Inheritor, the concluding volume of C.J. Cherryh’s first Foreigner trilogy, was something of a disappointment, particularly the final sections. What had been a staid, considered three volume series, in a few moments resolved itself in a flash-bang of prototypical pulp hash, complete with human-alien sex happiness. Precursor and Defender, the first two novels in the second Foreigner trilogy, likewise lay down a staid, considered storyline, thus raising the question whether the third and concluding volume, Explorer (2003), will follow in the footsteps of Inheritor? (Spoiler: no.)
Cherryh using the gap between novels to traverse the length (and boredom) of space, Explorer opens with space ship Phoenix arriving in Reunion Station space. A couple of surprises await. First is an alien space ship parked quietly to the side. The second is somehow more surprising. Communications opened with the Pilot’s Guild on Reunion Station and its general, Braddock, there is an unexplained reluctance to allow Saban, Jace, Bren and the remainder of the Phoenix crew to board Reunion and get the fuel they need to make the return trip to the Atevi home world. Saban’s tough manner not making things easier with Braddock, the situation quickly escalates when it’s learned that the alien attack that supposedly occurred years before has ongoing repercussions, meaning the Phoenix’s return, let alone survival, is anything but certain.