Tag Archives: C.J. Cherryh

Friday Faceoff – It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is lions, so I’ve chosen an alien approximation to this subject by going for The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh.

 

This cover, produced by Daw in January 1982, shows a bunch of lion-like aliens. Unlike many covers of the time, it doesn’t have the ugly, intrusive banding to display the title and author. This is my favourite – it certainly has carried its age a lot better than many covers from that era.

 

This edition, produced by Phantasia Press in April 1987, is far less cosy. The backdrop is effective in establishing this as a science fiction novel, while the Chanur don’t look at all friendly. Eye-catching and dramatic, I really like this one.

 

Published by Mandarin in June 1989, this cover is also arresting and attractive. I love the detail in the backdrop and the fact that the leonine alien is looking off to the side, clearly hearing or seeing something of interest. However, we do have that ugly block at the top crunching through the artwork, carrying the title and author in an attempt to look cool and space-like, but actually simply looks awkward.

 

This Czech publication, produced in 1994 by Návrat, again has an interesting backdrop and attractive font and titling – but I do have a problem with that sultry-looking lion face simpering at me. It certainly looks oddly alien, but not in a good way…

 

This Croatian edition, published in May 2014 by Algoritam, is certainly more modern with a pleasingly streamlined title and author font. However, I get the sense that someone has simply grafted a lot of appropriate-looking images onto the rather lovely backdrop, giving it a rather generic, bland look – which whatever you say about the previous offerings, they certainly aren’t that. So which is your favourite?

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Time Tag

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Many thanks to Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog for nominating me to take part in this lovely tag.

What is your favourite historical setting for a book?
I love the Tudor period – it’s the period I studied for my History degree so I know a reasonable amount about the history of this time. But I also enjoy the Victorian time – events moved so very quickly during that it was a period of great upheaval and yet isn’t all that long ago. So… both these periods tend to snag my interest.

 

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?
William Shakespeare. It’s a no-brainer. The genius that gave us a canon of marvellous plays and beautiful poetry must be worth sitting across the table and chatting to! Even if he only wants to grumble about the weather and the difficulties of finding a boy to adequately play Juliet – especially if he wants to grumble about that one, come to think of it…

 

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?
It would have to be C.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. Her writing style and depiction of space just blew me away. My younger self would love to read this and derive a great sense of comfort to discover that books like that were in existence as I was getting increasingly disillusioned with many of the contemporary literary offerings I was ploughing through at the time.

 

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?
I wouldn’t bother. My older self is going to be caught up with the books being published at the time, so my crashing into her reading patterns won’t probably be very welcome. I don’t take kindly to sudden surprises…

 

What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?
I have three… two based on Earth and one that sees us out in the among the stars. One of the most poignant and effective settings is the depiction of a nearly empty Paris, overrun by alien vegetation from portals drawn by Eric Brown in his novel Engineman. To be honest, the story itself isn’t quite as effective as the setting in my opinion – but I’ve dreamed of this landscape many times. The other futuristic setting I particularly enjoy is that in the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards, where Earth is largely uninhabited apart from those who are unable to leave due to a genetic quirk.

I also love the world that Lois McMaster Bujold has created in her Miles Vorkosigan series that sprawls across a chain of planets.

 

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?
I love several – Doomsday is a classic time travel book by Connie Willis that goes back to the medieval period. It’s a wonderful book and rightly regarded as a classic. Another book that I particularly love is the above mentioned Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, but my favourite is Mendoza in Hollywood which is a dreadful title for an outstanding book by Kage Baker about a time-travelling biologist harvesting plants about to be pushed into the brink of extinction by the growth of the film industry. It is part of Baker’s amazing The Company series, which I think deserves to be known a lot better than it is.

 

Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?
Only if I don’t intend to finish the book – otherwise what is the point of bothering to read it?

 

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?
Oh yes please! And now I’m going to sound incredibly boring… I’d like to use one like Hermione Granger so I could fulfil my teaching commitments, keep the house reasonably clean and clutter-free, be a better wife, daughter, mother and grandmother, while also writing full-time.

