August 2nd, 2018

Winter Sunlight

Read all the Cherryh: Rimrunners

So Cherryh continues to be obviously into the general theme of broken people finding a family and a home. I think Rimrunners might be the first book of hers exploring the theme that didn't quite work for me, because the situation is so profoundly fucked up that by the end I wasn't convinced that things were actually going to be better (much).

This is also an incredibly dark book. Cherryh's books are always somewhat dark, or at least deal with the darker side of human nature (though they're far too optimistic about people to be grimdark, usually) but this one ... I really enjoyed it and it kept me reading all the way through in part because I had no idea what was going to happen next (and Bet is a great protagonist) but good lord it's dark. In the first couple of chapters, the protagonist is homeless and living in a rest room, literally starving to death, and straight-up kills two different guys who try to rape her (one of whom actually does rape her). You'd think there would be nowhere down from there, but then her life gets WORSE. On the other hand, Cherryh has a general tendency to take incredibly fucked-up male characters and pair them with women who totally have their shit together, so it's a refreshing change, in a way, to have a female character who is an absolute mess - paired with a guy who is even more of a mess, but it wouldn't be a Cherryh book without a dude who is ostracized, crazy, and has people trying to kill him. (Also, one of the reasons why I liked Bet is because, despite being a total mess, she is a competent mess -- in general, she's doing the best she can in an incredibly awful situation that she got into through, mostly, no fault of her own.)

Another thing I like about Cherryh is that she tends to write from the principle that there are good and bad people on both sides of every conflict, and this book turns the tables on the rest of Alliance-Union - here we're asked to sympathize with someone on the side that's been, up to this point, set up as the obvious bad guys of the Alliance-Union-Fleet conflict (the space pirates who are going around killing merchanters), while the "good guy" (Alliance) side turn out to have their own share of savage killers and total dicks.

Major book spoilers continue under the cutCollapse )

One other minor thing - it was really fascinating to read another Alliance-Union book written from the viewpoint of a protagonist who uses the same set of slang and a lot of the same verbal quirks as the Hellburner characters do ... which of course is the Fleet/earth-system way of talking. The thing that it took me a few of these books to notice is that, while Cherryh has an incredibly distinctive style, she also modifies her style considerably depending on which culture in Alliance-Union she's writing about. There are parts of Rimrunners in which Bet's narrative voice sounds a lot like Ben in Hellburner -- which makes total sense, they're from basically the same subculture. But the merchanter-focused books don't sound like that.

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