Reviews tagging 'Sexual assault'

Downbelow Station, by C.J. Cherryh

1 review

tani's review

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adventurous challenging dark tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Humanity has spread to the stars, but as with all things human, things can't go smoothly. The Company represents an Earth-centric view, concerned with the increased wealth and welfare of Earth, through the use of resources from space. The Union represents manifest destiny, human ambition run out of control. And somewhere in the middle, we have Pell, the eponymous Downbelow Station, a neutral space that just wants to provide a good home for its citizens and good stewardship of the planet it's named for and its resident aliens. 

First, to address the style issue. I lot of people find Cherryh's writing too dense and slow-moving for their tastes. I can see that, but it wasn't a problem for me. I probably have an unfair advantage, in that Cherryh's Fortress series was one of my formative favorites, and so her writing style is extremely nostalgic to me. It feels a bit like coming home. I did still take some time to read this book, but I'd credit that more to my current increased need for sleep. It's hard to make progress on a book when you're regularly falling asleep while reading it. 

Second, pacing. Again, I think that my previous experience with Cherryh prepared me for this. Actually, there were points where I found the pacing to be a bit too fast! I would divide this book into 3 segments in terms of how the pacing is managed. In the first segment, the chapters are long and leisurely, and you get plenty of time with the POV character, to settle in and get comfortable. In the second section, action has risen, and the head-hopping commences. Each segment settles around a punchy five to ten minute read, and then immediately jumps to another character. Then, in the final section, we return to the more leisurely pace of the first section, where we're able to spend more time with each character and really sink into their viewpoint. In case you can't tell from my description, I highly favored the slower sections. The middle, with the constantly changing POVs, felt too frenetic to me. I couldn't settle into the action, and my reading suffered as a consequence. This is part of the reason that I couldn't give this a five star rating, despite enjoying it greatly. 

Third, the most important aspect to me: the characters. This, I think, is where the book truly shines. Too often in a book with multiple viewpoints, I find myself favoring some viewpoints over others. That was not really the case in this book. There were certainly characters that I was rooting for more, that I liked better, but I never really found myself discontented with any of POVs at the end of the day. That's honestly a huge accomplishment! I was incredibly impressed that this book pulled it off, and was a big factor in why part of me still wants to consider rating this higher than I am. 

Here's the kicker: Although I greatly enjoyed this, there was a good amount of problematic content that ended up being the true deciding factor in my rating. Some people have mentioned the treatment of the hisa, which is definitely a complicated issue. I have some seriously mixed feelings here. I feel like there was an attempt made to make them strong and self-determining aliens, and in some ways they are, but there's also a weird amount of content that feels quasi-religious in relation to humans (or at least one human in particular), and it was uncomfortable, to say the least. There's also a good amount of xenophobia from a wide range of humans in the book, and although it's never really portrayed as right, I think the attitude in general felt pretty dated in a way that pulled me out of the story. Seriously, if we are lucky enough to build space stations in the vicinity of sentient aliens, I sincerely hope that we are not dull enough to treat them like that. 

I also found myself very dissatisfied with the treatment of sexual violence in this book. To put it bluntly, one of the POV characters is a rapist by any standard, and although the book doesn't necessarily side-step it, it doesn't address it as head-on as I wanted. There is some acknowledgement of the trauma that is faced because of it, but that's about it as far as consequences go. It's a choice, and one that I would be remiss not to mention. In fact, the ending of that particular subplot was the final blow in my ratings decision. (And makes me question whether I should dock another star, despite my personal enjoyment.)

Despite those issues, I really did enjoy this, and I definitely want to continue with the series. As to when that will happen, though...Who knows?

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