Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh

About the Book

This book was quite a departure from the other books by Cherryh I’ve read before. If you haven’t been watching my blog, I have been reading her books from the beginning of the CompanyWars. After finishing those books, I decided to jump into Cyteen to see what is happening in Union space.

This book begins with the history of Cyteen, and how it came to be. We have heard this story in bits and pieces in all her books, but never from the perspective of the Union. A key place in Cyteen is Reseune. This is where they create azi. Azi are humans, that are bioenginereed, and trained with ’tape’. They don’t have mothers. They are contracted to a Supervisor. Union needed bodies to get their civilization moving and colonized. They needed soldiers, farmers, and other people. One of the founders of Resune research facility is Ariane Emory. She is the mastermind behind all the azi setup. Eventually everyone grows old and dies, but in Reseune you can also make Personal Replicates (we would call them clones). The first part of the book is about Ariane and the politics of Resune. Then, she is murdered and cloned. They raise her until she becomes as good as her predecessor. Enemies and friends of the old Ari (AE1) are still around and it takes some adjustment to deal with her. Eventually there is an incident on Cyteen that forces the new Ari (AE2) to assume control of Resuene and continue the work of AE1. The book ends after the passing of power.


This book was very long, and certainly felt like it. I really like the concepts she talks about: tape learning, cloning - workers vs. personal clones, psych, ‘flux’ thinking of humans, and identity. I like how the 40,000 settlers in Gehanna is brought into play with politics. I really want to read that book now! Unfortunately, the problem with this book is that it’s just too goddamned long. She needed an editor to slice all the unnesessary thinking of the characters in half. This book did not need to be 680 pages. It should’ve been about 300-400 pages. Cherryh is better with her shorter books in my opinion. The scope of this book just got away from her I think. This book must’ve been released at the height of her fame, so she got away with releasing a monstrosly long book without letting the editor cut it down to size.

I’m torn with this book. I loved the politics, exploration of cloning & identity but it just dragged on and on. I’ve read books that are over 1000 pages, but they didn’t feel like they were so long. There was too little action in this one. All-in-all, I have to say this was my least favourite C.J. Cherryh book I’ve read thus far.

Would I recommend you read this one? Only if you are a super fan and need to read every book in a series. After this one, I will take a bit of a break from Cherryh’s world and read some other books lest I sour on C.J. Cherryh completely.

Rating: ★★★

Book #107 in my ReadingChallenge2021

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