"There had been something loose about
the station dock all morning, skulking in amongst the gantries and the
lines and the canisters which were waiting to be moved, lurking wherever
shadows fell among the rampway accesses of the many ships at dock at Meetpoint."
So begins another magnificent saga
by Ms Cherryh. Central character is Pyanfar Chanur - captain of The Pride
of Chanur - from whose point of few we get to know the Compact and its
species. The Compact is a part of space hardly forty light-years wide where
eight species share living and trading.
The territories are all coming together
at Meetpoint station, here are meetings of the methane-breathing and incomprehensible
t`ca, their maybe-pets, maybe-sentient neighbors,
the chi and the the knnn
as well as the oxygen-breathers. The t´ca are the only ones which
have some kind of communication with the oxy-breathers, mainly with the
stsho, tall and tri-sexed, who develop new
personality if put under any kind of pressure or surprise. Being so fragile
they´re easily intimidated by the vicious kif.
A kif will follow the strongest individual around, as long as the kif sees
it benefits himself and he or she can´t find a way to get more power
to become a leader himself or associate with a more powerful leader. Up
till recently the kif would be trouble only when traveling in bunches,
to a lone ship or wherever else they coud gain aprofit without harm to
themselves. Their major adversaries are the mahendo´sat,
which appear to be ape like creatures and are neighbors to the hani,
One can easily compare the hani to
lions in appearance and behaviour. Each of the hani lords will defend on
territory at Anuurn, the hani homeworld, till a stronger male defeats him
and thereby claims the holding. But till another male gets to the lord,
he has to face the multiple wives and sisters which support the lord. Any
holdless male will wander the Hermitage till he gets killed or wins a hold.
Since the males are aggressive whenever another male is around and are
considered rash and not clearly thinking at all, only women go to space
and man the hani ships to trade with other species.
In this nest of multiple species
which hardly understand each other drops Tully, a human.
Fleeing from the kif Akukkakk who killed Tully's shipmates when the human
ship entered Compact space, Tully finally gets aboard The Pride of Chanur.
With the kif at her back and the prospect of profitable trade in her
hand Pyanfar runs from Meetpoint station to Urtur and goes into hiding,
eventually the Pride goes for Kirdu system. With a medical emergency and
the hostility of Moon Rising, a hani ship of clan Tahar, Pyanfar
appeals to the mahendo´sat for help luring them with the possibility
of great profit by trading with humans. Tully gets a Compact ID and becomes
an official part of the Pride's crew, despite the fact Pyanfar is
still worried about having a man aboard the ship, a probably insane,
uncontrollable man creating stresses within the crew. On the top
of everything the captain of The Pride gets a message that her son
Kara Mahn, with the support of his sister Tahy, challenged her husband
Khym Mahn and won the Mahn estate off him. Khym being exiled, Kara now
is a threat to Pyanfar's brother Kohan, lord of Chanur. With Akukkakk heading
for Anuurn bent on taking all kif and the human, the Pride, having laid
at Kirdu station far to long for repairs, sets out with two mahendo´sat
ships for Anuurn to avert disaster from Chanur and all hani.
The Pride of Chanur is only the great
start of the Chanur series - kind of "to get to know the setting" - so
to really appreciate the Compact and its species one has to read the next
three books. These are telling one story (we are lucky the books
aren´t ending mid-sentence) and give the chance to get more knowledge
of the Compact and the history of its species more thoroughly as
it goes. It isn´t necessary to know any other of Ms. Cherryh's
books, but to truly understand what Tully represents, having read Downbelow
Station or another Alliance-Union book might be a good idea.