The Alliance-Union universe is a fictional universe developed by Science fiction and Fantasy author C. J. Cherryh. It is an epic future history series extending from the 21st century out into the far future.
To date, the Alliance-Union universe consists of 24 Cherryh science fiction novels along with a series of seven short story anthologies edited by Cherryh and a few other miscellaneous works. It encompasses both books for which Cherryh won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Downbelow Station and Cyteen, and also incorporates various other series books such as the Faded Sun trilogy, the Chanur novels, the four Morgaine books, and the Merovingen Nights shared world series.
As humanity reaches out to the stars, space stations are financed by the private Earth Company. Each new station is built by the previous one and is located ever farther away from Earth. In the days before faster-than-light travel (FTL), nine stations are laboriously constructed around nine stars, all lacking habitable planets.
The stationers and the merchanters who man the ships that supply them develop distinct cultural identities, but remain psychologically and to some degree materially dependent on Earth. Still, directives from Earth, bound by the speed of light, arrive hopelessly out-of-date and are routinely ignored, making the Earth Company's attempts to maintain control more and more futile.
When Pell's World is discovered in the Tau Ceti system, the fragile economic and political equilibrium is disrupted. Not only is this new planet's biosphere reasonably hospitable to humans (requiring only gas masks and air tanks for survival), but it also supports intelligent alien life, the gentle, technologically primitive Hisa (called "Downers" by humans). Importantly, human crops can be grown on Pell's World, dangerously weakening Earth's economic dominance. After the construction of Pell Station above the planet, colonists expand outward in space with renewed vigor and build additional stations even more distant from Earth.
The first successful FTL probe using newly developed Jump technology is launched in 2248. Earth takes advantage of the breakthrough to try to re-assert its authority among the colonists. With a poor understanding of stationers and merchanters alike, its clumsy attempts backfire, provoking first unrest, then occasional armed clashes, and eventually rebellion. As the situation spirals out of control, the Earth Company builds 50 military carriers, the "Company Fleet", under the command of Conrad Mazian, to enforce its orders.
The situation culminates in 2300 with the declaration of an independent Union by the colonists centered at the Cyteen system, another habitable planet and space station at Lalande 46650, precipitating outright war. The Union augments its population and armed forces with genetically engineered and psychologically conditioned human clones, called Azi, which are seen as an abomination back on Earth.
Fighting between the Fleet and Union forces is fierce during the ensuing "Company War". The stations closest to Earth, disturbed by the Azi and other developments on the Union side, remain loyal to Earth; several of these are destroyed by Union action. With ever diminishing support from Earth, the Fleet gradually begins to lose a war of attrition to Union.
Caught in the middle are the merchanter families as well as Pell Station, which serves as the primary transit point between Earth and Union space. The conflict comes to a head at Pell Station in late 2352 and early 2353, as described in the novel Downbelow Station (novel).
Faced with the increasingly dangerous situation, many of the merchanter families finally band together to form the Merchanter's Alliance, creating a third, neutral power. This alliance soon rules commerce on both sides of the Alliance-Union boundary and wields the power to shut down stations simply by withholding trade. Because both Earth and Union are dependent upon merchanter shipping, the new Alliance is able to broker a peace treaty and Pell Station becomes its de facto home base. The stations' respect for the merchanters is illustrated by the fact that ship-law and not station-law is applicable to station docks and sleep-overs.
The ambitious Mazian stubbornly refuses to recognize the peace and continues to fight. Signy Mallory, one of his most senior captains, defects to the new Alliance out of disgust with his actions, but the remainder of the Fleet remains loyal to Mazian, becoming renegades and pirates out of necessity.
The events depicted in the first books in the series, Heavy Time and Hellburner, take place shortly after the start of the war. Most of the books set in this universe, however, take place subsequent to the establishment of both the Merchanter Alliance and the breakaway Union, hence the label "Alliance-Union" universe.
The works in the series are usually described as Space Opera, or especially for works such as Cyteen and Downbelow Station, Hard Science Fiction. The "Company Wars" novels and the Faded Sun trilogy regarding the Mri Wars are also examples of the Military Science Fiction subgenre. The Merovingen Nights series takes place on a single planet and features swashbuckling heroes and low levels of technology, and as such might be classified as Science Fantasy, borrowing elements from the historic Sword and Planet subgenre; this is also so for The Morgaine Cycle books, set remotely in time and space from the main sequence. Unlike most works in the Alliance-Union universe, the novel Voyager in Night also borrows elements from Horror fiction.
See also Edit
- C. J. Cherryh
- The Chanur Novels
- Faded Sun Trilogy
- Forty Thousand in Gehenna
- Downbelow Station (novel)
- The Merchanter novels
- Downbelow (planet)
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