Reviews

Downbelow Station, by C.J. Cherryh

marct22's review

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5.0

A bit of a slow burn, took it's time getting to action. A bit of a misleading title, while there is a 'downbelow station' most of the story takes place on a station orbiting the 'downbelow station'. Once it got going, plenty of action, nice twists. I don't want to reveal any real spoilers that ruin the book, so Ill just leave it at that. Wish the sequels were readily available (since it is 'company wars #1, where's #2?? out of print, gotta buy used if paying a reasonable price)

lian_tanner's review against another edition

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4.0

I swear that Cherryh creates the BEST aliens! In all her books, they're not just there for the convenience of the humans, but have a whole life and culture of their own. It's the same in 'Downbelow Station', which I found in some ways more accessible than some of the author's later books. It's not that I don't love the later books - I do - but I probably love them in spite of the long internal musings that her characters go through rather than because of them. This book has no such lengthy passages. It's full of tension, right till the last. Great characters with lots of moral ambiguity. Great aliens. And a terrific story.

mpetruce's review

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1.0

I realize this is a staple of any good science-fiction library, but I just couldn't get into it, try as I might. Maybe it's one I'm in the wrong mood to read right now or something. I see the potential for some rich world building, but it wasn't enough to keep me reading.

tankard's review against another edition

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3.0

6/10

thistlechaser's review

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1.0

I wanted to like this book. The first chapter killed it for me though. If you look up "information dump" in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Downbelow Station. I felt like I was reading a really long encyclopedia entry about this universe. Eventually I gave up on the first chapter, skipped to the second so I could get to the story, but too much was happening that I didn't know about (duh) and eventually I just gave up on the book.

Stopped at: 3%

rachel_from_cambridge's review

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4.0

This is my third read through of this book.
Cherryh is one of my favourite authors & I really like this book and Cherryh's prose style.
Mallory is definitely my favourite character in it, I found the Hisa a bi annoying at first but warmed to them after. And I really felt for Kressich - poor guy trapped in a horrible situation.

valjeanval's review

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3.0

Really, this book is 3.5 stars, and the demotion is mainly due to it taking me so long to get into the characters. Cherryh's world -- galaxy, really -- is enormous, and she needs a fifth of her book to set up the extraordinarily complex political and social structures. Her introduction of characters was slow, but provided enough misleads and second guessing as to make the characters grow more interesting as the story progressed.

The story itself is about the speed at which humans begin to evolve socially once space travel and space colonies are a reality. It's a political book, without too much of the science behind how they got there, which suits me just fine. I liked the archetypes she created for colonials/stationers, merchanters, and Unionists, and I like that this wasn't a clear-cut Empire vs. Rebellion story. It resonated with me on the level of "Okay, so the Empire's not so great, but the Rebellion is total chaos." Pell and the Konstantins' situation as a wishful neutrality in this war-torn era is the place I'd most likely find myself.

I'll be honest, though, I wasn't a hundred percent invested in most of the characters. Maybe it's Cherryh's style or just the fact that I really wanted to get back to certain viewpoints, but I found myself glazing over when we were in a point of view I didn't enjoy as much. Mallory is a fascinating character, and one whom I never really like but end up rooting for nonetheless; however, her POV is so busy as she goes through political stratagem after military schematic that I sighed every time it was her turn. There were also just a ton of characters whose alliances and motives I could never quite keep straight, but that's likely more a personal attention-span problem.

I think the complexity of the story is why the hisa are so important. Their wonderfully simple, emotional viewpoint is a welcome break from the worried and frustrated humans. The hisa calm the pace, and their childlike nature and straightforward perspective make us care for them on a level we just can't for the humans. I love the way Cherryh describes them, love their patois, love every time they say "love you." They harbor none of the resentment a lesser author would give to this race and never break character by acting too human. They even distinguish good humans from bad humans instead of generalizing. If they occupied any more of the story, it might have become an Avatar-esque oversimplification of a native species, but as is, it's a reminder of what exploration means: the melding and evolution of multiple cultures. I looked forward to every chapter in Satin's point of view.

Among the humans, Talley was easily my favorite and had all the best surprises. He starts out, like the hisa, an innocent with whom the reader can easily side. However as his character and motives grow more complex, he keeps the reader and other characters guessing. Ayres was interesting as well, and I liked the evolution of his relationship with Azov and Jacoby. Never a clear line in this tale.

On a completely different note, I will say this story does have a strikingly unique feature that made me just about stand up and cheer: happily married couples.

I am known to get extremely frustrated with romantic plot lines in the middle of big stories. Romance has a tendency to detract from the actual plot, just something authors throw in because everyone does it. Characters starting a relationship in the middle of an epic space battle often make me go, "Really? You think now is the best time for this?" On the flip side, so many stories begin with unhappily married couples or widows/widowers deep in grief. If a character begins happily married, you can rest assured that will change by the end. It's like a happy marriage is the fiction in fiction.

This story has not one but 3 happily married couples, if you hisa bonding as marriage, who stay happily married to the end. The couples all function well as couples and do not waste time with typical bickering. They see the chips fall, and they do what has to be done to keep their loved ones alive, even when that means separating for unknown periods of times. The characters in this story have a very believable concept of focus and priorities, and for that I tip my hat to Cherryh. Our time is not wasted learning about the relationships' histories. It is enough to know that these people got married because they loved each other, and that love is going to motivate their actions in crisis. Done and done with no wistful gazing at the the stars.

Final thoughts: If you enjoy complex political drama and also outer space, you will really love this book. If you're like me and have trouble keeping up with complex political drama, I suggest you keep a wikipedia page open and handy.

rachelini's review

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3.0

Epic space opera with detailed world building and a nice pulling together of all the plots at the end. I never really knew who to think of as "the good guys", which made for an interesting read. HOWEVER. The Hisa felt lazy - the stereotypically childlike natives of the planet. It was an uncomfortable read. And I was disappointed there weren't more women characters. I know it was written in the 80s, I just want more!

wildflowerz76's review

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1.0

DNF. Tried to read this for the Sword & Laser Book Club, March 2013. Luckily, my library had a copy. This read like a very dry history text. I kept going, hoping it would get better, but it didn't and it's going in the DNF pile. /yawn

leff's review

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tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

2.25