Literature / Cyteen

Cyteen is a 1988 science fiction novel by C. J. Cherryh set in the Alliance/Union universe. Cyteen is the capital of Union, a interstellar society based on human cloning, genetic engineering and technologies in psychology that verge onto mind control. Engineered humans called 'azi' (an acronym of 'artificial zygote insemination') are enslaved and certain geniuses who are certified as "Specials" are essentially above law. The novel chronicles the life of Ariane (Ari) Emory II and Justin Warrick, both clones (PR) of Specials, and Grant, an azi based on the genome of another Special and the companion and later lover of Justin. A winner of both Hugo and Lucas awards. Has a sequel Regenesis.


This book provides examples of:

  • Big Brother Is Watching: Although the Union in general is a somewhat liberal society (if you can overlook slavery and several other issues), many seem to think so in Reseune.
  • Child Soldier: Catlin and Florian, as well as all other azi kids that will join Security.
  • Cloning Blues: Being a PR or azi could lead to angst sometimes, but in general different characters have different attitudes towards this issue. The social and psychological effect of human cloning is one of the major themes of this story.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Justin and Ari II, in different ways.
  • Consummate Liar: Almost every citizen character is one, often coincides with Living Lie Detector, hence they spend quite a lot of time trying to outsmart each other.
  • Divided for Publication: Cyteen was published in mass-market paperback form as three novels, although it was released in hardback and trade paperback form as a single work.
  • Dystopia: Generally averted, though YMMV. Some aspects of the Union society may seem horrible to today's moral standards, yet some issues might be justified by the Company War that happened a few decades earlier, and many people are working for social reforms.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The jump drive.
  • Fictional Political Party: The Centralists and Expansionists.
  • Flashback Echo: Justin suffers from this after his rape by Ari I. He gets better.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Ari I mentions an "Eastern Bloc" once in one of her speeches.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Played straight in most azi for they are conditioned from birth and generally treated well on the surface. Inverted by Grant.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: It is mentioned in passing that rejuvenation drugs have a side effect of making the user sterile.
  • Mr. Exposition: The first Ariane Emory acts as Ms. Exposition for the second, via pre-prepared programs on Base One left for her successor. In Regenesis, the second Ariane Emory begins leaving records for her successor in a similar manner.
  • Older Than They Look: With the help of Rejuv, people can live past 130 and still appear forty, and consequently keep control of family businesses and live to see their great-grandchildren grow up. The only Union citizens who really look old (apart from possible hair color changes) are those in rejuv failure.
  • Parental Favoritism: In Regenesis, part of the backstory of Giraud and Denys Nye is that their mother wanted to raise a genius, and pressured Giraud, the eldest, to perform as a child; although he was bright, he wasn't up to that level, and was The Unfavorite. Denys, on the other hand, was a genius and was coddled. Denys grew up introverted and antisocial, depending utterly on Giraud to handle interaction with other people.
  • Parental Neglect: Ari I's mother, Jane is chosen to act as Ari II's guardian because she raised her biological daughter in a similar manner.
  • Rape as Drama: Most of the plot hinges on Ari I drugging and raping the young Justin early in the story, giving him deep-going trauma in the process.
  • Sexual Extortion: The thing Ari I does to 17-year old Justin. Later it is revealed that her main goal probably is freeing Justin from his father's control.
  • The Talk: Happens when Ari II is twelve. Given through Ari I's recorded message. A few months later she decides to try it with Florian.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Ari II wants to do this with Justin, the latter freaks out (due to his former experiences with Ari I) and refuses.
  • Teen Genius: The majority of the cast is one or has been one.
  • Truly Single Parent: All clones are like this.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Abolitionist terrorists.
  • Xenofiction: Large segments of Cyteen are from the POV of the rather alien "azi", humans whose psychology is artificially constructed.
  • Young Entrepreneur: Ari and Amy's guppy business.


Alternative Title(s): Regenesis

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