C. J. Cherryh Reread

New News from Reseune: C.J. Cherryh’s Regenesis

In Karl Schroeder’s Ventus there are some artificial intelligences known as Winds who are sent out to a planet to terraform it for humans. They are there a long time terraforming with only their original instructions, and when the humans arrive they don’t recognise them as what they’ve been waiting for. Reading Regenesis, I felt like one of them. It’s been twenty years since Cyteen, twenty years in which I’ve probably read the book forty or fifty times, and in which I’ve carried out extensive correspondence about the book in email and on mailing lists and on rec.arts.sf.written. I’ve examined every word for what implications I could wring out of it. Getting huge masses of new information all at once was quite overwhelming and I found myself having problems assimilating it.

Regenesis is a direct sequel to Cyteen. It’s set at Reseune, it has all the surviving characters present. It covers the events of the next few months after the end of the first book. I once said that I’d have been happy to read the detailed recordings of the years of data from the Rubin Project, and there were times in Regenesis when I felt as if that was what I was doing. There isn’t anything wrong with giving me a fairly loose story about six months in the lives of Ariane Emory II and Justin Warrick, not to mention Florian, Catlin and Grant. I was thrilled to see Ari II interacting with Jordan Warrick and fascinated to hear mention of terraforming Eversnow, but this is not a definitive masterpiece like its predecessor, and anything less would be bound to disappoint me.

A long time ago at an Eastercon, Vernor Vinge asked what we’d like to see in a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. My response was that I wanted something that wasn’t just a story set in the universe but one that expanded the boundaries. The only way to get a great sequel to a great book is by doing something different. Vinge gave me that. Cherryh didn’t, not this time.

Apart from anything else, there are bad answers to the question of “Who killed Ariane Emory?” and  “Someone you never heard of who wasn’t mentioned in Cyteen and who came from Defence” is one that makes me turn into a Wind and reject it outright.


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