In her Alliance-Union novels Cherryh moves away from her early preoccupation with depicting alien psychologies through brilliant linguistic and anthropological creations, such as the mri of The Faded Sun (1978). Her 1989 novel Rimrunners, for example, deals solely with human members of merchant and Fleet crews. In Cyteen, a dense, complex investigation into the economic and social ramifications of startling discoveries in psychology and sociology, the "other" perspective is never quite alien and yet not entirely human. It belongs to the azi — artificially gestated, genetically-engineered humans that are indoctrinated from birth by specially designed types. The azi are the crux of Cyteen's interlocking themes.
Ruling the planet Cyteen are the born-men, or "CITs," who led a successful revolt against the planet Earth and founded their own nine-planet Union. They have established a grid of star stations that allows interstellar trade and promises enormous profit through expansion. The scientists of Cyteen's premier bioengineering complex — Reseune — have developed the azi in order to populate the expanding Union federation more efficiently.
When the novel opens in the year 2401, Cyteen's Expansionist Party is headed by Reseune's Ariane Emory, a "Special," or government-certified genius. She is a dominant, highly gifted, yet sadistic female protagonist. Emory's party is locked in conflict with the Centrists, who oppose expanding the Union's influence into uncharted galactic areas; they also oppose the azi that make this expansion...
(The entire section is 649 words.)