In C.J. Cherryh’s The Faded Sun trilogy of sci-fi novels, we see a universe trying to find peace in the aftermath of a long, gruelling war. The fat, repulsive regul double-cross anyone in order to survive and retain power. The mystical mri, who acted as renegades for the regul and suffered at their hands, now seek their original homeworld in order to rebuild their culture. The humans were the victors and arrive to evaluate their new territories and wonder if the mri are truly finished with their fighting.
All the tension and plotting comes to a head in Kutath, the final installment of the trilogy. The result is an exciting, gripping, and emotional journey in which humans and regul wrestle with the decision to completely wipe out the mri or let them live in peace on their titular homeworld. The rich, though violent, history of the “noble savages” stands on the brink of being forever lost if the trigger is pulled. By the time the smoke clears from the climatic events, I was struck with the weight of the tragedies of war.
The mri culture isn’t the only thing at stake in the aftermath. The human commanders wrestle with whether or not they should participate in xenocide simply to save themselves from potential future problems. The regul must decide whether they’ll continue their power-hungry ways or show mercy to their former mercenaries. What happens on Kutath will have ramifications for all parties involved. The reason the stakes hang so heavily over the planet is because of war.
War is a terrible thing. It forces people to commit unspeakable acts, leading to end results that may not have been worth the fighting. Cultures vanish, promising lives perish, phychological trauma ensues. War rarely leaves a healthy environment in its wake. It’s easy to call for war, though. When you have the power, why not pull the trigger on a potential threat? So what if it leads to years of destruction and death?
We live in a tense time with North Korea making threats, Russia tampering with other nations, and terrorists running rampant. In the midst of the tension, it’s easy to conclude that war is the only response. It may come to that in certain instances, but we should remember that war is a terrible, tragic time. We should never be too hasty in calling for bloodshed.