[Edit 7/4/2011. Like this novel better on second reading, and have bumped the rating half-a-star, but my objections stand: I don’t think Young Ari’s a fully credible character. Which is the point, actually, on which most of the story turns.
There’s an excellent novel in here, but it’s not an excellent novel.
This is part of the Downbelow Station sequence, and the direct sequel to Cyteen; unlike Cyteen, which covers decades, this story chronicles just a few months. The main story is young Ari coming into her own during the ongoing Union political crisis, with an apparent resolution of the “Who Killed Ari Senior?” mystery as a bonus. There’s some delightful character development, particularly of Justin Warrick (and, very differently, of his clonefather Jordan, who remains intolerable but perhaps we understand him better).
But (SPOILER): A fair summary of the plot could read “Ari Emory and her merry band of eighteen-year-olds take on Union’s established government and conquer it.” As talented as Ari is, I just don’t buy it. There’s no reason, really, that she needs to be a teenager in this story, but there it is.
And there’s way too much background material. And the story spends too much time inside Ari’s head.
Definitely worth reading, despite these complaints. Like Cyteen, this is not the place to begin reading Cherryh, as it depends too much on the earlier works for a novice encounter. But CJ’s so rewarding, even at her weakest, that it’s worth trying.
Finally: I so much wanted to love this novel. I can’t. And I’m sad about that. But clearly there’s room for more tales in this thread; lets hope Ms. Cherryh finds time and incentive to write them.
This review was originally published on LibraryThing.