Forty Thousand in Gehenna Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Forty Thousand in Gehenna is a science fiction novel set in C. J. Cherryh's Union-Alliance universe.
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Forty thousand Union humans and azi (human clones who grow up learning and being psychologically conditioned by "tape", i.e. machine learning) are sent to the newly discovered Gehenna, one of a very few habitable planets. They are unaware that Union intends from the very start to abandon them there; it is inevitable that the planet will fall under the control of the rival Alliance. The throwaway contingent is simply a cheap way to impede the Alliance. The novel tells the stories of a particular azi and his descendants. With the passing generations, distinctions between natural-born humans and the much more numerous second-class azi gradually disappear.

Gehenna turns out to have a sentient species, the lizardlike Caliban. Though the Caliban think in a very different fashion, some of them pair off with humans, forming some sort of mental or emotional link with their partners. (Some humans adapt their thinking to that of the Caliban, living among them as "weirds".) Gradually two very different societies develop: a militaristic, aggressive one and one more peaceful and cooperative.

When Gehenna is discovered by the Alliance, observers and scientists are sent to gather information. During this time, the two competing societies go to war to determine which will be the model for the future relationship between humans and Caliban.
Best part of story, including ending: C. J. Cherryh is very good at developing truly alien societies. This may be her best yet.

Best scene in story: The novel is episodic, having to cover much ground (and generations). However, the action really picks up with the war at the end.

Opinion about the main character: There really isn't a main character. The description I gave was for a scientist whose sympathies lie with the young female leader of the peaceful society who defeats her male counterpart.

The review of this Book prepared by J. Lee a Level 10 Peregrine Falcon scholar

Chapter Analysis of Forty Thousand in Gehenna

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 20%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 10%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 40% FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Cultural problems, alien culture    -   Yes Intense exploration of society's culture?    -   Yes

Main Character

Identity:    -   Female Profession/status:    -   scientist Age:    -   40's-50's


A substantial portion of this book takes place on a non-Earth planetary body:    -   inhabited by friendly aliens    -   primitive aliens Planet outside solar system?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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C.J. Cherryh Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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