Cyteen #1-3 • 1989 • Space Opera novel by C.J. Cherryh

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I‘ve re-read this in 2014 and reviewed it at Goodreads. I thought it a good idea to copy it to this blog after having read her novelette Pots

Who killed Ari Emory?
You won’t find the final answer to this central question in this huge tome collecting three novels: #1 The Betrayal, #2 The Rebirth, and #3 The Vindication. But other topics like genetics, sexual abuse, or psychology are discussed intensely from different viewpoints. Most central is the broad theme of cloning (or psychogenesis, which is the exact cloning of body and mind) which makes it very relevant for current discussions of that theme. Mix it with lots of political scheming, homeopathic dosis of action, and a very bad tension arc to get this milestone of Science Fiction.

I think the novel would have deserved a far better and more conclusive ending, we shouldn’t need to read the far later published Regenesis to collect all the dangling ropes. In fact, the ending reads more like a short story’s openness than a novel’s closedness – it just stopped, no resolution or conclusion at all. When I said “homeopathic dosis of action”, I referred to the first 95% of the novel – Cherryh spared the tension and action completely for the last couple of pages. When I saw the end coming, I thought “oh no, it doesn’t end, it doesn’t end…”, and so it did. What a cliffhanger!

Cherryh touches lots of innovative futuristic topics like those human “slaves” called Azis or the concept of psychogenesis to name just a few. Instead of diving deeper into those topics, she concentrates on Ari II’s coming-of-age story. I wouldn’t say that her world-building was great.

What I liked most about the novel was the innovative literaric figure of telling the story of Ari Emory by using the coming-of-age of her clone Ari II. Speaking of literaric figures, I wonder about her motivation to throw in huge amounts of religious phrases like “good God”, “God”, “I hope to God”, “God knows”, “My God” and similarily “hell”. This is a sharp contrast to leaving out any discussion of religiosity.
Everything seems to be astonishingly instant as you can see from her frequent use of “sudden” or especially “of a sudden”. She obviously tried to mimic the events’ flows.
In general, I found the ridiculous amounts of phrases more annyoing than helpful.

The same kind of distracting was an old problem of SF for me: Some of the used futuristic technology isn’t valid any more. I don’t have a problem with tapes, central computers, and absence of Internet or cell phones in older SF at all. The problem with Cherryh seems to be that she refers to them very often and develops ridiculous projections into the future. Just one example: Why should a huge computer take weeks to find something in the databasis when at the time of writing the start of her Alliance-Union series search algorithms were available on PCs retrieving information from MS Word documents instantly?

I’d have loved to honour the work’s complexity but it simply wasn’t enough fun for me to give it more than 3 stars. Lots of quite confusing and unmotivating political schemes and discussions lead me to downgrading this enourmous work. On the one hand I can see that people would love it and it really deserved the 1989’s Hugo and Locus awards. On the other hand I can also understand why others simply can’t finish this slow story.

Meta: isfdb. It won the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

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9 Responses to Cyteen #1-3 • 1989 • Space Opera novel by C.J. Cherryh

  1. Hmm. I’ll try Downbelow Station first. It seems to be her most popular work, or entry point.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pdtillman says:

    I didn’t much care for CYTEEN either. If you want a really good, short entry point to Cherryh’s stuff, try MERCHANTER’s LUCK:
    I’ve read it it (at least) 4 times! Wonderful short book. If you don’t like this one you can safely give up on Cherryh, I think.
    Cute story: CJ (Carolyn) grew up in Oklahoma, as did I. When she sold her first book to Don Wollheim, he advised her to add a silent “H” to her last name, to make it more exotic. She did, and the rest is history….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ohhhh, that’s disappointing indeed!
    I’m now looking at the big tome on my shelf with some suspicion… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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