SO I recently read CJ Cherryh's Cyteen and vomited some reactions onto Tumblr and I am copying them over here because ... it's been a while since I made a book post. edited slightly for readability and additional thoughts.
- A bunch of the bullshit about ~flux-thinking vs processing-with-flattened-thresholds really … jived with some nebulous things I’ve been turning over re: consciousness and perception, in a really embarrassing way. Although I’ve been having that experience all year, of picking up something and reading it and being like HEY!! HEY! I CAN USE THIS! I’M A TOTAL DOPE! Which may just signal that I’m not even thinking so much as I'm rock-cycling large generalizations to the point of meaningless. It’s fun, though.
- Certainly as far as genre goes this is my ideal flavor of SF, what with people never shutting up about people problems as they bathe in liquid people
- I was hilariously unable to disentangle Ari II’s whole dynamic with the Nyes from Ender’s Game + Graff and so on. BUT, that’s a little unfair to ………….. … the Nyes? ??? Is it the Nyes? Ari? I HAVE NO IDEA.
- I love Justin so much. I am not in control of this one. Here is a man who spends 36 years in a corner, standing with his face to the wall, whispering “fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck!” etc. And then one day he turns around and asks a teenager to dance
- and everyone LOSES THEIR SHIT FROM TERROR
- as they should.
- my cherished ambulatory meltdown.
- I was so wigged out when he ran away from the hotel after the fire, I was CONVINCED that he was going to disappear into Novgorod without a trace–I mean there was the dangling hook of his one-day-till rejuv appointment, and also Novgorod itself being set up so much for the possibility of anonymity?? And then that went nowhere. Honestly I think he should have run, that would have given an actual shape to the relationship with Ari–blah blah blah growing trust and dependency, you-stab-my-back-i’ll-stab-yours, and at the very last minute this sudden hard left out of the territory mapped by Ari I and all the rest. Something to really destabilize Ari, too, since her arc as it stands is just “overcome all obstacles with scant resistance; sometimes reality may make you feel a little dirty, but boy will u bounce back”
- I guess ultimately I’m just not as interested in the exceptionalist framework of Aris I + II as untouchable, distant stars of mastery and insight. It’s fine that it feels that way to them, of course. I thought the existential loneliness (and their misidentification of that as being somehow intelligence-related) was adorable. And I love their intuitive, almost bodily talent for macro-structure! But I don’t see why that should translate down to being able to perfectly manage an improvised intervention on a single person’s life course, for example. In general I like when Cherryh focuses on like, statistical rather than guaranteed successes of the tapes, and I’m less persuaded when it’s talked about as a magical predictive technology … I mean she really does avoid that most of the time, but especially towards the end, with Justin and the skeevy dialogue surrounding Ari’s ~greater intentions, I sort of blanked out.
- Also there’s that problem of making melodramatic plot fodder a work of morally-grey genius–like, yeah, I guess, you CAN rape someone and thereby force him to worry less about his father’s opinion [and more about the fact that he’s trapped in a workplace environment with his rapist,] but it doesn’t… seem … like the world’s cunningest personality hack? Hahaha! shrug. Why not let a little more narratively-acknowledged fallibility into that mix, rather than pages upon pages of Ari II sadly reflecting on the burden of immense intelligence.
- So yes, I think Justin should have flown the coop and sent everything to shit. because, hey, any solution to humanity’s problems that’s dependent on a single person’s secret master-plan is no solution at all! And how better to show that than by an assassination attempt which drives off your most important ally and forces you to gut your own supporting infrastructure. Also, there's the fact that it was really cute when Justin found out he could punch normal people and got somewhat overexcited
- Another thing I found hilarious was the fact that like … everyone in this book is attracted to men, right. I mean not EVERYONE but. Our protagonists are straight women and dudes in committed relationships with dudes. And yet the male-ogling is the most unconvincing thing in the world! It’s amazing! Justin: “he had a boyish charm i guess. and brown hair. i as narrator remember that i gave him brown hair. work it” Grant: “he had… RED hair and he was ELEGANT ,,,,,” Florian: “look at this nice man, those are real muscles on his arms probably.” etc. Good thing there are dramatic power imbalances and fucking weird platonic relationships to fall back on for Sexy Vibes!
- What I’m saying is, it was rel8able
- Justin/Grant is grossly sweet, it makes me think about how I would read an asoiaf au where Catelyn was an Alpha
- Has anyone made it this far down the bullet ladder. ANYWAY I JUST HAVE ONE MORE COMMENT which is, of course, that the way azi are handled is a mess and I badly craved some seriously-weighted non-Reseune perspectives, as well as some discussion within Reseune that went beyond “the experiential differences between azi and CIT life." I mean, I understand the choice to focus on that, kind of, I even think it’s clever as an authorial cheat and an attempt to grant the azi characters a particular and unignorable voice, but also come the fuck on. Literally Ari I’s notes on the matter seemed more ethical and self-aware than the majority of the main characters’, which is interesting when it comes to Ari II but gets more inexplicable the farther it reaches. Oh yes, I forgot, the other bonus of a Cyteen that ended with Justin off-grid is that I could at least fantasize about a sequel in which Grant and Ari team up to scream at him! and each other. and him! r0m4nc3.
- Cherryh seems like she can't stick a landing to save her life? I haven't read anything else by her, so it may be a project-specific issue, but there are so many scenes in Cyteen with incredible build-up, incredible execution of a climactic encounter or a pivotal change in strategy on the part of one of the supergeniuses, and then ... it just fizzles out. Ari internalizes another lesson about power. It seems strange, in a book about how directly and vitally emotions shape our long-term carryover. But then, I wonder if Cherryh is all that interested in bildungsroman as a genre--I thought her strengths shone through much more clearly when everyone involved was an effective adult.