Visions of Paradise

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Finity's End

I have more science fiction books by only two other authors than C.J. Cherryh, 48 books by Robert Silverberg and 35 books by Roger Zelazny. Cherryh is third with 30 books (and since she is still writing, she is probably destined to overtake Zelazny at some point, although his six-volume complete short fiction by NESFA Press might hold her off awhile).

While her fantasies are good (especially the Morgaine saga), and so are such series as The Faded Sun, Foreigner and Chanur, generally her books which I enjoy most are those set in the Alliance-Union war, stories such as Downbelow Station, Merchanter’s Luck and Cyteen.

Finity’s End
is set in that universe after the end of the Company War when various forces in the settled portion of the galaxy are struggling to co-exist somewhat peacefully. The novel has two main focuses. One is the struggle by the leadership of the merchant alliance warship Finity’s End to broker a more lasting peace than currently exists in the human-settled portion of the galaxy through economic negotiations. The other focus is a coming-of-age tale of young Fletcher, who grew up on Pell Station, an orbiting habitat around a world which contains the only known intelligent aliens in human space. Fletcher’s mother was a crewmember on Finity’s End, whose entire crew consist of a vast network of relatives, referred to onboard ship as “cousins”–which they mostly are. But for some reason she was sent to Pell Station when she was pregnant with Fletcher, and her dependence on drugs caused her to lose custody of her son who drifted from one foster family to another, all of them bad experiences. Thus Fletcher grew up an angry, disillusioned station dweller who for most of his childhood had no idea what, if anything, he wanted to do with his life.

After his mother’s death, Fletcher made a determined effort to find a role at the station, and studied planetary science while spending time on the planet below studying the hisa and becoming particularly close to two of them. Just when it seemed as if things were going well for him though, Finity’s End returned to Pell Station and, as part of a larger political dealing, regained custody of Fletcher and brought him onboard the ship. The novel examines how Fletcher fits in with a crew consisting of people who all grew up together and who understand ship life intricately, while he knows none of them, has no wish to be part of them, and also understands nothing about life aboard ship.

He is immediately put into a group of four other seventeen-year olds, the “junior juniors” of the crew; however, they have spent considerable time in transit so the other three are physically twelve-year olds, and tend to act it at times. However, they have a much deeper knowledge base about life on Finity’s End, so Fletcher is in a situation where he spends most of his time with much younger kids who know more than he does. He rooms with Jeremy, whose closest family all died in the recent war, so he immediately attaches himself to Fletcher as an older brother. Vince, another of the four, dislikes Fletcher and goes out of his way to annoy him.

The four “junior juniors” are under the direct control of J.R., who is the leader of the “senior juniors,” who are all older than Fletcher but physically similar to him. Some of them resent Fletcher’s joining the crew, and the tension boils over several times into fighting, especially between Fletcher and Chad, his nemesis on the ship. But Fletcher has another unknown enemy on Finity’s End who is determined to undermine his efforts to become part of the crew and bond with the other cousins.

Finity’s End is a strong novel, equally divided between character study and political maneuvering. Much of it is devoted to showing what life is really like on a spacecraft, considerably more complex than is shown in most other space operas. Cherryh continues to grow as a writer, and while I enjoyed the first three Foreigner novels, I am glad she has returned to Merchanter space with her recent novel Regenesis, which I hope to read soon as well. Finity’s End is highly recommended.

4 Comments:

  • Another great sounding book to add to my wish list.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 8:56 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Unknown, At 11:04 AM  

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/FilkZombie#g/u
    Sorry, this is what i meant

    By Blogger Unknown, At 11:06 AM  

  • So, you might not know this, but in 1985 there was actually an album published about the characters from that series. It was called Finity's End and Other Songs of the Station Trade. While the recording quality was kinda low, the songs were beautiful and catchy, and silly at times. Here's a Youtube link:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/FilkZombie#g/u

    By Blogger Filk Zombie, At 11:20 AM  

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