The first time I picked up a book by Anne McCaffrey, Dragonflight, I gave up on it before I finished the first chapter. I thought it was dry, slow and boring. It wasn't until years later that I gave it another try and realized there was an interesting story buried beyond those first hard-to-digest pages. I am glad for this experience, however, because when I first picked up a novel by C. J. Cherryj (Heavy Time), I had the same initial impression. But the lesson I learned from Ms. McCaffrey taught me to persevere and now it's a rare story written by C.J. Cherryh that I haven't read.
I enjoy Ms. Cherryh's stories -especially her Company Wars novels- because she considers the question so many science-fiction authors forget to ask: presuming all the high-technologies that are common to the genre, how will this effect the societies and psychologies of the Men of Tommorow. Too often the assumption is that the attitudes and beliefs of the heroes of the future will be identical to those we hold today. Ms. Cherryh suggests differently, that the new environments and science of the future will have a profound impact on who we will become.
Regenesis is a continuation of this thesis started twenty years ago with her Cyteen trilogy: given the technology to clone not only a person's body but reprogram the duplicate with the personality of the original, how will this affect the society that uses this technique? How, for that matter, will it affect the individual so duplicated? Interwoven into this question is a tale of political intrigue and mystery as Ari Emory, personal replicate of the former Councilor of Science, strives not only to assure her own place in the world but also struggles to unravel the mystery of who killed her predecessor - and prevent the same from happening to her.
Although Ms. Cherryh's prose is solid and approachable, the story revolves almost entirely around the thoughts and emotions of its characters; the tale is almost entirely cerebral. Descriptive text is terse and functional and serves mainly as an adjunct to setting the mental state of the characters. Although great events unfold as the story progresses, the action is almost an aside, covered in quick broad sweeps. The focus remains almost entirely on the character's internal development. But Regenesis is not about epic battles amongst the stars. These wars may rock worlds but C.J. Cherryh's target is more subtle: the glue that holds those worlds together. Reading any of her novels is an opportunity to look at our own world in a new light.
My only disappointment is that Regenesis closes, intentionally, open-ended, a comment on history's non-stop progression. It's just that after twenty years, I was hoping for a bit more closure.