 

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
I cannot possibly pinpoint a single book, so I’ll follow Lynn’s example and recommend four, other than the ones already mentioned above:-
Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld novels by the late, great Terry Pratchett

This is Pratchett’s time travel book – and one of his best, in my opinion, as Sam Vimes, the grumpy Commander of the Ankh-Morpork’s police force, is caught up in a magical storm and hauled back in time.

 

The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Saga of the Exiles by Julian May

This first book in a remarkable, ground-breaking series features Elizabeth who travels back in time to escape the trauma of having lost her metaphysical abilities. Ironically, her journey – in which she encounters a humanoid alien race who have made Earth their home – causes her abilities to manifest themselves once more. Which draws down a lot of unwelcome attention upon Elizabeth…

Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

This standalone children’s book is a joy. A brother and sister cryonically suspended are accidentally woken up fifty years later by another brother and sister, while exploring an underground building at the bottom of the garden. The resulting adventure is both funny and very revealing about how customs have changed during the last fifty years – for both good and ill.

 

 

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly trilogy by Jo Walton

This is a remarkable time travel experiment designed by the goddess Athene to test the principles set down by Plato in his book The Republic. I can guarantee you won’t have read anything quite like it.

 

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?
The Discworld novels! They define a part of my life and if I could bottle the sheer excitement of opening up a new one, laughing at the Pratchett jokes for the first time again, that would be a wonderful treat.

I’m not going to nominate anyone in particular – but do please have a go if this Time Tag appeals to you as a fan of historical settings or time travelling adventures. I’d love to hear your choices!

The This is My Genre Tell Me Yours Book Tag

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I was nominated for this lovely book tag by Drew from The Tattooed Book Geek, who writes wonderful, passionate reviews about his favourite genre, fantasy. Thank you, Drew! Do drop by and check out his site – it’s worth it.

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1. What’s your favourite genre?
Science fiction, particularly at the more character-led end of the genre. Though it is a very broad church and that is part of the glory of it.

2. Who’s your favourite author?
Erg! Oh nooo… I hate having to choose ONLY one. Hm. I think it’s… Nope. Can’t do it, sorry. There cannot be only one! C.J. Cherryh – because she wrote the defining space opera adventure that blew me away. Kage Baker for her amazing Company novels and Lois McMaster Bujold for the Miles Vorkosigan series. There’s more… there’s so MANY more!

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
To be honest, I’m not really sure. I mostly read and enjoy fantasy, but when I do settle down with a thumping good science fiction read, it just has me buzzing with excitement in a way that nothing else does. There is the sense of adventure and excitement as I open the cover – it’s a genre that pushes ideas and concepts right to the limits with the likes of cyberpunk, so I never moonquite know where I’ll end up.

However, I also think it is the prospect of us leaving the planet and exploring space that really ticks all my boxes. As a young child, I grew up taking it for granted that by the time I was adult, we would already have a presence on the Moon and be working towards getting to Mars. So reading about a future where we have achieved these goals helps alleviate my sense of betrayal that humanity’s continuing nomadic quest was stifled thanks to politicians with the mental horizon of an ant.

4. What’s the book that started your love for your genre?
heavytimeC.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. It is an amazing read – about a couple of asteroid miners who discover a ship tumbling through space and secure it for salvage, when they find a half-mad crew member, Paul Dekker, tumbling about inside it. The only survivor… Her writing is years ahead of its time, with an immersive first person viewpoint that has the tension pinging off the page. I dreamt about that book and went looking for other reads like it. I don’t often find them, but when I do, I’m caught between wanting the book to last and last as it’s just SO MUCH FUN reading it. And needing to get to the end TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS. And when I do finish such a book, I ache at having to leave the world… While this occasionally occurs with enjoyable fantasy reads, it happens far more frequently with science fiction books.

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
There’s four books I’d like to recommend – all very different. The first would be Adrian childrenoftimeTchaikovsky’s award-winning Children of Time, which I loved. It takes the basic tropes around space opera and turns them on their head, while producing a page-turning story full of incident and unintended consequences.

