5.5 stars This is one of the most brilliantly written books I have ever read and I believe it is a work of special genius no pun intended based on the subject matter of the book This is not an EASY book to read and is not what I would describe as TONS of FUN It is a complex, richly detailed, psychological science fiction mystery peopled by characters of vast intellect and extreme cunning This makes the story one in which the reader must pay close attention However, the pay off for such attention is well worth it This is a very important book In sum this book is BRILLIANT, VERY ORIGINAL AND A SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION Winner Hugo Award for Best NovelWinner Locus Award Best NovelNominee British Science Ficion AwardNumber 30 on Locus list of All Time Best SF Novels. This is a hard ish SF space opera if there is such a thing, which won Hugo 1989 Award.The readers should be warmed this is a doorstopper, longer than even many fantasy novel, which says something It is a part of universe created by the author, which now has 27 novels plus smaller works While it can be read as a stand alone as I did , I guess the experience is enhanced if the whole series are read.The story starts with some political intrigue in some Council far away I think a poor choice for a new reader doesn t care one way or another about what is happening, for they have no real attachment yet One just finds out that there are dog fights under the carpet between scientists, who have their extra territorial university research center in Reseune on planet Cyteen and military and civil authorities about the best way for future explosive exploration of new systems vs consolidating at presently occupied territory While the book is named after the planet, we have but glimpses of it two alien biospheres on two continents and humans try to establish local Earth biosphere as well, because the local ones are deadly.Reseune is the source of azi artificial zygote insemination vat born and tape taught tape here is a kind of tuned memory experience info, akin to Neo learning martial arts in Matrix humans, who are not citizens They are mass produced to supply populations necessary for human expansion or wars Unlike majority of SF, which world made azi slaves or second rate citizens, they are closer to pets, eager to serve.One of the chief forces behind development of azi is Ariane Emory She is a Special, A certified genius A national treasure, by law , one of a few A slight spoiler ahead just to shift to the main theme of the novel she is murdered and another Special is accused Her clone is born and her environment is set to emulate the original one The rest of the book is dedicated to Ari II growing up, where everyone wander is it truly possible to clone a person, not only a physical body There is a lot of intrigues and almost everyone is a spider with a web.Overall the story has a lot of interesting messages and ideas about how our minds work, what are the consequences of separating societies, how we know who we are, etc At the same time it is a little too long and thus not very focused So 4.5 start for ideas but only 2 star execution Maybe the later rating will be higher when if I read other books set in the same universe. Cyteen Exhausting study of clones, identity, and powerOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureAfter enjoying C.J Cherryh s 1982 Hugo Award winner Downbelow Station, it was a natural thing to move on to her 1989 Hugo winner Cyteen I know that Cyteen is a very different creature, of course It is a hefty 680 pages long, and extremely light on action In fact, if you removed the extensive dialogue and exposition, I think the story would be about 100 pages long That means the story had better be pretty compelling or it could be quite an ordeal to get through Unfortunately, at 36 hours, I found Cyteen to be of a chore than a pleasure There s no question of the seriousness and rigor of its exploration of power politics, the ethics of cloning, genetic engineering, and social conditioning, and a very drawn out and inconclusive murder mystery But it s waaaaaay too long, utterly humorless, and the characters are quite unlikeable If it weren t a Hugo winner, I don t think I could have gotten through it If you are a very patient reader and fan of Cherryh s larger Alliance Union universe, this is definitely a key part of a grander, detailed future history But as a stand alone book, it was not an entertaining experience.The story centers Ariane Emory, a brilliant scientist and politician who runs the Reseune cloning research facility in Cyteen, the home planet of the Union that split from the Earth alliance the story detailed in Downbelow Station Ariane is embroiled in the political struggle between the Expansionist and Centrist factions, and is also instrumental in researching and refining the genetic engineering and conditioning techniques used to to create the azi army of mentally conditioned soldiers for the Union army They are human and self conscious, but their conditioning is so powerful that their free will is quite limited Azi are considered anathema in the Alliance, yet another reason for their conflict.The book throws the reader directly into the thick of the political scheming, introducing character