Shaheen's Reviews > Cyteen

Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh
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Nov 17, 2011

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The scope of this novel is huge: an in depth study of power, examination of the difference in the psychology of a ‘natural-born’ person and that of a manufactured mind, the story of a ruthless genius, her death and subsequent cloning, and the experiences of the clone herself, who is intended to replace the greatest mind in history and succeeds more completely than anticipated. The large scope makes the novel clunky in some places, but for the most part it is very engaging. Things are infinitely more interesting once the second Ariane has been born. The politics a sometimes dry, but moves the narrative along very effectively.

The relationship between the azi - artificially created beings who learn everything through ‘tape’ and have an artificial psychology called a ‘psychset’ - and natural born humans is examined in great detail. Sometimes the azi are no better than chattels, other times they are trusted fiends and even lovers, but in everything it is shown that azi have no choice - they are programmed to make their Supervisors happy. The plight of the azi was extremely disturbing to read; they have no adaptive skills and suffer deep depression when anything unexpected occurs - requiring extensive tape sessions to convince them that everything is alright. Although most characters in the book consider azi human, the question of humanity and what it means is a point of discussion between Justin and his azi Grant, with some surprising insights into human psychology.
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