Disemvoweled Words

Some folks were recently talking about bad fantasy/SF tropes, and one in particular was dropping a made-up word in almost every sentence. For example, I awoke at the cry of the narwk, threw on a jrali, and rode out on my brother’s verxacj. The complaint is that we have no idea what these things are, and when we do finally find out, we discover that the narwk is a rooster, the jrali is a poncho, and the verxacj is a horse.

But what’s worse? How the hell are you suppose to pronounce those words? That’s when I first heard the word “disemvoweled”. I suppose those words didn’t qualify since they still have vowels, but I’ve seen other cases like grnxth or qtrnl and even the occasional xghll.

Yes, they stand out as a foreign language, but unless the native speakers have a different speaking apparatus than humans, they’re going to choke on their own vomit trying to force these guttural words out. You can throw in the occasional apostrophe in hopes of slipping in a soft schwa sound, but before long you’re trying to get away with a main character named X’gr’thnl.

I don’t really have much to say other than, please, don’t do this. They always say that you should read your own writing out loud, and if you trip over your tongue trying to sound out your own foreign words, change them.

Otherwise, I’m going to throw you and your words out the door, AND the verxacj you rode in on.

Review: Intruder, by C.J. Cherryh

This is the thirteenth book in her Foreigner series about Bren Cameron on the world of the Atevi.

I had been waiting eagerly for this one for a while since it seemed to have had a long gap since the last one. I had also been eagerly looking forward to the start of another trilogy-set in this series. However, I have to say I’m a little disappointed in this one, though it’s not really the fault of the book.

I love this series for three reasons: 1) Cherryh’s use of language is fantastic, both in her English narrative as well as her English-rendition of the Ragi language, 2) her exploration of the mixed psychologies of human and alien (Atevi) and the political problems they generate has been fascinating, and 3) the stakes have always been high with the political ramification reaching out from the quaint villages into interstellar space.

The first trilogy developed the world and hinted at the interstellar politics that were about to crash down on them. The second trilogy had Bren going out to face those politics and solve them. The third trilogy dealt with the fallout of what happened while he was gone. The fourth trilogy dealt with more fallout from the time they were gone. And… you guessed it, this fifth trilogy opens with even more fallout from the time they were gone.

All the while there is another bit of interstellar politics looming over their heads, with its promised arrival date any day now.

Or more to the point, any book now.

So I was really expecting this trilogy to open with the resurgence of the interstellar problem that was left open during the second trilogy. And MINI-SPOILER, it didn’t. In fact, so strong was my expectation that I went through most of the book expecting it to pop up at the most inconvenient moment, or at the very least, at the end in a sort of cliff-hanger/teaser for the next book. But it didn’t.

Yes, the political intrigue was suspenseful, and I’m really enjoying the growing relationship between Tabini (essentially the king) and his young son Cajeiri. I’m also intrigued by the increasingly visible fractures in the ever-secretive Assassin’s Guild, and I really like what it’s showing us about the back stories of Bren’s bodyguards.

But this is the seventh book in a row dealing with the political fallout of what happened when Bren was away in space. How many more will there be before we get back to that looming interstellar crisis? I feel a bit like I’m complimenting an endless line of chicken dishes, all the while craving another taste of beef.

And yet it was good, so I can’t really fault it for dashing my own expectations. So, I’m giving it a qualified thumbs-up.