Title: Serpent's Reach
Author: C. J. Cherryh
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: DAW, 1980
Series: Stand Alone
Synopsis: The constellation of Hydri, known as the Serpent, is compact and obscure from Earth and remained so in the era of interstellar colonization. For it was under strict quarantine--harboring an intelligent race, powerful and alien. Yet there were human colonies within the Serpent's Reach, cut off from the galaxy beyond, with their own inbred culture and their special relationships to the inhuman majat.
This is the novel of Raen, the last of the massacred Sul Family, and of her lifetime pledge to find vengeance. It was to take her across the worlds of the Reach into the very center of the alien webwork that knit the forbidden constellation into a complex of interbred cultures that no outsider could hope to unravel.
Review: The majat are awesome, intelligent, and very large ant-like creatures. Their hive-mind cannot fathom our individuality. Our lack of continuance disturbs them profoundly. The life in the hive is drawn from what I can only assume is in-depth research into the life of these types of creatures. This author has, in her Humanx Commonweath series, explored another ant-like creature, the Thranx. The majat seemed more realistic to me, not quite anywhere near as 'human' as the Thranx.
There are three classes of humans in the Reach: the Kontrin, who are descendants of the first travelers to Hydri; the Betas who are descendants of the eggs that were brought along on the voyage; and the Azi, who are clones, created by the Betas to do the majority of the work.
The Kontrin are immortal. The Betas live what we would consider normal lifespans. The Azi are genetically altered to automatically die at the age of 40. The majat have a hive memory that spans millions of years.
Between the obvious societal problems with the human faction in Hydri and the complete inability for the humans and majat to truly understand each other, it makes for an interesting and exciting story. Toss in Raen's master plan to change the entire Reach and I was hooked. I've so been needing a really great science fiction tale. I found it. This was superb.
Rating: 10 / 10