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Downbelow Station (Alliance-Union Universe) Paperback – December 2, 2008
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Praise for Downbelow Station:
Winner of the 1982 Hugo Award for Best Novel
"Cherryh has created her strongest character and her best novel in a story of space exploration, colonization and war." —Questar
"Full of imagination, action, and understandable, sympathetic characters...." —Analog
“The well-drawn variety of backgrounds and motivations of the characters is the work’s strength.” —VOYA
“A solid, vividly realized background; excellent characterization of humans and aliens; and an ability to keep a story moving… Intelligent space adventure, conceived and executed on a grand scale.” —Booklist
“Downbelow Station is a fascinating, complex deep-space-war political novel with a lot of subtle twists.” —Fantasiae
About the Author
C. J. Cherryh planned to write since the age of ten. When she was older, she learned to use a typewriter while triple-majoring in Classics, Latin, and Greek. With more than seventy books to her credit, and the winner of three Hugo Awards, she is one of the most prolific and highly respected authors in the science fiction field. Cherryh was recently named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. She lives in Washington state. She can be found at cherryh.com.
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Some, like Russell's or Mariner, were evacuated under fire. Refugees arrived at Pell crowded aboard ships bringing panic and mobs. Without asking, the warships of the Company Fleet dump evacuees here. Foreboding dominates the text. Damon, one of the Konstantin family (who run Pell), comforts his wife:
' ...He waited, hurting for her, and after a moment came and took her in his arms. She gave a short sigh. "They're gone," she said. And a moment later another short gasp and a release. "Blown with Mariner. Estelle's [her family's ship] gone, with everyone aboard. No possible survivors. Sita saw her go; they couldn't get undocked...all those people trying to get aboard. Fire broke out. And that part of the station went, that's all. Exploded, blew the nose shell off."
Fifty-six aboard. Father, mother, cousins, remoter relatives. A world unto itself, Estelle. He had his own, however damaged. He had a family. Hers were dead. ' (pp 42-3) This is imagery of civilians caught in crossfire.
Early in the book, you meet the hisa [proper noun, never capitalized] who are just so cuddly, while being the dependable workforce from the planet named Downbelow. It has so many overcast days that these natives worship the Sun, and compete for a chance to work on the station and view Sun in its' glory. Satin and Bluetooth take the shuttle up:
' The motion of the ship changed; they held each other a moment in fear, but this men had warned them of, and they had heard that there was a time of great strangeness. They laughed, and joined, and ceased, giddy and delirious. They marveled at the bit of blossoming twig which floated by them in the air, which moved when they batted at it by turns. She reached carefully and plucked it from the air, and laughed again, letting it free. "This is where Sun lives," Bluetooth surmised.... ' (p. 136)
Each character has a name, and a part to play in this drama. I wondered how the Captains commanding the warships could be so homicidal; they are almost as frightening as those of their enemy, the Union. The impact is greatest when both parties engage in a siege using the station as a base, and plans are made to destroy it when the Company ships depart. Separately, the Konstantins cajole or face down the players. [The editor did not notice Bluetooth here taking part in action on both the planet and station simultaneously. Minus one star.]
The writing is couched in slang; certain crises develop upon sudden un-docking of ships. This destabilizes the station and threatens the lives of those aboard. That, and a few references to needing tranquilizers for FTL flight, require the reader to pay close attention as we careen toward a surprise ending. (Minus one star.)
This is a bleak vision of the venues experienced by Solar Clipper crews in Quarter Share (Trader's Tales From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper) (Volume 1).