1977’s stand-alone space opera Hunter of Worlds is the second of Cherryh’s two Hanan Rebellion books. It is set in the same continuity as Cherryh’s Alliance/Union works, but takes place long after the main A/U sequence.
Thousands of years ago, the iduve bestowed interstellar civilization on the amaut, the kallia, and no doubt others as well. Five centuries ago, the iduve vanished from the civilized worlds. Why they left is unknown, but few were sad to see them go. Now the iduve are back.
Kallia Aiela Lyailleue is unfortunate enough to be useful to the iduve. Chimele, Orithain of the vast starship Ashanome, demands his service. From the perspective of his relatives, this is effectively a death sentence. From Aiela’s point of view, it is a life sentence.
The iduve are descended from predators. While not deliberately sadistic, they can seem merciless and casually cruel to their underlings. Chimele for her part demonstrates what is by her standards great restraint when dealing with Aiela. Her perspective is alien enough that this is not always clear to Aiela.
Chimele needs information from the human Daniel. Daniel, having been thoroughly traumatized, is not communicative. Therefore, Chimele needs for someone with Aiela’s implant (which links him to : Daniel and another kallia, Isande). Provided the experience does not kill or derange the participants, Daniel should be able to provide the information the iduve want.
Daniel details a history filled with brutal wars that the amaut waged against the few humans in the region. Although this behavior is not typical for the amaut, the iduve are less interested in war crimes than they are in what or rather whom Daniel’s experiences might indict.
Chimele is stalking an outcast. The deadline for success is nearly upon her. Failure to deal with her foe would bring unthinkable consequences. Therefore, the iduve ruler is willing to commit unthinkable crimes to ensure success.
Since Hunter of Worlds predates all but two of Cherryh’s novels, I wonder whether she had the Alliance-Union setting in mind when she wrote this … or if the connection between that setting and this was established only once the Alliance-Union books were written. In any case, the Hanan Rebellion books could be their own setting. They are set very, very far into the future, and humans, rather than being the focus of the narrative, are merely a minor group dominated by their neighbors.
This was Cherryh’s third novel, I believe, and many themes familiar from later works are present in rudimentary form. In fact, some readers might see this as a very rough draft for the Foreigner novels. For example, the difficulty of communicating across species barriers plays a major role in the plot. This becomes apparent early on when the reader discovers the name by which the iduve are known to their subject races is based on a misapprehension.
The book isn’t perfect. In particular, it seems to conflate culture and species. All amaut behave a certain way, all kallia behave a different way, all iduve behave a third way. Cherryh’s aliens vary less in their behavior than do house cats.
Since Hunter is only about two-hundred pages long, Cherryh does not have a lot of room in which to work. Nevertheless, she’s crammed quite a lot of detail into those pages: several cultures, fragments of various languages, not to mention a plot other authors might have spun out into a number of books1. Although the work is by Cherryh standards somewhat rudimentary, Hunter is still worth tracking down.
Hunter of Worlds appears to be out of print, so if you do want to read it, you will need to find a used copy.
1: Jo Clayton, author of the Diadem series (one of which I recently reviewed), could have spun four books out of this novel’s main plot.