Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh ★ 1/2
I cannot recommend this book. So many other people seem to like it that it’s obviously a taste issue (hence, it gets one and a half stars). The plot is hard to describe. It centers around intrigue of a genetics corporation that creates people referred to as azi. It’s hard to describe, largely because I’m still not sure exactly what the plot was. The cover blurb says pretty much nothing:
“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.”
Since the plot’s so vague, I’ll just give you a list of why I didn’t like this book:
1) It’s 680 pages, but the dimensions of the book are large and the text is small. It’s a very, very long book. This in and of itself is not a bad thing – I’ve enjoyed long books before, but this was most certainly not the case. Somewhere around page 620 I almost gave up, but by then I was so close to the end that I pushed myself through.
I wished I hadn’t. It continues with it’s long, meandering discussions about I still don’t know what. Events finally happen in the last twenty pages, but it’s jarring and inconclusive. None of the central questions are answered and the plot is not resolved, but there’s no way that I’m picking up the next book.
2) The scientific mumbo-jumbo. It’ll have long paragraphs where it just goes into the intricacies of its made up science, the terms of which are thrown around liberally. Take ‘flux’ for instance. Throughout the book, characters are referred to as ‘fluxing.’ What the heck is fluxing?
3) The characters. Yes, they’re well written, I’ll admit. They’re just not likable. And they don’t do anything. Let’s start with Ari, shall we? She’s the head of this powerful genetics company and her coalition rules the government. She also drugs and rapes a seventeen year old boy with the help of her creepy friends/slaves and films the entire thing. That pretty much destroys any chance she has of being likable. But – plot twist. She dies and they create a clone of her. Ahh, I think, this will be a story about the clone growing up to be a better person. Nope, when the book ends she’s shaping up to be the first Ari.
The other notable viewpoint character is Justin, the boy who is victimized by Ari. He’s probably the most likable character. He’s also the only character who actually attempts to do something (besides the unknown character who killed first Ari. Seriously, we never find out who did it). However, that was before he was abused by Ari. Then he’s traumatized and passive for the rest of the book.
Besides those two, there’s a whole host of characters who are only so much names and have virtually no significance, yet keep getting brought back up over and over again.
4) Infodumping. The entire first section of the book is one gigantic infodump. The rest of the book is a series of long conversations and self reflections that serve as yet more infodumps.
5) Treatment of Azi. The azi are people created out of genetics and artificial wombs and raised on mind control programs. They are shown to be legitimately human with their own personalities and emotions, yet they are practically slaves. And this is never commented upon or viewed as a problem. And new Ari’s doing exactly what you think she would with her handsome male azi (when they’re both twelve).
Unless you like length, meandering faux-philosophy, no action, or dis likable or passive characters do not pick up Cyteen.