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Publisher's Summary

The saga of two young friends trapped in an endless nightmare of suspicion and surveillance, of cyber-programmed servants and a ruling class with century-long lives - and the enigmatic woman who dominates them all. Narrators Jonathan Davis and Gabra Zackman skillfully split up this sweeping sci-fi epic that is "at once a psychological novel, a murder mystery, and an examination of power on a grand scale." (Locus)

©1988 C.J. Cherryh (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1989

“Strongly recommended…. A future as detailed as that of Herbert’s Dune, with dozens of complex characters…. all the paranoid tension of a spy thriller.” (Newsday)
“A massive, multifaceted novel that tackles a variety of ethical, social, and political issues…. Cherryh’s worldbuilding is ambitious and her main characterizations are well-individualized…. Ultimately fascinating in concept and detail. Decidedly a major work.” (Booklist)

What listeners say about Cyteen

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

This is a Heavy Book (lovely too)

Every now and again you read a story at the right time in your life. Stuff was going on around me, and this story gave me perspective. It's wonderful when SciFi can help and inspire in the non-fiction world.

I am avoiding talking about the plot or the characters, because I don't want to give anything away.

The world building that takes place in this novel is astounding. It fully fleshes out a universe where sustainable economic systems work... sometimes you run into stories where planets only have one theme or purposes, like in Star Trek TNG - Risa the pleasure planet full of vacation resorts. This book actually makes sense.

I wouldn't have thought a story full of psychologists would be worth while, but Cherryh does an outstanding job.

This novel is definitely worth finishing.

37 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Still intriguing after all these years

I first read Cyteen 25 years ago; nothing dates faster than imaginings of future technology (talk of fiche and faxes for example), but the core ideas behind Cyteen remain intriguing. The slower first part begins with an ageing Ariane Emory in charge of a sprawling business and scientific empire, the main product of which is gene-manipulated humans, the azi. From the moment azi are born from artificial wombs, they are trained and conditioned by carefully designed drug assisted ''tape' learning to be perfect workers, soldiers, or whatever. There's probably a bit much overview info on the political and scientific history and situation (the sort of stuff easily skim-read in a written novel), but there's also a murder mystery, a sinister security system, political terrorists and plenty of intrigue - all picking up pace as the story goes along.

The reading is excellent.

21 people found this helpful

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Sci-Fi at its best!

I'm generally not a reader of sci-fi, but murder and intrigue set 3 thousand years in the future caught my attention. The detail of the story is extraordinary. What a marvelous imagination this author has! I want to hear more, but this is the only one of Ms. Cherryh's books currently available.

15 people found this helpful

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Large implications, small cast

When Ariane Emory (the first), head of Reseune genetic facilities, is murdered by Jordon Warrick, the next generation at Reseune has their shackles weakened just enough that they might be able to make a difference. Ariane Emory (the second), a replicate of Ariane Emory (the first), grows up in a tightly controlled environment with the hope that she will be just like her predecessor, but things don't work exactly as they hoped, she's starting where Ariane 1 left off, with the skill, instincts, and knowledge, but with the determination to improve upon the legacy of Ariane 1. In particular Ariane 2 wants to make sure that Justin Warrick, Jordon's son and Ariane 1's victim, has the opportunity to achieve his potential and realize his dreams...under her benevolent leadership, of course. When politics don't stop and wait for Ariane 2 to grow up, she must walk a fine line between controlling and being controlled.

In some ways Cyteen is the story of the murder of Ariane Emory, as the cover promises, but it is also much more than that. It is more the story of the ripples in the lives of a handful of people as her death creates a large empty space in the world. It's a story about power: The power that elder's have over youngers; that leaders have over successors; that mentally flexible people have over mentally rigid people; the power that love both gives and takes away.

If all of that sounds like it is complicated and wide-ranging, you'd be correct. It isn't that this couldn't be boiled down to a Hollywood movie plot, it's more that Cherryh builds a level of intrigue and detail that would be ill-served when boiled down.

