilding that I can go back and mine for new foreshadowing, but also for new emotiona contexts or to get jokes or allusions I wouldn’t have gotten as a kid. I think one of my favorite book series like that is the Riddlemaster trilogy by Patricia McKillip? On one of my recent rereads I was actually surprised because I’ve been kind of a lot more aware of how women and female characters are treated in fiction narratives and stuff, and despite the fact that she starts out as a distant/absent love interest, the main female character of the trilogy is surprisingly well-developed and just has amazing depth and personality. Also, IMHO the main character, Morgon, is a reluctant hero done right. A lot of people are divided on their opinion of that – he is a very reluctant hero, one who for the majority of the first book spends time trying to find a way out of the main path of the series, but he shows some really fantastic character growth over the course of not just the first book, or each book individually, but over the course of the series as a whole. Every time I look into that world, I find new meanings, new lessons, new inspiration for my own writing, new insights as tow here I gained certain likes that became writing trends (my mom read the series to me when I was pretty young – maybe too young, looking back, to fully grasp it, but it’s been a great adventure correcting that with each read), and new connections.

As for the comic page…. <3 it's so great to see that come back! and it's interesting to note that despite Kali's character development, you can still see her falling back on the old patterns. Growth is not a one-and-done process. It's also nice to see the core conflict between Kali and Mizha in a nonconfrontational way – Mizha is very idealistic and emotion-driven, and driven by interpersonal connections. Therefore, the simplest answer to her is that the Rainbow Goddess wants to help Dream Eater remember his name because she LOVES and CARES ABOUT him. Kali, meanwhile, has always been a cynic, due to her harsh upbringing, and never had the luxury of much trust. Therefore, if the Rainbow Goddess wants to help Dream Eater, there has to be some Deeper Meaning. Nobody does things for people just because they like them – somebody is getting something out of it, and her suspicions immediately go to Bone Matron, because of course they do, and her immediate assumption seems to be that whatever the reason, it's bad (because, well, of course it is).

I think truly great books are the kind you can read when young AND old and still get something valuable out of the material each time. I feel like in some ways good books are mirrors to the soul. We see reflected back what we most need in that moment. When we look again, we will have changed, and we’ll something else in the pages.

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