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Forty Thousand in Gehenna (Alliance-Union Universe)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,684 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
"Set in the same future as the Hugo-winning Downbelow Station, but fully self-contained, this is a story on the classic theme of human understanding of the alien. . . . Once again, Cherryh proves herself a consistently thoughtful and entertaining writer".--Publishers Weekly.
Mass Market Paperback, 445 pages
Published September 4th 1984 by DAW (first published 1983)
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Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will attempt to convey exactly how I feel using this review (but will fail miserably)...

Forty Thousand in Gehenna is an absolutely fantastic work of science fiction. In every sense of the word.

I am completely in awe with what Cherryh has done with this story. I won't go into detail, because I simply won't do it justice. Just read this book. However, I would say, if you've never read Cherryh before, start elsewhere. Cherryh is an amazing writer, but she makes the reader "work." If you're not us
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel, set in the Alliance-Union universe, may be science-fiction, but it's really about what happens when language fails. Since it's a written text, there's a certain level of narrative distance from the events, as it moves across several generations of "settlers" and their descendants on a planet where everything is exactly as it is, and nothing is what it seems, unless you know how to, as St. Augustine put it in his "On Christian Doctrine," read rightly. And none of the protagonists know ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: daw
I should have figured out more of the tone from the title. You don't name a vacation palace Gehenna. And this book confirmed me in the idea that "officer" is an insult.

Also, never EVER kill a lizard on an alien planet. Just don't do it.
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where to start. Well the fact that I flew through this book today even with working a 14 hour day ought to tell you something.

There is in this book a strange sense of naivete and mystery and hope and human pig headed-ness throughout the book.

There are parts that don't work. The early on census reports don't work and I was glad when they were replaced part way through by genealogy charts.

Did I say genealogy? Yup, this book covers some 200 years in medieval health conditions. So the book is writt
The Union settlers that come to Gehenna as part of a political expansion find themselves abandoned there in the company of the native giant lizards who may have more sapience than it first seemed. This novel chronicles the fall and creation of civilizations, and as such has a strange structure. The first two thirds is an overview of broad swaths of time, seen in glimpses from various denizens; the staccato pacing helps balance the distant narrative. Only the final third introduces characters to ...more
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, xcharity-2012
Wow, this lady can write! The problem is what to classify this as? Psychological feudal scifi? All her books have intricate, well-developed and totally strange culture clash. This is no different. A colony is established on a planet, thought to be devoid of intelligent life. A few hundred humans and 40K+ clones start the colony which quickly reverts to agrarian status when promised support doesn't show due to the war. From there the story leaps years at a time out to 300 years from first landing ...more
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to Bill by: CJ Cherryh
Shelves: science-fiction
Cyteen and Downbelow Station are two of my favorite Sci-Fi novels. 40,000 in Gehenna occurs just after Cyteen in the Cherryh Universe timeline (see The Universes Of C.J. Cherryh. I suggest reading Cyteen before 40,000. I think the latter would be a bit confusing otherwise.

This book is pure Cherryh. If you want to know what that means, and it means a lot, start reading her works. She will be an SWFA Grandmaster IMnsHO.

9 of 10 stars
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The was originally published in 1983, making it one of Cherryh's earlier works, and it is easy to see the development of many themes that Cherryh later mines for gold in the "Foreigner" series: the epic sweep of nations and politics, human/alien cultural divides, and individual endurance (in fact, it is easy to compare 40,000 to Foreigner, as the last half of the book centers around the observations and experiences of a "starman diplomat" to the native Gehennans). This is a book to savor, not ju ...more
Pros: Really neat treatment of how humans, abandoned on an alien world, can "go native" and form a symbiosis with the existing lifeforms (giant lizards). Cool invention of a very fascinating melded culture. Intriguing characters, especially towards the end of the book.

Cons: Tries to do too much. Cherryh could have done better by starting nearer the end of the book, instead of trying to show the whole thing from the beginning and forcing the reader to span multiple generations of characters, and
Jan 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Cherryh binge!

I first read this without context of what it meant in terms of other books in the Alliance-Union Universe, and it was still fascinating. Someone once told me that Cherryh does alien mindsets, and she really does pull you into the discombobulation of a perfectly consistent other.

The story of a population, really, and its relationship with the world, told through key characters in various generations.
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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
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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)
  • Regenesis (Cyteen, #4)
  • Kesrith (The Faded Sun, #1)
“The world was full of life, more life than they could hold back with guns or fences; it came into the town at night; it seduced the children and year by year crept closer.” 2 likes
“My name’s Elai, Ellai’s daughter, line of the first Cloud, the first Elly; of Pia, line of the first Jin when they made the world. And you’re on my land.” 2 likes
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