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Who Killed Ariane Emory? C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen


Who Killed Ariane Emory? C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen

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Who Killed Ariane Emory? C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen


Published on November 18, 2008


In 1988, C.J. Cherryh published her best book so far, Cyteen. I’m not the only person to think it’s wonderful (though I may be the only person who has had to ration re-reads and who thinks it’s the second best book in the world) as it won the Hugo. If you’re not claustrophobic and you like SF, I commend it to your attention.

Cyteen is about cloning, slavery, psychology and psychogenesis— mind cloning. It’s set on the planet Cyteen in the twenty-fifth century, in Cherryh’s Union-Alliance universe. Ariane Emory is an incredibly powerful politician and a genius scientist. She’s murdered—it says this on the back cover, and the first time I read it I spent the entire first part of the book longing for someone, anyone, to murder her. I’d have killed her myself. Then they clone her and attempt to get her personality back. The genius of the book is how it manages to get your sympathy for this incredibly unsympathetic person, and what makes it totally fascinating is the society, on the one hand so utopian, on the other, so awful.

I’m planning to re-read all the Union-Alliance books in internal chronological order and write about them here, in preparation for the direct Cyteen sequel, Regenesis, which is due out on January 6th. I did not just re-read Cyteen in advance of this sensible plan. I just happened to look at the Regenesis Amazon page (to check that I still had to wait until January for it) and saw that they have some actual information about the book. In Regenesis, apparently, we will discover once and for all who killed Ariane Emory!

Of course I want to know. But before anyone gets the chance to know for sure, I want to rehearse the possibilities one last time. Many of these suggestions are not mine but come from conversations I have had about Cyteen in the last twenty years, many of them on rec.arts.sf.written.

It isn’t Jordan. The information on the TranSlate combined with the door times clears him—he leaves through the security door at the same time she makes a note to interrupt his outgoing access. He could have been in the room when she made that note, but he couldn’t have been in the room, killed her and fixed the plumbing all within 60 seconds.

It could be suicide. She knew she was dying, at the end of the Rejuv, and she could have taken this opportunity to die and get her enemies at the same time. If she did this, she got Caitlin to help, which would be why Caitlin is so ready to die herself. I don’t believe this, because I know her too well. She’s in the middle of things. She’s always in the middle of things, and she always would be. She believed things couldn’t go on without her so much she’s having herself replicated, yet she’d die early? I don’t think so. She’s in the middle of that Intervention on Justin, she hadn’t finished with Base 1, she wanted hands on time with the Project—I can’t believe it.

It couldn’t have been Giraud, because we see her dead body from his point of view. Giraud knew Jordan was there and had every reason to time the death that way, more than Ari did herself. Hhe didn’t want Justin as a power at Reseune. But he’s cleared by his in-POV testimony.

It could have been Denys. Considering what Denys did later, it makes complete sense that it should have been. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence though. If it was Denys, it must have been done through Seely. (“Uncle Denys can’t run. But Seely can.”)

Then there’s my favourite suspect: Abban. There isn’t any evidence as such. But he has the same motives as Giraud, and we’ve never see his POV. His later actions with the bomb are consistent with this, and the conversation he has with Giraud on the night of the election about assassinating people who stop the system working and then letting it work again is strongly suggestive. The truly cool thing about it is that Abban is azi, and one of Cyteen’s themes is how invisible yet significant the azi are. Nobody considers them as potential murderers, just like in Gosford Park. It would be poetically neat if it were Abban, for his own reasons, without informing Giraud. This would be very like Cherryh.

We’ll see soon, if you call January soon. Meanwhile, any more theories, or any criticism of these theories?

About the Author

Jo Walton


Jo Walton is the author of fifteen novels, including the Hugo and Nebula award winning Among Others two essay collections, a collection of short stories, and several poetry collections. She has a new essay collection Trace Elements, with Ada Palmer, coming soon. She has a Patreon ( for her poetry, and the fact that people support it constantly restores her faith in human nature. She lives in Montreal, Canada, and Florence, Italy, reads a lot, and blogs about it here. It sometimes worries her that this is so exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up.
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