Bookshelf spotlight: Cyteen

I read Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh back in the 90s, when I borrowed it from my beautifully stocked local library. There is a lot I don’t remember about the story, but I do remember these key points: a leader is murdered, she is cloned (birthed as a baby) and her clone is raised in “exactly” the same way in an attempt to essentially recreate the same person. I loved the take on nature + nurture to build a personality, and the question of if it were possible to have the same person if genetically they are identical and experience all of the same experiences. Also, how “exact” is “exact”, do slight differences make a difference. I’m sure that there are other great themes in the book, but this is the one that stuck with me. Well, in addition to the politics and murder of course.

About eight years ago I bought my own copy and have been meaning to reread it ever since. Another one for the 2023 pile? I’m not sure how many books this was originally split into, but my library had it in a single bound volume and happily that’s also the version I was able to find.

This volume doesn’t really have a blurb on the back, more a collection of comments.

Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel, this is bestseller C.J. Cherryh’s masterpiece: a multilayered epic of interstellar cabals and dark human passions; genius, blackmail, and sacrifice; murder, resurrection, and the betrayal of innocence – and loyalty stronger than death.

The classic novel of C.J Cherryh’s Merchanter Universe: a profound exploration of genetics, environment, nurture, society – and the secrets of human intelligence.

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.

A psychological novel, a murder mystery, and an examination of power on a grand scale, encompassing light years and outsize lifetimes [that] only hint at the richness of Cyteen


I haven’t read a lot of Sci-Fi. There’s probably more on my shelves waiting to be read than I have read already. But this is one that I would highly recommend. Even now, at least 25 years after I first read it, and despite a memory that is light-years away from what it used to be, the story sticks with me. And it has yet to be knocked off its perch as my number one favourite Sci-Fi novel/series.

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