Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Serpent's Reach” as Want to Read:
Serpent's Reach
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Serpent's Reach

(Alliance-Union Universe)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,241 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Within the Constellation of the Serpent, out of bounds to all spacefarers, humans live among the insect-like aliens--and one of them, a woman named Raen, is bent on a revenge that will tear apart the truce between human and alien. "Brisk pacing . . . and genuinely brilliant world-building".--ALA Booklist.
Paperback, 287 pages
Published October 1985 by DAW (first published May 1st 1980)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Serpent's Reach, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Serpent's Reach

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,241 ratings  ·  38 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Serpent's Reach
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I’ve loved virtually all Cherryh has written. The ending became a bit confusing for me. Of course it might have been because my puppy tore the last 20 pages and I was patching what was left together.... Either way her aliens, as usual, are truly alien- and sometimes the outposts of humankind, isolated for many years, are pretty alien too! The azi and their story continue to interest and sadden me.
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I read lots of sci-fi in my Lost Youth, but fell away from it once I went to university. I discovered Cherryh in grad school--- took "Serpent's Reach" home one random Friday night...and was enthralled. Here was sci-fi that was austere, cold, well-crafted, with characters that had depth and intelligence and plots that weren't (allowing for aliens and interstellar travel) just silly or trivial. Cherryh wrote about what happens to human societies interacting with the truly alien, about politics in ...more
May 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, aliens, 1980s
Serpent's Reach is an early CJ Cherryh novel. Published in 1980, it's one of the earlier stories in the Alliance Union universe. The Morgaine Cycle and The Hanan Rebellion were published previously, but The Company Wars and Chanur come afterward.

It does read like an early novel if you are familiar with Cherryh. There isn't the level of psychological exploration in the characters that is normally present, but there are the seeds of it. Lots of maneuvering by characters though.

This might be a fair
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read 1993, re-read 2017, 2018. One of the classic Cherryhs, written before she got the idea that a 300 page story needs 600+ pages to tell.
May 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This novel is set in the far future of the aftermath of the Company Wars. The Serpents Reach is a small section of space that is centered on one planet intially where a alien life form is found that is ant like in nature but possessing intelligence. Only one group of humans are allowed to interact with them and they form the Kontrin Company to interact and eventually trade with the aliens, called majat. The Kontrin become the de facto rulers of the Serpents Reach and the story is about 800 years ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my ultimate favorites, amongst all of her books.
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my comfort books. As usual, Cherryh avoids the anthropomorphic trap with her aliens.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredible concept of evolved insects w/a collective consciousness, and their approach to being colonized. As collective consciousnesses, the four hives are four ENTITIES, who had different responses to the protohumans that colonized them. (I say protohumans of the Kontrin b/c IMO the closest resemblance to us in that universe are their creation called the betas, who in turn made the azi. but that's just how I'M reading it) Quick read, and well worth the time.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
I love how insect hive-mind civilization interacts with humans. Author does great world building describing different social classes, gene manipulation etc.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First book I ever read of C.J. Cherryh. Loved her ever since!
Will Emmons
C. J. Cherryh is prolific and beloved, so a lot of the commentary about her books is about relating them to her other books--a hazard of writing dozens of novels in the same continuity. I haven't read any of her other books yet, so this review will be about Serpent's Reach mostly on its own terms. For me, a newcomer to Cherryh, this novel was compelling and self-contained. I liked this novel enough that when I finished it, I immediately downloaded another book by her.

People who enjoy prose for
Quarantined from the Union, a group of humans and generations of engineered decedents live alongside alien hive-minds. This is a mirror to Forty Thousand in Gehenna, both narratives about human society evolving alongside an alien culture, but where Gehenna takes a long and distant view of social change, Serpent's Reach is an intimate view of sudden, cumulative change. As an early deep-dive into azi conditioning and personhood, it's also a predecessor to themes in Cyteen. But So much of what's ...more
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cherryh, C. J. Serpent’s Reach. 1980. Daw, 1985. See Also Deep Beyond. 2005.
This novel is loosely connected to the Alliance/Union universe, further down the timeline than Forty Thousand in Gehenna. Human beings and Azi, conditioned to be servants and genetically manipulated to die in middle age, abandoned for years on a planet with a clannish semi-telepathic alien species, have been contacted again by Union traders, sparking civil war involving both species. The point of view concentrates on
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unexpectedly great book. Considering the author, I was expecting a good one, but not *this* good, especially since DOWNBELOW STATION garnered all the attention at the time.

My only nit is that you never do find out why the azi were on Alliance worlds. The book would’ve made more sense in that respect if the Reach was in Union space, but it’s not. Maybe another book of hers explicates it, but within the book’s own confines, it is super strange to experience how well integrated into the society
Ted Cooper
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Cool premise, I'd guess that Ann Leckie probably read this before writing the Ancillary novels. Sadly, the story kind of falls apart in the end.
Honza Prchal
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Highly trippy. If you like films like Inception, you'll love it. If not ... it'll seem like an odd trip into the 1970s.
Perry Whitford
The Hydri (or Serpent's) Reach are a cluster of stars virtually quarantined from the rest of the Alliance for the best part of seven hundred years. Human traders' first contact with the native Majat race, a giant ant-like hive species, had disastrous effects, before the Kontrin family established a colony based on the sharing of technologies.