Earthgirl

 

Another is far more a straightforward adventure tale – the excellent Earth Girl by Janet Edwards, which has Earth as a relative backwater where due to a genetic condition, a small number of people cannot emigrate off the planet and are stranded here.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen takes the idea of shape-manyselvesofkatherineshifting and turns it into a scientific breakthrough and this riveting, beautifully written book explores the consequences of what might happen to those who invade the consciousness of other animals.

The finthemartianal book would be The Martian by Andy Weir which is a near future adventure – think of Robinson Crusoe set in space and stranded on Mars and you have an idea of the book, which charts Mark’s constant struggle for survival as he battles against the odds to survive until help arrives.

 

 

 

6. Why do you read?
I can’t recall a time when I couldn’t read. I read hungrily all through my childhood which was at times very difficult and books provided my consolation and escape. Fortunately my grandparents were very encouraging and provided me with plenty of reading matter.

The only time I didn’t read was when my children were young – I didn’t dare pick up a book because I knew only too well that they could be screaming in the cot, or drowning in the bath and I simply wouldn’t hear them. So I didn’t read a single book for seven years, other than children’s books. It was the biggest sacrifice I made as a mother. Now, I live with another avid reader and we often have days when we turn off the TV, curl up in the lounge together and read, while our favourite music is playing… bliss!

My nominations for the This is My Genre  Tell Me Yours Book Tag

Sara Letourneau – Sara Letourneau’s Official Website and Blog

Wendy – Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Kristen Twardowski – A Writer’s Workshop

You may or may not choose to take part in this one. I’ve selected all three of you because you are interesting passionate bloggers with a keen interest in all things bookish and I’d love to hear your answers:). Anyone else out there who’d love to have a go – please join in!

Friday Faceoff – As Old As the Hills…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s theme is mountains and hills, so I have selected C.J. Cherryh’s first book in her cracking Finisterre duology, Rider at the Gate.

rideratthegateThis is the cover produced by Aspect in September 1996. It certainly gives a sense of the bitterly cold weather and mountainous, challenging landscape. I also love the pink sky, but the great clunky chunks of purple with the raised title and author name do detract from the overall look of the cover, I think.

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This hardcover edition was published by Aspect in August 1995. While I think the figures are depicted with plenty of drama and movement, once more the title crashes through the artwork and mood.

rideratthegate2This offering, published by Hodder & Stoughton in January is another view of the first snowscape. While the title and author’s name is prominent, at least it doesn’t completely swamp the artwork and mood music. I love the colouring, and this cover is my favourite, despite the poor quality of the reproduction.

rideratthegate3This cover is for the January 1995 edition, published in Franced J’ai Lu. And what a difference a sympathetic font makes… Suddenly the arresting picture on the front is able to bounce off the cover and shout ‘Buy me – I’m a wonderful story!’. Which, indeed it is. Which of these covers is your favourite?

The Spring Book Tag

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Daffodils @ Highdown (6)

I discovered this very appropriate tag, while reading Lizzie Baldwins’s fabulous My Little Book Blog and she came across it at The Reader and the Chef. So this my response…

 

1. What’s your Spring TBR?planetfall
Emma Newman’s Planetfall – I bought it in the depths of winter when thoroughly fed up and now green shoots are shooting and I’ve completed all the admin for my latest Creative Writing course, I reckon I deserve a treat.

 

Everyheartadoorway2. If someone asked you for a Spring release recommendation, what would it be?
I’ve read some cracking books this year, but one of the books published at the beginning of April is the novella Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I loved the pitch perfect pacing and the wonderful poignant tone of this story.

 

3. Which two books are you eagerly awaiting that releases within the next two centralstationmonths?
I have on my Kindle the arc of Central Station by Lavie Tidhar which looks fabulous (thank you NetGalley!) and I’m really excited about reading this one. And the other book I’m dying to get my hands on is Lesley Thomson’s latest crime thriller The House With No Rooms – and the bonus – I’ve been invited to the book launch up in London!

 

fuzzy nation4. Which character would make a great Easter bunny?
The fuzzy from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation would make a fantastic Easter bunny. Apart from looking cute and enjoying interacting with friendly humans, the fuzzys are also smart, so would be good at hiding the Easter eggs.

