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Cyteen

I've been re-reading my favorite book again. It's somewhat interesting that my favorite book is not by my favorite author. My favorite author is definitely Lois McMaster Bujold, who I recommend highly to anyone who likes either science fiction or fantasy. Or, for that matter, mystery or romance, if you can tolerate a certain level of SF background.

However, my favorite book is Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh. It's a single book, although the MMPB version I have was published in three volumes. I've read both my dad's set and mine halfway to shreds. This is a book I make sure to read at least once a year, and I get more out of it every time. I would love to see the discussions out of a thorough close reading of Cyteen, the kind of deep analysis the Bujold list does of her works. I'd love to see my friends' perspectives on it as well - but Cyteen is not for everyone, and I think it likely some of them would be either frustrated or disgusted by it.

It's hard to say what it's about. It is certainly complex political intrigue. It's deeply psychological in nature, on a number of levels. It's about friends, family, enemies, and lovers. It's about growing up, and especially about growing up intelligent and isolated. And it is about something a little different each time I read it, because my own perceptions at any given time are shaped by more factors than just the words on the page. And that's what it's about too.

I'm no Ariane Emory, but there is a lot of her in me. And, in fact, some of it is there on purpose. She's been one of my role models since I was young. Anyone who has actually read Cyteen may find that scary; I've seen Ari described as morally ambiguous, the most evil woman ever, and a cold inhuman bitch. I would agree that she's morally ambiguous, as it happens, but frankly I think most morality is pretty ambiguous. The world isn't black and white. As for the other two, all I can say is that in my opinion she is human, very human indeed. It is also true that Ari Junior avoids a lot of Ari Senior's worst flaws, and that it is Ari Junior and her potential that I find fascinating more than Ari Senior.

I've read a fair number of Cherryh's other books, and have more on my shelves waiting, but so far none of the others have captured my attention so thoroughly. The depth and complexity of Cyteen would be difficult to match. Part of me wishes she'd write a sequel - and she's been talking about it for years - but another part of me thinks that no matter what, it would be a disappointment.

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