Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Faded Sun: Kesrith, Part 2

The Faded Sun: Kesrith is the third book I've read by C.J. Cherryh, and my second book for this year's Vintage Science Fiction Month. Set on a desert planet under a red sun, this novel features two alien races in conflict with each other, and with humans. One can see a bit of a Dune influence with the honor-obsessed Kel: the indigenous, golden-eyed humanoid desert warriors whose way of life is threatened by offworld great power politics. The burrowing predators lurking under desert sands further the sense of a Dune-influence.

But the comparison ends there, because C.J. Cherryh is far more interested in how alien species interact among their own kind, and with other species, than she is with the great power politics of space empires that captured Frank Herbert's imagination (almost as much as his fear of male sodomy).

The most interesting species in this story is the regul, whose younglings are mobile and subservient to their much more massive, sessile, and long-lived elders. The regul are a species with a strong aversion to lying. But their elders have a great propensity to conceal or omit important facts, details, and truths in order to pursue an advantage against other elders of their own kind or of other species such as humanity.

The regul are retreating from Kesrith, ceding the planet as part of the settlement that ends their war with humanity. Of course, the regul didn't prosecute this war themselves. They used mercenaries, the Kel, who have suffered enormous casualties in keeping their military commitments to the regul. The Kel are now a dying race.

The Fading Sun: Kesrith tells the story of what happens when a dying race, the Kel, are cornered by humans and regul alike on the Kel ancestral homeworld of Kesrith. A human warrior crosses paths with a Kel; all hell breaks loose.

This is an enjoyable first novel of a classic '70s SF trilogy.

Is it gameable? I dare say yes! In fact, the Vokun species in Trey Causey's Strange Stars game setting was based in part on the regul. As I read the novel, I kept on thinking of the Traveller RPG. The struggle of a small group of characters to survive on a harsh alien world, get into space, and ultimately set a new course for their lives feels very Traveller.

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