 

 

5. What book makes you think of Spring?astra
The book that brings Spring to mind is Astra by Naomi Foyle – the book starts during springtime and young Astra is very in tune with her surroundings – as well as that, the beautiful green cover and the apparently cosy surroundings all seem very fresh and friendly…

thephilosopherkings6. Name a cover with flowers on it
My book cover with flowers on is The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. It’s the second book in her  Thessaly series, which explores the ideas that Plato expounded in The Republic, at the behest of Apollo, who is part of this experiment, and his sister Athene, who devised it. Yes… I know. It sounds barmy – but it really works and is a remarkable series. The cover also is a beautiful spring green colour, which adds to the seasonal feel.

7. Which two characters would you go on an Easter egg hunt with?
Chocolate often gives me migraines, so Easter is a tricky time for me. I’m mostly very good at not eating it, but it would be handy to have a couple of folks who would be both really good at finding the eggs before me and possessing a huge appetite for chocolate. I reckon Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would fit the bill nicely.

8. What is your favourite Spring bookish activity to do?
Curl up on a sofa in a pool of sunshine and read in front of the fire – it’s still far too cold to venture outside to read. I also regularly tell myself I’ll tidy up the sprawling TBR mass of books by my bed and put them into some kind of order, but I probably won’t get around to it just yet. So I’ll continue working up to it, while curled up reading in front of said fire…

9. Which book did you enjoy that had a Spring cover?daughterofsmokeandbone
Well… there’s this fantastic cover of Laini Taylor’s first book in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. With feathers that represent the Easter chick… And if you’re unconvinced, can I just mention that books featuring space and fantastic world generally aren’t portrayed in vibrant spring colours, or heaving with flowers. I happen to LOVE this cover, it makes me want to stroke it and coo… And the book is awesome, so I stand by my choice.

10. Who is your favourite contemporary author?
There are some amazing writers, whose skill I admire – C.J. Cherryh is right up there, as is Lois McMaster Bujold and then there is the mighty talent that is Jo Walton, who takes on a completely different aspect of speculative fiction with each new series. And absolutely nails it with something extraordinary and special. Yep. It would have to be Jo Walton…

Books I Wish I’d Reviewed…

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I read a number of these a long time ago, before the internet existed or I even considered there’d be a time when I would share my love of books and reading with numbers of other people who also take part in this most solitary of hobbies. And the rest are books that I read before I really got bitten by the reviewing bug. Either way, I occasionally tell myself that I’ll go back and reread them some day to write the review. But if I’m honest – I probably won’t because I generally don’t reread books, in case the second time around they disappoint. In which case, I will have gained two miserable memories – the one of revisiting a favourite book and finding it isn’t that impressive after all, but even more devastatingly – it will also have smirched the lovely glow around my recollection of the delight when I read the book first time around.

In no particular order…

 

Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a villagecider with rosie before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.

I read this when I was fourteen and immediately fell in love with the book and the depiction of a lost time in rural Gloucestershire. Much later, when pregnant with my daughter, I encountered Lee’s essay on when his daughter was born and cried as I read it. I was probably a tad hormonal, but it is beautifully written…

 

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartleythegobetween
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years.

Another wonderfully written book – a real mixture of humour and bitter poignancy and the ending is a shock. The dialogue is a masterclass in writing subtext and if you haven’t ever read it, do so. Set before WWI, it is another lost world, where poor little Leo is adrift in a social shark tank and is shamefully exploited by people who should have known better.

 

requiemforawrenRequiem for a Wren by Neville Shute
Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents’ remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homecoming is marred by the suicide of his parents’ parlormaid, of whom they were very fond. Alan soon realizes that the dead young woman is not the person she pretended to be…

I’d studied A Town Like Alice at school and loved it, so went looking for everything Shute wrote, which was a fair amount. I loved most of it – but Requiem for a Wren stole a particular portion of my heart, as the story depicted all too clearly the personal cost of war. If you ever encounter a battered Neville Shute novel in a second-hand shop – they occur with surprisingly regularity – scoop it up. There is a solid reason why he was such a popular author for thirty-odd years in the last century.

