once a psychological novel, a murder mystery, and an examination of power
on a grand scale, encompassing light years and outsized lifetimes [that]
only hint at the richness of Cyteen. Cherryh goes deep into political and
scientific conflicts...examines the differing natures of born-men and azi,
deals with the subtle shadings of love, desire, kinship...and she saves
an explosive surprise for the end."
Cyteen consists of one main plot and several subplots, all within a backdrop of post-war political turmoil. The central plot revolves around the murder of leading genetic designer, Dr. Ariane Emory, on the planet Cyteen. The main suspect is her colleague and rival, Dr. Jordan Warrick. Although his guilt is never quite proven, he is exiled from Cyteen, much to the distress of his son Justin and his adopted son Grant, both of whom had been victimized in different ways by the late Ariane Emory. The two young men face many hardships as they live their lives under intense scrutiny at Cyteen and are essentially under house arrest permanently. They are constantly being watched by Dennis Nye and his brother Giraud, both loyal to the late Emory.
Nye and Emory's other followers at Cyteen decide on undertaking a monumental project that Emory herself had conceived: to create an exact replica of her, a new human life that would be a genetic replicate as well as a social replicate, raised in the exact same manner and environment as the old Emory. The new replicate is born and given the same name, Ariane Emory. Also re-born are the two bodyguards that had been closest to Emory Sr, having been with her since childhood: Florian and Catlin.
Young Ari, unknowing of the events that led up to her birth, is raised by her foster mother Jane Strassen. Ari evidences the same genius and independent temperament that the old Emory had. Jane Strassen leaves Cyteen, and Ari then becomes the ward of Dennis Nye. Ari meets Justin and Grant and instantly likes them although her uncles Dennis and Giraud don't approve. Justin and Grant are nervous about their relationship with young Ari. They have many political enemies, and if anything ever were to happen to Ari, they know they'd be the prime suspects.
When she is older, she is given old Emory's computer, Base One, which has all records and journal entries of Ariane Emory. Through this, Ari finds confirmation of her suspicions that her guardians have not been honest with her about many things. She also finds answers to various odd things about her life as a child: why some kids would mysteriously disappear if they got into fights with her at school, why she has to get a blood test every week, etc. Ari feels this as a betrayal from thoses she loves.
When she is introduced to her new bodyguards Florian and Catlin, the three form a close bond and decide to investigate matters as a trio. Throughout the story, Ari learns several important deeds that certain people she thought were on her side had done to her. (I'm not going to give it away here.) The rest of the story involves Ari's rise to power, her dealings with her enemies, her attempts to discover who the real killer of her predecessor was, and Aris' and Justin's attempts to get Justin's father Jordan released from his exile.
This one is a MUST-READ. As you can see from this short description (yes, this is the short version) the story is one of epic scale. There are actually about a zillion characters I left out, as well as many subplots, theories, and an explanation of an entire cultural group, the fascinating azi, that is very important to the story. The book is broken up into many smaller sections, which makes it very readable and surprisingly fast-paced. The main hurdle is getting started. The novel begins with an excerpt from a text of the Company Wars (which occur before the setting of this story) and then a political council meeting, both of which are somewhat difficult to get through if you have not read many of Cherryh's Alliance-Union novels. But from then on, the book gradually zeroes in on a dozen or so main characters, and becomes absolutely impossible to put down.
So. Finally, the short short version: Cyteen is about two young men who are separated from their father and want to be reunited, and about a young woman who is surrounded by people she can't trust and must use her ingenuity to survive, gain power, and deal with the enemies of her predecessor who all want to destroy her.
NOTE: Cyteen was originally
published as 3 separate volumes. A newer Warner Books edition combines
the 3 into one book.
I don´t like Cyteen
Cyteen is the first book to raise such a great aversion in me. Since the first chapters I hated this book with a passion, a hatred that deepened while the book went on. Many not very nice things happen in Cyteen, but the most gruesome thing were the azi. The more I read about them, the more I hated this book and felt hurt.
What the people of Cyteen did to the azi is the most horrible thing I can imagine one human being doing to another. I don´t mind the artifical creation of humans, and tape-teaching is a something most of us probably wish for every now and then, but creating human beings that are so dependent on somebody else is unbelievable. The simpler azi constantly need orders, reassurance and tape-adjustment lest they take harm, even the highly developed alpha azi can only bend so far and need their handler to be strong and balanced, just remember how the genius-like Grant was irritated and upset when Justin let his worries and fears get the better of him. The azi miss one of humankind's greatest strengths - adaptability. Azi can´t handle situations that weren´t programmed. Their ineptness to handle new situations makes them pets, maybe beloved pets, but nonetheless pets. They aren´t capable of living on their own, they need the love of their handlers and are treated like things - property of the one who bought them. The azi seem to be slaves, but a slave got a free will and can cope with new situations, in order to gain his or her freedom and live among the "normal" humans. An azi has to be programmed to get around in his or her new life.
Maybe I would have liked Cyteen were it not for the azi. Cyteen made me hurt to the point that every time I remotely thought about it in the weeks afterwards I would get sad, depressed, and angry. Cyteen has a place on my bookshelf, although I have no intention to read it another time.
I found the azi in Downbelow Station within the first few sentences dealing with this individual. After this second unpleasant experience I have decided to not read another book containing azi.
Where else will you find links to MENSA, guppies, and the CIA all on one page?
Here are a number of interesting
sites that are at least distantly related to the topics covered in Cyteen.
Those who are interested in the azi and citizen batches should check out
some cool genetics sites. If you've always
wondered about nature vs. nurture in human behavior, or if you enjoy how
Ari analyzes the bejeezus out of everyone else, try checking the psych
sites. Many of the characters in Cyteen are geniuses. Are you? Visit the
sites. If you like Ari's guppy project, there are links to guppies
as well. Finally, for anyone who wishes he/she were Florian or Catlin,
see the Security/Military sites. I know they're
not Reseune security, but hey, we can't all live in Green Barracks.
MENSA INTERNATIONAL The IQ elite. This site tells about the organization and offers a sample MENSA IQ test.
A site dedicated to all things brainy, from health to intelligence. Offers
a few IQ tests.
TYPES Just as it says. This site is dedicated to personality types.
DNA FROM THE BEGINNING An excellent animated live interactive primer on DNA and heredity. Plenty of pictures. Easily understandable for general public. I recommend checking this one out first.
CLONE WORLD A site on cloning with colorful pictures. Easily understandable.
THE GENE SCHOOL Another nice general genetics site for the non-geneticist. Has quizzes and games.
YOUR GENES, YOUR CHOICES: EXPLORING THE ISSUES RAISED BY GENETIC RESEARCH This site is also for the general public. Focuses more on the medical implications of genetics rather than general biology. Includes a useful glossary.
AMERICAN: CLONING FOR MEDICINE This article is written by the creator
of Dolly, the cloned sheep. A tad harder than the above sites, but still
easy enough for a non-science person to understand. No pictures.
THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY The official CIA website. Includes info on employment requirements and starting salaries. (I always was curious as to just how much those guys make. Not as much as I thought.)
THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION The official FBI site. Also contains employment info. This site contains an FBI for Kids site.
UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE The official Secret Service site for
those of you so obsessed with security that you want to BE Florian and
LAUREL LAKE GUPPY HATCHERY If all you got out of reading Cyteen was a yen for guppies, then you have something seriously wrong with your circuitry. But don't let me keep you from your dreams.