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Science Fiction novel by C.J. Cherryh* * * (explanation)

Gehenna is a rare Earth-like planet within Cyteen's sphere of influence in interstellar space, known as "Union".   Quite a find -- the vegetation is not openly hostile to humanity, unlike on Cyteen. The most developed fauna are large lizard-like creatures known as "calibans",notable for their habit of digging complex burrows and mound systems. There are also smaller upright-walking lizardlike creatures called "ariels".

Cyteen embarks upon an ambitious colonization program, sending 40,000 azi to build a world and 400 or so born men to rule over them.  This ambition is short-lived -- after the ships unload, they go home, never to return, and the colony is never resupplied.

The rest of the novel follows 200 years of Gehenna history, as the initial inhabitants adapt to local conditions in a ...rather unique...way, and the Union and their rivals, the Merchanter's Alliance, vie for control of the planet.

This is one of Cherryh's weaker efforts -- the storyline is too tenuous, and falls apart in places. Too much of the story is told with genealogy diagrams.

On the other hand, if you want a complete picture of Cherryh's Merchanter universe, you should read this book. But read Cyteen or Downbelow Station first. You will enjoy 40,000 in Gehenna more if you treat it as two novellas strung together.

6/2/2003: I recently received a forwarded e-mail telling me how wrong my analysis was, that I completely missed the political subtext of the novel (Ms Cherryh is a master at weaving political subtexts, and making them drive the plot). I say to my critic: If you don't like my review, node your own. I prefer nearly all of CJ Cherryh's other novels to this one.

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