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Merchanter's Luck, by C.J. Cherryh

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Sandor reached and put the interior lights on, and Lucy’s surroundings acquired some cheer and new dimensions. Rightward, the corridor to the cabins glared with what had once been white tiles—bare conduits painted white like the walls; and to the left another corridor horizoned up the curve, lined with cabinets and parts storage. Aft of the bridge and beyond the shallowest of arches, another space showed, reflected in the idle screens of vacant stations, bunks in brown, worn plastic, twelve of them, that could be set manually for the pitch at dock. Their commonroom, that had been. Their indock sleeping area, living quarters, wardroom—whatever the need of the moment. He set Lucy’s autopilot, unbelted and eased himself out of the cushion: that was enough to get himself a stiff fine if station caught him at it, moving through the vicinity of a station with no one at controls.
Don't hate me, but I have often found C.J. Cherryh's work difficult to engage with. (I have similar problems with John Crowley and M. John Harrison.) I bought this at Eastercon to give her another try, having rather bounced off both Downbelow Station, to which this is a sequel, and Cyteen a few years back. I'm afraid this didn't work for me either; I appreciate the tightness of the prose, but I lost track of the plot early on and could not work out why I should care much about the characters. Lesson learned, I guess.

This was both my top unread sf book and top unread book by a woman (as measured by LibraryThing popularity). Next on the former list is The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, next on the latter The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (which was already at the top of the pile).


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 18th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
This is one of Cherryh's novels that doesn't quite work for me. She has a technique (which I normally admire) of telling a story using a close focus on the viewpoint of a character, so that the reader discovers the world through their stream of consciousness. To ramp up the dramatic tension, the viewpoint character spends much of the time ignorant, confused, scared, overemotional, paranoid, or all of the above. Losing track of the plot is only to be expected when everything is filtered through this viewpoint.

Sometimes this technique really pays off in combining dramatic tension with empathy for a fallible protagonist, for example in Cuckoo's Egg or The Pride of Chanur. But in Merchanter's Luck the viewpoint character is such an asshole that it's hard to keep up any sympathy for him — the tension ends up seeming like the result of incompetent management rather than an understandable response to an unbearably stressful situation.

If you can bear to try another Cherryh (and if you haven't read it yet), I suggest The Faded Sun. The viewpoint moves among multiple characters, the plot is straightforward, the atmosphere is elegiac, and there are interesting alien cultures.

Edited at 2016-08-18 07:25 pm (UTC)
Aug. 18th, 2016 11:19 pm (UTC)
Oh my!
If you did not make it through Downbelow Station...

I rather liked it, but I understand your point.
Aug. 18th, 2016 11:34 pm (UTC)
Understood. Personally, I like most of her writing, but her style is dense and can be difficult. Some of her books I've had to put aside and try again later, and it worked the next time. She's not to all tastes, and that's okay.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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