I highly recommend this book for those that enjoy the complications of space operas, but wish they had a smaller cast.

14 people found this helpful

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Better in Context

I read this story many years ago shortly after reading Downbelow Station and a few of the other, related novels in the Alliance Space universe. The world depicted in Cyteen made a nice contrast with the other societies created by Cherryh. But listening to it by itself, I found the story excrutiatingly slow with very little plot. If you are an Asimov fan, this book will put you to sleep. If you prefer Heinlein, you might like the introspective nature of the book. I recently purchased the sequel to this book (Regenesis), and I doubt I will give it a try. Of the related novels, I most enjoyed Merchanter's Luck.

10 people found this helpful

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Eternal life wasted.

I didn't like this book. The analysis of an event takes 2 to 4 times the time of the event itself, the characters are all second guessing the words and actions of other people. When they have finished analyzing and second guessing, they talk some more about it.
This snake pit unsurprisingly produces characters that feel insecure or have other personality problems, which are discussed in length, of course.

It's kind of unfair: the characters have almost eternal life, so they can afford to waste their time this way.

The narration was excellent, but then this book had to be read.

9 people found this helpful

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Great Author, Solid Science Fiction

Where does Cyteen rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Cyteen won multiple award when it came out because it explored the future of a humanity that could shape itself and how the limits of the universe, time, and distance would change humanity. It is a great and DEEP novel.

Having said this, I don't consider it her best work. The book lumbers through detail and the first third of the book has not real main character, until the woman who dies at the beginning starts to grow up. To me Cyteen is not as tightly written as Cherryh's later work. But Cyteen does a good job of exploring the effects of genetics, environmental control, and human evolutional limitations.

This book is not among my top 10 audio books, though it was an thought provoking book. I am glad I listened to it.

I love C. J. Cherryh books. I wish they had started with any of her other series like the Chanur and Foreigner series. I love her exploration of human/alien relations.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Cyteen?

When you realize the Hindu religion may have been truly started with control of human genetics and rebuild of a life.

What about Gabra Zackman and Jonathan Davis ’s performance did you like?

I liked the use of the male voice in a dry archivist manner. Those passages were a more academic exposure to the books underlying theme. However, the author and original editors should have shortened and tightened these passages. BUT Jonathan's voice acting went well with the material.

Gabra did better with the women's voices. The main male character sounded too whiney in the voice she gave him. It portrayed him more as a childish whiner than as a troubled "special". But I liked her voice very much and would love to here it in other strong female lead sci fi. I loved her portrayal of the main female older self.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. It was too slow in the first third and too long at 36 hours.

Any additional comments?

If you are not one to explore deep subjects, then avoid this book. If you want to hear thoughts on a very deep subject we are just starting into, this is a good listen, not a great one, but solid.

9 people found this helpful

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Great read

Very much enjoyed. I am not used to stories of this length and thought it would be hard to follow, it was the complete opposite I could not stop. Left me wanting more.

9 people found this helpful

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Classic Cherryh

Would you listen to Cyteen again? Why?

Yes, I will as new ones are brought to audio books. I've listened to most that are already available in audio format. There are several classics that I would love to see recorded. Can't remember titles after a number of years but she had written a series many years ago about a female warrior and her companion. Great series.

What did you like best about this story?

The many things that I like about all of Cherryh's writings. A believable futuristic society; well-developed, sympathetic characters and interesting aliens.

What about Gabra Zackman and Jonathan Davis ’s performance did you like?

If a narrator is good you are caught up in the story and not derailed by the narrator's voice or speech characteristics. Both of these narrators had me listening to the tale without thinking about their voices.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Cyteen is an excellent title for a movie as well as the book.

8 people found this helpful

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Immensely unappealing characters

What would have made Cyteen better?