 

Chocky by John Wyndhamchocky
Matthew, they thought, was just going through a phase of talking to himself. And, like many parents, they waited for him to get over it, but it started to get worse. Mathew’s conversations with himself grew more and more intense – it was like listening to one end of a telephone conversation while someone argued, cajoled and reasoned with another person you couldn’t hear. Then Matthew started doing things he couldn’t do before, like counting in binary-code mathematics. So he told them about Chocky – the person who lived in his head.

Another wonderful author, who is famous for The Day of the Triffids, but wrote a number of other really enjoyable science fiction stories. Again, I loved them all – but Chocky was a particular favourite.

 

rideratthegateRider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Nighthorses duology by C.J. Cherryh
Stranded on a distant planet that abounds with fertile farmland, human colonists appear to be in paradise. But all the native animals communicate by telepathy, projecting images that drive humans mad. Only Nighthorses stand between civilization and madness. When a flare of human emotion spreads to all the horses, chaos erupts.

I fell in love with C.J. Cherryh’s writing from the first sentence – and this is her at her unbeatable best. I’d also include the sequel Cloud’s Rider, which is another gem.

 

Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift Saga by David Brinsundiver
No species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron–except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? Circling the sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in history–a journey into the boiling inferno of the sun.

I loved this take on what might befall Earth creatures should we encounter alien cultures – and how terrestrial species other than humans might fare.

 

fallingfreeFalling Free – Book 4 of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Leo Graf was an effective engineer…Safety Regs weren’t just the rule book he swore by; he’d helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporate exploitation of his bright new students till that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn’t anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither save, nor in the rules… Leo Graf adopted 1000 quaddies now all he had to do was teach them to be free

Another talented speculative fiction author, whose groundbreaking writing has taken me to wonderful worlds. I have reviewed a number of the Miles Vorkosigan adventures – but this particular story featuring the quaddies has always had a special place in my heart…

What about you – have you any books that you wish you had reviewed? Or books you dare not reread in case they aren’t quite as wonderful as you recall?

My Favourite Aliens in Literature – Part 1

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I initially published this article back in September last year. But other events rolled over me around that time, so I didn’t get around to providing the second half of this list. So as I’ve now completed it, I thought I’d reblog the original today, before adding the second half of the list.

Yalda from The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan – Book 1 of The Orthogonal
theclockworkrocketIf you really enjoy hard science fiction with a strong, coherent and utterly different world and haven’t yet encountered this series, then do so. By tweaking a mathematical sign from minus to plus in an equation that governs space time, Egan has created a universe where light behaves completely differently – he writes at length about it on his website. To people his world, he also creates a species that don’t look like us and don’t breed like us. Once fertilised, the females bodies break down into two breeding pairs, effectively dying. So it is the males who are left with the task of raising the young and keeping society running. This creates tensions among women who don’t wish their lives to end prematurely, so refuse to mate with their co. Yalda is born without her opposite, larger and stronger than average and regarded as a freak in the farming community where she is raised. I loved her story from the first page. Read my original review here.

Illisidi from The Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
This is another extraordinary series. I need to catch up on it, because I’ve read the first six, but now realise to my foreignerdelight that since I last read them, Cherryh has written a whole bunch more. Yippee! These books are about a human outpost on a planet already settled by tall, predatory dark-skinned aliens who use numbers and maths to make sense of their world. The protagonist is the diplomat, Bren Cameron, who lives among them, constantly striving to ensure communications between the two species stays peaceful. Illisidi is grandmother to the ruler, a stately, enigmatic lady very heavily involved in politics. Scary and stately by turns, she is intrigued by Bren. Cherryh is superb at writing tension and miscommunication.

The Fithp from Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
footfallThis famous alien invasion book lodges in my mind as the elephant-like aliens may superficially resemble the grazing beasts that live in Africa and Asia, but the Fithp are far more lethal. They don’t understand the concept of diplomacy, regarding species as either prey or predators. Prey are to be turned into useful slaves and predators are to be subjugated. A frightening species I loved to hate…

The Thranx from the Humanx Commonwealth series by Alan Dean FosterNorcrystaltears
These insectoid species stumble across a human crew while waging war with the AAnn. After scooping them up, they tweak humanity’s DNA a tad and then forge a close alliance with them. Foster is one of a handful of science fiction authors completely comfortable with producing a whole slew of remarkable and original alien lifeforms, but the Thranx is the one that stick in my mind.

