Part of my 1st in a series –challenge and the first in the Chanur –series.
Pyanfar Chanur is the captain of the merchant space ship the Pride of Chanur. The last thing she needs is a stowaway on her ship; a creature whose species is unknown to her. However, the naked-hided, blunt-fingered, blunt-toothed creature is alone and afraid, and Pyanfar decides to take it with her. That’s, of course, when the trouble starts. The Kif demand that the creature should be returned to them and accuse Pyanfar of theft. She doesn’t like their immediately hostile attitude and leaves from the Meetpoint Station as soon as she can. That’s when the Kif start to fire on her ship but hit another ship docked on the station.
Pyanfar and the crew are people from an alien species called the hani who seem to be close to lions in both appearance and behavior. Her crew is all related to her; they are her nieces and cousins. The hani have all-female crews because they don’t let their males leave the planet. Pyanfar herself has grown children although they are at the home planet. There are many hani clans, some who hate the Chanur clan and some who are allies or neutral to the Chanur. The hani culture is quite different from humans but we got only a brief glimpse of them is this short novel.
This universe has a lot of other alien species. Some of them, such as the mahendo’sat, seem to be traders and so want to keep good relations with their neighboring species. On the other hand, the Knnn seem to be so strange that no one else understands them at all. The merchant species seem to some what understand each others’ languages and there’s also a translation program which can be programmed with the meanings of words so that it can produce a rudimentary translation. (Of course, this relies on each word in each language having only one possible meaning…)
The characters are well developed. Pyanfar has a crew of six women plus the newcomer who is called the Outsider. While the more experienced crew members aren’t very distinct from each other, there’s Hilfy who is Pyanfar’s young niece and on her first voyage. She’s eager to explore the universe and to prove herself. There’s also Goldtooth who is the captain of a mahendo’sat ship and looking for new opportunities to trade. The bad guy, of sorts, is more prideful and full of the need to keep his status than really evil.
The plot is fast-paced and the story focuses most on characters and not really on technology. Also, unlike in most space opera Cherryh uses time lag with communication and the various ships’ sensors don’t seem to be powerful at all. A ship seems to be more likely to be located by the communication going back and forth from and to it than just generally scanning space (like Enterprise does).
I have the omnibus which contains the first three books in the series, so I will continue with this series.