after character, and the first 100 pages or so is a major struggle to follow The story doesn t get going until a dreadful incident involving Ariane, a rival scientist named Jordan Warrick, his cloned son Justin Warrick, and his azi companion Grant This soon leads to the death of Ariane and the decision to clone Ariane as her loss will disrupt the balance of power in Union Sounds like a promising start to an exciting story of political intrigue, with a murder to solve amid a complex and constantly changing galactic milieu.Instead, the story slows to a painful crawl for the next several hundred pages, as we see Ari II growing up under the careful control of Denis and Giraud Nye This could have been quite an interesting story at a fraction of the level of detail Questions of free will, ethics, and nature vs nurture are discussed in great depth, but the story hardly anything happens for chapter after chapter I ve never read so much for so little gain At times it feels like a far future textbook on cloning techniques This is in major contrast to Downbelow Station, which was also dense and complex, but that book had a breakneck pace that pulled the reader forward It had terse dialogue and a constantly shifting perspective among dozens of characters In Cyteen, we have a large caste of characters, but all they do is talk, discuss, argue, and plot with little kinetic action or change of scenery Even when the perspective shifts to the 16 year old Ariane II, which promises to make things interesting, very little of importance happens There is a potentially tense story buried deep down, but it is hurt by the interminable pacing The final 100 pages pick up the pace slightly, but only to end so inconclusively it s a massive let down After all that work Speaking of which, narrator Gabra Zackman does a valiant effort narrating this door stopper, but I can only imagine she also must have been pretty exhausted by the end of it.Here s an excerpt about the conditioning process that will give you a taste hungry for Once an Alpha stops re analyzing his input and starts outputting only, he s gone completely eetee Which is why, Justin says, Alpha azi can t be tape trained past a certain point, because they don t learn to analyze and question the flux level input they get later, and when they socialize too late, they go and internal because things actually seem too fast and too random for them, exactly the opposite of the problem the socialized Alphas have too fast, though, only because they re processing like crazy trying to make out of the input than s really there, because they don t understand there is no system, at least there s no micro system, and they keep trying to make one out of the flux they don t understand. This is a massive volume that is both fascinating and oddly opaque It s a murder mystery in which the mystery is never solved It s a consideration of the ethics of manufactured humans, without going into as much depth as it could It s a conspiracy that is partially but not entirely explained And it centres around a rape, which ripples through the rest of the book, and I m not entirely convinced that it s handled well, in the end.Note The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook A Brilliant Young Scientist Rises To Power On Cyteen, Haunted By The Knowledge That Her Predecessor And Genetic Duplicate Died At The Hands Of One Of Her Trusted Advisors Murder, Politics, And Genetic Manipulation Provide The Framework For The Latest Union Alliance Novel By The Author Of Downbelow Station Cherryh S Talent For Intense, Literate Storytelling Maintains Interest Throughout This Long, Complex Novel Some people have complained about Cyteen being too long The reason is because Cyteen was originally written as a three book series Most people would do better to get the original three paperbacks and read them instead but be warned C.J Cherryh is not a writer for people who like short books She writes for people who want a long, in depth read and who aren t afraid of being plunged into a world full of new and often confusing terms, ideas, and vocabulary.Books such as this are usually written with a man cast in the lead role Here we find a woman in that role That fact alone makes Cyteen unique since I don t know of any other science fiction or fantasy book that is written about a female dictator s murder, clonal rebirth, and by her clone s own rise to power.One of the most frustratingly intriguing elements of this books is the swirl of dangerous political undercurrents that surround both new and old Ari Will she survive long enough to reach adulthood Will she survive to adulthood with Resune still in her possession Resune was the source of both her wealth and her political power Another intriguing element of these books are the subtle attempts by the adults around Ari to manipulate her into becoming not quite the cast iron b her predecessor was This tug of war between the nature vs nurture schools of thought ultimately works in Ari s favor since it takes the place of the original Ari s much harsher upbringing Personally, I really do hope she goes on to write several other books about Ari and her rise to power I like this book even better than I do her Chanur novels. This was a difficult one I m in two minds about the book.On