Characters less neurotic or meglomaniacal

Would you ever listen to anything by C. J. Cherryh again?

No

Which character – as performed by Gabra Zackman and Jonathan Davis – was your favorite?

None

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

disappointed that I listened to the entire thing and found the ending as unappealing as the characters

Any additional comments?

I'm a psychologist, and the unrelenting focus on the interior catastrophizing was tiring, to say the least. Even my most neurotic patients are less anxious than these walking basket cases. The attempt to imply genius through tracking of endless mulling of possibilities struck me as more like a person's thought process on marijuana than that of geniuses plotting deep strategy. The only way in which this book moved me was to write a review, which I almost never do,

8 people found this helpful

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  • Neil
  • 05-08-13

truly awful

Please don't download it is the worst book I've downloaded. There is little story and... well I managed about 3 hours before closing it

4 people found this helpful

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  • chriscom
  • 07-10-13

Soporific boring start

Although well read, this book sent me to sleep within fifteen minutes or so, I tried several times to listen to it.
The start of the book was so boring! I like at least a little interesting action at the beginning of a book to keep my interest.
I realise a foundation must be set out to give the story structure, but if it make you sleepy then it's not for me. I guess some would love the political type boring banter it starts with.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Pongo Narrates
  • 04-22-20

Good listen, but not for everyone

Rapid review
Slow paced, but interesting and entertaining for people who really enjoy concept driven sci-fi. The characters are tricky to relate too at times and the plot is very subtle. This isn’t a book for a casual listener.

Rambling Review
Ok. Well this book was tough. I shall start by saying I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone.
I could describe the plot in short but I don’t think that you listen to this book for the story. The reason you listen to this book is the world/ concept building. Essentially the story is about trying to build exact copies of people through a combination of cloning and something called tape learning (a method of recording and transferring skills and memories from one person to anyone who uses the tape. Cherryh uses this concept to craft an interesting world with some intense class divides and thought provoking concepts. The closest book for comparison I think is A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Some the concepts and class divisions are very similar. The world building is fantastic. It feels very real and well thought through. If you do listen to it I would recommend doing it as a buddy read so you can talk about it afterwards, because there is a lot to talk about. Or at the very least have an appreciating ear to rant at.
If you like the sound of that, then this could be a good purchase for you. However, there are some things that many people will find difficult.

The plot. If you read a summary of the book you will get told this book is about political intrigue, a high profile murder and a controlling aristocracy; which it is. However, the plot is so subtle and understated (except in a few sections) it is very difficult to get invested in the actual story. To boot the pacing is frankly awful. This might be as a result of the 3 books in 1 thing, but I think that to be a poor excuse. It starts by throwing you right into a rich world in the middle of some political machinations with no warning. Then moves into a psychological murder, before settling into a deep character development arc. Where it stays for a while. And then finally rushes into a concluding plot resolution that felt unfinished.

The Characters. There are 2 main characters through the book. Both highly intelligent and without giving too much away, one very insecure and the other confident and controlling. Neither are particularly relatable and I didn’t think either developed a huge amount especially considering the time periods the book spans. You get invested in them partly just from time spent with them, but also because there are some interesting developments and interactions with the main protagonist.

Conclusion. This is an interesting book that I personally enjoyed after getting over the slow start. If you enjoy a concept driven Sci-fi with a really well imagined world this is a good choice. If you want a suspenseful politically focused thriller try something different.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sam
  • 06-30-13

Value for money

I wouldn't class this as a murder mystery at all and it never really gets to where you want it to go. Some of the more fascinating aspects are never explored while others get way too much attention.

However, as a concept it's great, tells a good story and the character development is fantastic. Overall very good value for money

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marcus
  • 04-08-22

Beautifully presented .. well done narrators!

Loved this book; Cherryh at her imaginative best!! I will say I find the end very sudden and short - and someone tell me I'm wrong ... but the follow up it suggests never happened??? Sad face!!