Regenesis by CJ Cherryh

February 9, 2009 at 4:26 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

I had given up hope that CJ Cherryh would ever write a Cyteen sequel, and after almost twenty years, who could blame me?  When I heard that she was writing one, I was cautiously excited.  It took a while to get published, but it has finally arrived.  My big fear was that two decades remove from the original would make it impossible for her to recapture the tone and the characters of the first book.  Almost immediately, I knew this fear was unfounded, and I enjoyed reading the book tremendously.

All that said, the book left me feeling disappointed and a little frustrated.

It’s completely unfair, I suppose.  I’ve liked a lot of Cherryh’s books, but Cyteen was my favorite by a considerable margin.  At some point I will have to write about why, but Cyteen deserves its own article.  It wasn’t very accessible and I can understand why some people didn’t like it, but for me and for many others it was a great book.  One of its famous shortcomings is its frustratingly abrupt ending, but I had so internalized the lack of ending over the years that it never occurred to me that in writing her sequel Cherryh would essentially write a really long last chapter for the original book.

But that’s what she’s done.  Regenesis fits Cyteen‘s tone and characters perfectly, at least as far as I can tell, and I reread Cyteen about six months ago.  It begins chronologically right from where Cyteen left off.  All well and good.  But it ends, again chronologically, a few months later.  Compare that to Cyteen’s narrative, which spanned about two decades.  As far as the book’s plot, there is the same blend of interpersonal drama and political intrigue that worked so well in Cyteen, but all of it is in service to tidying up loose ends from Cyteen.

Ultimately, I have to accept that Cherryh wasn’t interested in writing the book I really wanted to read.  She wrote Regenesis with a clear agenda: solve once and for all Cyteen‘s murder mystery and depict the reconciliation of Jordan Warwick with the young Ariane Emory.  This is done efficiently, and I suspect that taken as a single item Cyteen in conjunction with Regenesis is a much more complete and satisfying work.

Unfortunately, what I found most interesting about Cyteen is on hold.  The ethics of Union’s azi society are left without further examination (in fact the Abolitionist movement is reduced to a psychological response, something that is frankly a little distasteful) and the huge cracks that the original Emory saw forming in Union society, the flaws that necessitated the entire psychogenesis effort in the first place, are largely ignored.  They’re still there, and young Emory is worried, but the implication is they won’t be dealt with for decades.  Coincidentally, that’s how long we might have to wait for another sequel.

It may not be the book I wanted, but Regenesis is still a very good book that complements a great one.  Recommended to anyone who liked Cyteen.  Just reread Cyteen first if you haven’t read it recently.


Hammerfall by CJ Cherryh

April 30, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 2 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Hammerfall has decent character work, an interesting world, and the solid mechanics you expect out of a veteran author. Unfortunately, all this is in service of an extremely simple plot and a setting that bored me and I suspect will bore you. If you liked Cherryh’s Faded Sun books a lot, run to the bookstore to get this. If you thought Dune would have benefited from less intrigue and more tramping around in the desert, this may be your book.

As a side note, any SF author wanting to write a story about a messianic prince running around the desert had better spend a long time thinking about how to keep the reader from making the comparison, because stastically speaking it’s highly unlikely the book will stack up in most people’s minds. Dune is “only” a borderline great book, it’s not impossible to do better, but you’re competing not with Dune but with people’s memories of it.

But the real problem this book has it tells a pretty good story that is about 20 pages long. My paperback edition is over 400 pages long. The rest is filled either with the mechanics of safely traversing the desert or the main character’s visions and his angst regarding his situation. While none of this is bad, per se, and in fact I greatly respect Cherryh’s ability to come with various events and character situations to pad out the journey, the fact is it’s not in service to the story. When the main character sets out on one of his several desert journeys, the reader knows It Won’t Be Easy, But He’ll Get There. And so he does. There’s no feeling of danger, since while the bit players are in grave danger the main characters can be assumed to be too central to the story to be mowed down by the odd dust storm. If the last 10 pages of the 20 page plot were really great, mindblowing stuff, then maybe I’d say it was worth it. Unfortunately they are not.

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