one hand the detailed political, social and physiological structure of the world is nothing but awesome This society feels absolutely real The political intrigues are believable and intricate The psychological manipulations, the helplessness of some of the characters in terms of heteronomy is palpable up to the point where I physically felt nauseated and in actual pain for one of the protagonists Such a carnal reaction is rather rare for me while reading.On the other hand the pacing is slow, the book is very talkative The story unfolds in the heads of the protagonists, not in form of action I listened to it on audio solid narration by Gabra Zackman , and I caught myself ever so often squinting at the time display to see when it would be over.Those readers who like their books to be action plotdriven should probably skip this one. I realised this was a long book when the hefty tome arrived in the post and I viewed the small font but I didn t think it would take me this long to finish.I don t tend to like long books I am instantly sceptical and always question whether they genuinely needs to be I notice that this volume was once published in three parts against the will of the author and I have to agree that it doesn t really make sense to break up the story in that way What it really needed was some good editing, some streamlining to tell the story that could have been told in a far condensed way.I oscillated between mild boredom and rapt interest throughout the book It took a while to get going in the first place and then ended at a seemingly arbitrary point and on an inconclusive note but in was, at times, a deeply engaging narrative Themes of power, politics, cloning and identity were examined Character wise only Ari Emory was of any interest, the rest seeming somewhat thin and unconvincing, In particular Grant and Justin Warrick felt poorly conceived they just seemed like female characters to me even though they were supposed to be male.It s been a while since I ve read a book by this author and, to be honest, after this mammoth undertaking it will probably be a while again before I pick up another It was good but just didn t quite justify the effort and time involved unfortunately. Outstanding The precursor to Regenesis one of the best books I ve read , successor to Downbelow Station which I am looking forward to to tracing the development of this Union Alliance series back to the origin.It is the most intensely detailed sf I ve read, and rivals Asimov s Foundation series and Herbert s Dune series for the verisimilitude of their sociological foundations that make all great science fiction books GREAT.It is a psychological thriller and an sf political novel very rare Herbert s CHOAM and Asimov s Empire are rivaled here as political meta civilisations something Banks has never attained directly like these, although implicitly it is all there.Further perhaps most of all I love the character and being inside of the young Ari all the way through You not only like her, you adore her, admire her, smile at her throughout A perfect character A bit girly sometimes a hint of Elizabeth Moon , for she s a girl for much of the story But she s smart, redefines precocious , one of a list of uber geniuses Einstein, Bok Emory.Despite the obvious technological anachronisms taking tape , this is sf of the first order Premised on the widescale evolution of cloning, it is fundamentally about power in the new galactic quadrant Both Emorys are constantly under threat, from without and within Who they trust is a very limited cadre, and even those have to be suspect it is only her bodyguard companion clones Catlin and Florian, beautifully drawn who can really be trusted Similarly for Justin and his Grant Indeed, one major story strand is ostensibly thematically about the vicissitudes of their suffering, but the book is saved by the development of the young Ari for although Justin may be smart, special and necessary to the new Ari, he is also an exceptionally irritating personality throughout the novel dammit And although Cherryh subtly alters your opinion of him as the story reaches its climax, he reminds you of having to suffer distasteful work colleagues Yet it is this tension that pervades the book, so than the political machinations and threats from outside, or the perverse intimate enemy tensions from within, from Giraud and Denys There is a distinctly vinegary flavour to this particular enforced symbiosis with Justin, and tolerance of his acid father Jordan, yet it is also these two who we follow through the sequel Regensis, tainting everything It is also one of the triumphs of these books that Cherryh can lean so heavily on such unpalatable irritating principal characters and yet keep you absorbed in the story and their fates Because, above everything and these books are rich in detail and character and in place it is the person of the young Ari that fascinates and secures your affection Living within her head, her thoughts, her feelings, her unique place, panders to your own need for being special but above all makes you feel safe If there is any presiding feeling while reading Cyteen or Regensis beyond total absorption, every reader s need of a novel it is that wonderful cosy feeling whilst doing so of feeling completely safe.