Alliance-Union Universe

The Alliance-Union universe is a fictional universe created by science fiction and fantasy author C. J. Cherryh. It is the setting for an epic future history series extending from the 21st century out into the far future.

To date, the corpus of the Alliance-Union universe consists of 27 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 Sol Corporation, eventually known as the 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 Still, directives from Earth, bound by the speed of light, arrive hopelessly out-of-date and are routinely ignored, making the Earth Company’s attempts to maintain control increasingly futile.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 commissioned the building of 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 by 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 sporadic inadequate support from Earth, the Fleet has no choice but to forcibly requisition equipment and personnel from the increasingly alienated merchanters. However, these measures only serve to maintain the existing warships. Without new ships to replace its combat losses, the Fleet gradually begins to lose a war of attrition.

Caught in the middle are the merchanter families and Pell Station, the primary transit point between Earth and Union space. The conflict comes to a head at Pell in late 2352 and early 2353, as described in the novel Downbelow Station. 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, soon after a team arrives from Earth to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Mazian refuses to accept the peace and the Fleet continues to fight, this time in the service of his own ambition. Signy Mallory, one of his most senior captains, defects to the new Alliance out of disgust, but the remainder of the Fleet remains loyal to Mazian, becoming renegades and pirates out of necessity.

With Earth turned against the Fleet, Union sees a chance to finally rid itself of its bitter enemy. Because Union does not dare weaken its forces at this crucial juncture to guard its rear against the newborn state, the Alliance is able to broker a peace treaty, with Pell Station as its de facto home base. The treaty cedes to the Alliance a monopoly on interstellar commerce, even within Union, giving it the power to shut down stations simply by withholding trade.

As the danger of the Fleet recedes, a new rivalry develops between the Alliance and Union. Union resents the treaty restrictions, while the Alliance fears being overwhelmed by Union’s greater population. Tensions rise further when a precious habitable planet in the Alliance sphere of influence is found to harbor a population descended from a secret Union military mission deliberately abandoned there to deny the Alliance an easy acquisition.

Meanwhile, within Union, two political factions vie to determine its future. Unbeknownst to either, brilliant scientist and political leader Ariane Emory has her own agenda.

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.

Excerpt from Wikipedia.

Bibliography (books set in the Alliance-Union universe, unless other stated, written by C.J. Cherryh):
The Company Wars

Heavy Time (1991)
Hellburner (1992)
– also published as Devil to the Belt (2000)
Downbelow Station (1981)
Merchanter’s Luck (1982)
– also published in Alliance Space (2008) omnibus
Rimrunners (1989)
Tripoint (1994)
Finity’s End (1997)

The Era of Rapprochement

Serpent’s Reach (1980)
– also published in The Deep Beyond (2005) omnibus
Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983)
– also published in the Alliance Space (2008) omnibus
Cyteen (1988)
– also published in a 3-volume edition as The Betrayal, The Rebirth and The Vindication.
Regenesis (2009)

The Chanur novels

The Pride of Chanur (1981)
Chanur’s Venture (1984)
The Kif Strike Back (1985)
– The Chanur Saga (2000)—single-volume edition of the above three books
Chanur’s Homecoming (1986)
Chanur’s Legacy (1992)
– Chanur’s Endgame (2007)—single-volume edition of the above two books

The Mri Wars (Faded Sun Trilogy)

The Faded Sun: Kesrith (1978)
The Faded Sun: Shon’Jir (1978)
The Faded Sun: Kutath (1979)
– The Faded Sun Trilogy (UK, 1987 and US, 2000)—single-volume edition of the above three books

Merovingen Nights (Mri Wars Period)

Angel with the Sword (1985)
– Merovingen Nights—shared world series of anthologies
Contributors to the following 7 anthologies are Lynn Abbey, Nancy Asire, Robert Lynn Asprin, C. J. Cherryh, Leslie Fish, Mercedes Lackey, Chris Morris, Janet Morris, Roberta Rogow and Bradley H. Sinor.

  • Festival Moon (1987) – Merovingen Nights #1
  • Fever Season (1987) – Merovingen Nights #2
  • Troubled Waters (1988) – Merovingen Nights #3
  • Smuggler’s Gold (1988) – Merovingen Nights #4
  • Divine Right (1989) – Merovingen Nights #5
  • Flood Tide (1990) – Merovingen Nights #6
  • Endgame (1991) – Merovingen Nights #7
The Age of Exploration

Port Eternity (1982)
– also published in the Alternate realities (2000) omnibus
Voyager in Night (1984)
– also published in the Alternate realities (2000) omnibus
Cuckoo’s Egg (1985)
– also published in The Deep Beyond (2005) omnibus

The Hanan Rebellion

Brothers of Earth (1976)
Hunter of Worlds (1977)
– At the Edge of Space (2003)—single-volume edition of the above two books

The Morgaine Cycle

Gate of Ivrel (1976)
Well of Shiuan (1978)
Fires of Azeroth (1979)
– Above three collected in the following editions:
+ The Book of Morgaine (1979)
+ The Chronicles of Morgaine (1989)
+ The Morgaine Saga (2000)
Exile’s Gate (1988)


Wave Without a Shore (1981)
– also published in the Alternate realities (2000) omnibus
The Scapegoat (1985)—novella

External pages:

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