The Ariekei from Embassytown by China Miéville
EmbassytownThis is another book about a small enclave on a planet already settled by an alien species, but differs markedly from Cherryh’s Foreigner series in all sorts of important ways. The Hosts are large, powerful crablike creatures, who communicate with pairs of specially raised and trained humans. Until it all goes terribly wrong when a new pair of ambassadors turn up from off-planet and attempt to communicate with the Hosts… This offering blew me away with its sheer inventiveness and worldbuilding – particularly around the alien species. Miéville has also lots of interesting things to say about language and how it is used, along the way. Read my review here.

Once I started writing this, I realised it would be far too long if I included all my favourites in one article. So this is the first half… I’ll be adding the next tranche in due course.

My Favourite Aliens in Literature – Part 1

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Having started writing lists about all things writing – especially connected with speculative fiction, I can’t seem to stop… So today I’m presenting my favourite aliens that crop up in books, in no particular order.

Yalda from The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan – Book 1 of The Orthogonal
If you really enjoy hard science fiction with a strong, coherent and utterly different world and haven’t yet theclockworkrocketencountered this series, then do so. See my review of The Clockwork Rocket here.By tweaking a mathematical sign from minus to plus in an equation that governs space time, Egan has created a universe where light behaves completely differently – he writes at length about it on his website. To people his world, he also creates a species that don’t look like us and don’t breed like us. Once fertilised, the females bodies break down into two breeding pairs, effectively dying. So it is the males who are left with the task of raising the young and keeping society running. This creates tensions among women who don’t wish their lives to end prematurely, so refuse to mate with their co. Yalda is born without her opposite, larger and stronger than average and regarded as a freak in the farming community where she is raised. I loved her story from the first page.

Illisidi from The Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
foreignerThis is another extraordinary series. I need to catch up on it, because I’ve read the first six, but now realise to my delight that since I last read them, Cherryh has written a whole bunch more. Yippee! These books are about a human outpost on a planet already settled by tall, predatory dark-skinned aliens who use numbers and maths to make sense of their world. The protagonist is the diplomat, Bren Cameron, who lives among them, constantly striving to ensure communications between the two species stays peaceful. Illisidi is grandmother to the ruler, a stately, enigmatic lady very heavily involved in politics. Scary and stately by turns, she is intrigued by Bren. Cherryh is superb at writing tension and miscommunication.

The Fithp from Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournellefootfall
This famous alien invasion book lodges in my mind as the elephant-like aliens may superficially resemble the grazing beasts that live in Africa and Asia, but the Fithp are far more lethal. They don’t understand the concept of diplomacy, regarding species as either prey or predators. Prey are to be turned into useful slaves and predators are to be subjugated. A frightening species I loved to hate…

NorcrystaltearsThe Thranx from the Humanx Commonwealth series by Alan Dean Foster
These insectoid species stumble across a human crew while waging war with the AAnn. After scooping them up, they tweak humanity’s DNA a tad and then forge a close alliance with them. Foster is one of a handful of science fiction authors completely comfortable with producing a whole slew of remarkable and original alien lifeforms, but the Thranx is the one that stick in my mind.

The Ariekei from Embassytown by China Miéville
This is another book about a small enclave on a planet already settled by an alien species – see my review here – but Embassytowndiffers markedly from Cherryh’s Foreigner series in all sorts of important ways. The Hosts are large, powerful crablike creatures, who communicate with pairs of specially raised and trained humans. Until it all goes terribly wrong when a new pair of ambassadors turn up from off-planet and attempt to communicate with the Hosts…
This is another extraordinary book that blew me away with its sheer inventiveness and worldbuilding – particularly around the alien species. Miéville has also lots of interesting things to say about language and how it is used, along the way.

I started this and realised that this article will be far too long if I include all my favourites at once, so these are the first five. What about you? Are there any aliens you particularly loved reading about? Have you encountered any of my favourites and if so, did you also enjoy them?