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  1. This is one of Cherryh’s novels that doesn’t quite work for me. She has a technique (which I normally admire) of telling a story using a close focus on the viewpoint of a character, so that the reader discovers the world through their stream of consciousness. To ramp up the dramatic tension, the viewpoint character spends much of the time ignorant, confused, scared, overemotional, paranoid, or all of the above. Losing track of the plot is only to be expected when everything is filtered through this viewpoint.

    Sometimes this technique really pays off in combining dramatic tension with empathy for a fallible protagonist, for example in Cuckoo’s Egg or The Pride of Chanur. But in Merchanter’s Luck the viewpoint character is such an asshole that it’s hard to keep up any sympathy for him — the tension ends up seeming like the result of incompetent management rather than an understandable response to an unbearably stressful situation.

    If you can bear to try another Cherryh (and if you haven’t read it yet), I suggest The Faded Sun. The viewpoint moves among multiple characters, the plot is straightforward, the atmosphere is elegiac, and there are interesting alien cultures.

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