The Kontrin enabled the Majat to travel in space from their home world Cerdin, whereas the Majat, as a hive-mind species with a collective consciousness,
Jerry M
My very first C. J. Cherryh novel. What a pleasant surprise when I happened to stumble upon this gem of a story. Not only was I treated to a rather good story of revolution and considerations of self awareness, but it also introduced me to her, quite extensive, Alliance-Union universe.

The cool thing about Cherryh's universe is that the stories both are insular and connective at the same time. Each can be read (for the most part) separately from the others, however, once you gain a more thorough
Apr 26, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
This is a mini-epic of the far future. Serpent's Reach, a section of space, has been isolated from human-colonized space for 700 years. The insect-like majat are native to this region. They have permitted an elite population of descendants of the original explorers to remain, and treated so that they are nearly immortal. There is also a controlled population of genetically modified humans. The majat trade with human worlds through a single planetary spaceport.

The book begins with the
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I love CJ Cherryh, and have never read anything of hers that I didn't like. This book is no exception. While I found myself confused at times over what exactly was happening (especially as the war began - although this could be partially beause I'm dreadful at imagining any type of battle scene), I found the premise of the book, and the Majat, utterly fascinating. I also love anything Cherryh writes with the azi in it - they make you wonder what exactly it means to be human in the first place. ...more
Rebecca Huston
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Another one that I have really enjoyed from CJ Cherryh. This time, a blend of human and very alien relationships, along with revenge, family reprisals, and some intense action sequences.

For the complete review, please go here:
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fab-14
This is a convoluted novel of miscommunication and political maneuvering where nothing is ever exactly spelled out – a fantastic read! It has a compelling fascinating plot; two species barely managing to coexist together, full of assumptions and misunderstandings, struggling to overcome deeply held inculcated beliefs.
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I destroyed this book by reading it. It was a yellowed paperback with a sticker on the front reading: FRANKLINS 55c. The cover came off, and then the mouldy spine fractured, page by page. But it was a FREAKIN' AMAZING READ. I would willingly murder another copy of this book in order to read it again.

Raen Meth-Maren may be my new favourite strong women character in all of science fiction.
Sarah  Mitchell
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A gritty vengeance novel. Raen is on a trip to seek out and kill those who have murdered the people she loved. Since her clan was massacred, Raen has grown disenchanted with her own 'superior' race and seeks to bond with lesser species in a quest for revenge. Has she sacrificed the last slivers of her humanity and empathy?
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It is about 20 years since I first read this and it has dated over the years but not too badly and I would still give it 5 stars and maybe read it again in another 20 years. This time I did notice the similarity in the dominant woman, passive man relationship with the Morgaine Chronicles.
Erik Graff
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cherryh fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
One of many novels in Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe, set somewhere in the middle of its history. Not having read the predecessing novels, I didn't get much out of it though it is stand-alone in the sense of not requiring prior knowledge.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
An enjoyable sci-fi revenge story with endearing characters. Raen has got to be my favourite human female character from Cherryh so far. And Jim is adorable.

The happy(ish) ending was much appreciated.
Jeffrey Doten
I think things have changed ( in books ) since 1980. The first 16 pages is a massive info dump followed a tedious step by step of 'no surprises at all' .

I'm going to reread Hammerfall now so I dive into its sequel.
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Although it is set in the Alliance/Merchanter universe, this is a completely self-contained stand-alone novel. I really like that Cherryh took the story arc through in one book.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Marooned in Realtime (Across Realtime, #2)
  • The Children of the Sky  (Zones of Thought, #3)
  • The Peace War (Across Realtime, #1)
  • Rainbows End
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 6
  • Interference (Semiosis Duology, #2)
  • Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy, #1)
  • City of the Chasch (Planet of Adventure, #1)
  • She-Hulk, Volume 2: Disorderly Conduct
  • She-Hulk, Volume 1: Law and Disorder
  • A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World
  • Permafrost
  • Ethan of Athos (Vorkosigan Saga, #3)
  • One Grave at a Time (Night Huntress, #6)
  • Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
  • A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)
  • The Wolf's Call (Raven's Blade #1)
See similar books…
Currently resident in Spokane, Washington, C.J. Cherryh has won four Hugos and is one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed authors in the science fiction and fantasy field. She is the author of more than forty novels. Her hobbies include travel, photography, reef culture, Mariners baseball, and, a late passion, figure skating: she intends to compete in the adult USFSA track. She began ...more

Other books in the series

Alliance-Union Universe (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Heavy Time (The Company Wars, #4)
  • Hellburner (The Company Wars, #5)
  • Downbelow Station (The Company Wars, #1)
  • Merchanter's Luck (The Company Wars, #2)
  • Rimrunners (The Company Wars, #3)
  • Tripoint (The Company Wars, #6)
  • Finity's End (The Company Wars, #7)
  • Cyteen (Cyteen, #1-3)
  • Forty Thousand in Gehenna (Unionside, #1)
  • Regenesis (Cyteen, #4)