Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Infobox Book
name = Forty Thousand in Gehenna
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = "Forty Thousand in Gehenna" 1997 re-issue cover, depicts a girl riding a Caliban.
author = C. J. Cherryh
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
subject =
genre = Science Fiction
publisher = Phantasia Press
release_date = October 1983
media_type =
pages =
isbn = ISBN 0-932096-26-3
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Forty Thousand in Gehenna", alternately "40,000 in Gehenna", is a 1983 novel by science fiction and fantasy author C. J. Cherryh. The science fiction novel is set in her Alliance-Union universe and is one of the few works in that universe to portray the Union side of the conflict (the other notable exception being "Cyteen").

The book was first published in a limited hardcover edition in 1983 by Phantasia Press, [Cherryh, C. J. "Forty Thousand in Gehenna", Phantasia Press, 1983.] followed by a mainstream paperback release in 1984 by DAW Books. [Cherryh, C. J. "Forty Thousand in Gehenna", DAW Books, 1984.] It was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1984. "Forty Thousand in Gehenna" was reprinted in 2008 along with Cherryh's novel "Merchanter's Luck" in an omnibus volume entitled "Alliance Space".

The book takes its name from the approximately 40,000 Union human and Azi settlers who were sent as colonists [The exact number of settlers sent on the mission was 42,363.] to a supposedly virgin planet, which as misfortune overtakes them they name Gehenna (one of the traditional names of Hell). Most scenes in the book take place on Gehenna's surface or in orbit around the planet.

Plot summary

Unknown to the settlers, the colony was intended to fail; it is deliberately abandoned by Union to create problems for the rival Alliance. Over a period of decades and several generations, the colonists lapse into a primitive lifestyle and then - observed by an Alliance mission which first seeks to intervene and then withdraws from direct contact - build upward into two quasi-feudal, fundamentally opposed societies. The key to their divergent development is their differing social symbiosis with the "Caliban", a reptilian race native to the planet.

Cherryh's substantial world- and species- building efforts make "Gehenna" a significant work. Essentially starting with a blank slate of a seemingly uninhabited (by intelligent life) desert planet, and the azi, which are essentially devoid of standard emotional drives, she constructs a new race in the Caliban, as well as entirely defining the azi and "weirds" living on the surface.

The Caliban are first presented as being annoying lizard-like creatures. After a while, the surface inhabitants (both human and azi) begin spotting larger and larger Caliban, eventually noting differences in color, size, and even a social structure (some Caliban are subservient to the larger, different-colored Caliban). While the colony attempts to keep them outside a perimeter or to drive them away, after the collapse of the colony, new societies emerge with Caliban in their midst and in some kind of relation to the descendants of the colonists. It eventually becomes clear that they are capable of communication, at least at the level of symbology, and of developing empathic or possibly telepathic links to humans.

From the setting-up of the colony, the azi (themselves never described in too much detail in the rest of the Alliance-Union books) are allowed to procreate and raise families. They begin to factionalize, with a group of them becoming "weirds", due to their much closer association with the Caliban, living with them rather than the humans, and their seeming lack of language. The non-azi humans (born-men) are in the minority from the beginning and over time intermarry and merge with the more numerous azi-descended population. The novel follows several generations of descendants of one particular azi, who establish different lines and rise to become the leaders of the two rival cultures.

Unlike some of Cherryh's other novels, which can sometimes progress at an exceedingly fast pace (sometimes termed "intense third person" by the author), "Gehenna" is a comparatively leisurely work, depicting a succession of historical moments in the decline of the colony, the establishment of human/azi-Caliban relations, cultural development and the planetary environment, presented in great detail. (Much of this detail is 'documentary' in nature - lists of colonists, family trees, copies of transmitted messages, transcripts of interviews, submissions of scientific opinion, etc etc.) All this could however be viewed as prologue and build-up to the faster-paced narrative of the final third of the book, in which the two different cultures (one 'masculine'-aggressive, the other more 'feminine'-receptive) meet and vie for dominance.

The novel is set very firmly in the Alliance-Union universe, through the Union origin of the colony and the role of Alliance observers in the later stages. The failure of the colony was meant to cause headaches for the Alliance when Union ceded the tract of space including the world of Gehenna to them. In "Cyteen", the rediscovery of the Gehenna colony causes a crisis in the Union administration. A Union delegation arrives at the very end, just in time to be given short shrift by Elai, the girl-ruler who has emerged victorious in the struggle of the two cultures.


External links

* [ C. J. Cherryh, Science Fiction, and the Soft Sciences]
* [ Alliance/Union universe] . "Forty Thousand in Gehenna" review.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gehenna (disambiguation) — Gehenna is the Jewish version of Hell named after the Hinnom valley outside of Jerusalem, a valley used for burning refuse.Gehenna may also refer to:* Gehenna , a Greek New Testament word for Hell (in Christian belief), also named after the… …   Wikipedia

  • Stars and planetary systems in fiction — The planetary systems of stars other than the Sun and the Solar System are a staple element in much science fiction. Contents 1 Overview 1.1 The brightest stars …   Wikipedia

  • C. J. Cherryh — en 2006 Nom de naissance Carolyn Janice Cherry Activités Romancière …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carolyn J. Cherryh — C. J. Cherryh Cet article fait partie de la série Science fiction La SF à l’écran autre A B C …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carolyn Janice Cherry — C. J. Cherryh Cet article fait partie de la série Science fiction La SF à l’écran autre A B C …   Wikipédia en Français

  • C. J. Cherryh bibliography — C. J. Cherryh s career began with publication of her first books in 1976, Gate of Ivrel and Brothers of Earth . She has been a prolific science fiction and fantasy author since that time, publishing over 60 novels, short story compilations, with… …   Wikipedia

  • Merchanter's Luck —   …   Wikipedia

  • Themes of C. J. Cherryh's works — Several themes recur throughout the works of American science fiction and fantasy author C. J. Cherryh.Cherryh s protagonists often attempt to uphold existing social institutions and norms in the service of the greater good while the antagonists… …   Wikipedia

  • Prix Locus du meilleur roman de science-fiction — Les prix Locus sont décernés chaque année, depuis 1971, par les lecteurs du magazine américain mensuel de science fiction Locus lors de la Westercons qui se déroule le quatrième week end de juillet. La catégorie du meilleur roman de science… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • C. J. Cherryh — Caroline Janice Cherry (* 1. September 1942 in St. Louis; bekannt unter ihrem Autorennamen C. J. Cherryh) ist eine amerikanische Schriftstellerin. Caroline Janice Cherryh am 14. April 2006 in Seattle. Sie hat seit Mitte der 1970er Jahren mehr als …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.