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Cyteen was originally published in 1988 as 3 separate volumes that formed 1 complete novel. A newer Warner Books edition combines the three into one book.

"Succeeds brilliantly....At 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."

----------- Locus


A NOTE FROM CKTC:
Cyteen is One of my favorite books of all time. Do not get the wrong impression from my cartoony illustrations here. Cyteen is DEEP. It didn't win the Hugo Award for nothing!

IN A NUTSHELL A VERY LARGE NUTSHELL

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.
 

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