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Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh August 21, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words.

This is a nifty little audiobook that I got as a bootleg so I don’t even know who the reader is, but the inflections of the reader of this incredibly claustrophobic tale of slavery and psychology in the space-faring future are just right to bring the listener into this brutal little world.

Cyteen is a planet run largely by Reseune, a corporation with a monopoly on cloning and psychological conditioning of clones (and in fact everyone through educational “tapes”—funny how technology advances make the science fiction jargon laughable while the actual science marches on).  One of the founders sexually manipulates a minor and is (probably) murdered by the boy’s “father” (actually the boy is his clone).  Because the corporation is as powerful as it is, the boy and his companion are held prisoner for the next twenty years as hostages to the good behavior of the father, with frequent drug-assisted interrogations, constant surveillance and paranoia-induced security monitoring.  That’s pretty painful to listen to, and especially since it’s such a long book, but it’s only part of the story.

The murdered woman set in motion a clone of herself, raised to reproduce the conditions which made her original a genius and with rather better education and training.  The clone comes to resemble her original in genius and in capability, and begins to investigate her original’s murder, and the real reason for it.

This book really hurts to listen to, since the prisoner’s point of view is pretty well drawn and the clone girl’s pain is pretty poignant, too, although less intense.  Certainly, this is one of the most human dramas I have read recently in science fiction and I do like it, but it’s not frivolous or light fare by any means.  It is a Hugo Award winner and a Locus Award winner.

C. J. Cherryh is an interesting person in her own right; she taught Latin, Ancient Greek, the classics, and ancient history at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, is a board member of the National Space Society and the Foundation for Endangered Languages, and has an asteroid named after her.


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