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Cuckoo's Egg by C.J. Cherryh

Cherryh Cuckoos Egg.jpgThis is another stand alone novel from fairly early in Cherryh's career (copyright 1985). The bibliography at Wikipedia thinks this takes place in the Union-Alliance universe, although if there's evidence in the story, I missed it. Interestingly the bibliography lumps it under the category "The Age of Exploration" with two of the "magic mushroom" novels: Port Eternity and Wave without a Shore, the former of which is clearly in the Union-Alliance universe and the latter also not providing any evidence either way that I noticed.

The subject-matter of this novel is prime Cherryh material. An apparently human child called Thorn is being raised by an alien warrior named Duun who is a member of a guild called the hatani that I believe I've read is based on Japanese martial culture, and possibly specifically the samurai code. The aliens are covered in fur and have claws and doglike ears. Thorn is a freak to the aliens, but Duun is raising him to be hatani -- a radical act that is politically dicey. So as so often in Cherryh we have an outcast struggling to survive in a hostile society, and we have a human learning to be alien.

This is a very good book, and I was interested to see, also in Wikipedia, that it was nominated for the Hugo. It doesn't seem to me to have much of a reputation now, but I was pretty impressed with it. The central mystery of the story is where Thorn came from, and the answer is complex and builds to a climactic revelation that completely transforms the scale and perspective of the story's frame of reference. It's a little overwrought at times, but that's really my only criticism. Cherryh is very good at holding her secrets close to the vest through tight control of narrative point of view and also at depicting the political in-fighting amongst people who have very different understandings of what is important and thus very different agendas. All of this is revealed and resolved in a very satisfactory way in the eventful finale.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kproche
Jan. 4th, 2016 08:07 pm (UTC)
It's one of my favorites by her, and I re-read it frequently.
randy_byers
Jan. 4th, 2016 08:12 pm (UTC)
I could definitely see this becoming a favorite.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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