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Serpent's Reach (Alliance-Union Universe)

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  1,121 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Alternate-cover edition can be found here

The constellation of Hydri, also called the Serpent, became an undesirable destination during the era of humanity's most prolific interstellar colonization. For Hydri was under strict quarantine because it harbored an intelligent and dangerous alien race, the insectoid majat. Yet human colonies predating the quarantine did exist in
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 7th 1989 by Mandarin (first published May 1st 1980)
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Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my comfort books. As usual, Cherryh avoids the anthropomorphic trap with her aliens.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my ultimate favorites, amongst all of her books.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ted Cooper
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.
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, en
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
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 assassinati
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sarah  Mitchell
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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?
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.
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.
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.
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, z2010
I really liked the main character in this book and it had some fantastic ideas!
Another I'm gonna hafta check out. Cover doesn't look familiar.
Nov 10, 2009 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
I enjoyed this older title of Cherryh's as much as her newer ones. great interspecies interaction! in all of her novels she is always creating interesting beings and cultures.
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.
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I liked this book set in a rich and complicated universe. I especially liked the way the majat are portrayed and how Raen interacts with them.
Johnny Mayall
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good, interesting story. As usual, aliens are done well. Although it ties in to the Alliance-Union universe, it also works well as a stand-alone novel.
B.  Barron
Cherryh is one of the greats, but IMOP this is one of her less than greats. Interesting idea, but it's kind of a convoluted mess.

But what do I know.
Feb 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 nicely varied.
Apr 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it first came out and really loved it. It held up well although I didn't like it as much when reading it 25 years later. Definately worth a read.
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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
More about C.J. Cherryh...

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)