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  1. #16
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odo
    5) I think that the main alien race in the book were not the Downers, but the human Unionist. It seems to be much more difficult for the people at Pell to understand Joshua Talley (why he wants to take the Adjustment process) than to understand the Hisa.
    If this is so I’d say the novel is further undermined. If Unionism is the key representation of difference, why muddy its waters in the first few chapters?

    Surely it would have been more prudent to have Talley not take the option of Adjustment (or not be Unionist in the first place)? Or better still, leave the concept of Adjustment out of the novel completely. Without Adjustment, Talley functions as the classical fish out of water. It’s a “clash of cultures” tale. Unsophisticated and cliché, perhaps - but it works.

    By mind-wiping Talley, Cherryh negates most of the attributes that make Talley different to the stationers. If Talley is no longer symptomatic of Unionism – what is his purpose? The only satisfying avenue for development is portraying Talley as isolated from everyone (the stationers through the remnants of his Unionism and the Union through the effects of Adjustment), but Cherryh never manages to hit this note satisfactorily, IMO.

    In any case, I don’t think Cherryh does anywhere near enough work drawing clear divisions between the Unionists and the central characters. Aside from them appearing as unflinching, unemotional neo-Aryan stormtroopers – what do we know about them? I couldn’t understand the relationship between the elders and their vat-grown creations.

    I didn’t find it anywhere near the difficult read many others here claim it is. I agree Cherryh’s writing style is peculiar, and at times confusing – but this wasn’t a major obstacle. Similarly, I wasn’t put off by the lack of gunfire and space battles. I think the humanitarian crisis brought about by the arrival of the refugees is, for the most part, dramatically compelling. Okay, I wasn’t on the edge of the seat chewing my fingertips – but then I didn’t doze off, either.

    Whilst I don’t think Cherryh is a technically gifted writer, I do think she has a talent for conveying technical detail. The language or jargon of future life on an orbiting space station is convincing and pretty close to how I’d imagine it to be. I had very little difficulty picturing Pell's layered, compartmentalised layout, which kind of reminded me of the underground bio-bunker in The Andromeda Strain. Unfortunately, her flesh-and-blood characters aren’t as intricately constructed.

    Downbelow is very middle-of-the-road stuff for me. Why the awards I've no idea. Maybe 1982 was a bad year for SF.

  2. #17
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    Hey! The post with my opinion is missing However Mugwump was able to quote it Something very strange is happening

  3. #18
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odo
    Hey! The post with my opinion is missing
    The forum was down for a day and a half and all of Tuesday's (I think) posts have been lost. Mugwump must have kept a copy of his original reply.

  4. #19
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ropie
    The forum was down for a day and a half and all of Tuesday's (I think) posts have been lost. Mugwump must have kept a copy of his original reply.
    Just to confuse everybody.

  5. #20
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Downbelow Station

    I have been re-reading the whole series, and too busy to post before now.

    I have a completely different view of the the book, and have put some ideas together. I have broken them up into several posts.


    Downbelow Station is a bona-fide masterpiece. It justly deserved the Hugo not only for the year it won, but because as all important works must, it stands the test of time. While this was developed and written in the 70s it reads as fresh as anything written today.

    The book is part of the Company Wars series. There are 15 books in this series, though each can be read as a stand alone, and in any order. The real payoff comes when you understand the full tapestry of the story and the scope and change of the humans in her series. It spans 5,000 years of humanity in space and it looks at the political, social and technologically derived biological changes, and the synergy that drives them. It posits a future where economic interests rule governments, planets, and the lives of everyone, whether you are an employee or not.

    The publication order and the story time-line order are almost opposite of each other. The books that are farthest out in the future of humanity are those that were published first, in the early 70s.

    Cherryh's Alliance-Union series

    Cherryh tells stories in the manner that gives characters only bits and pieces of information, much like real life. People have to decide on their own where the important stress points are, not only to make decisions, but when. Readers have the same amount of information and have to do a lot of thinking and evaluating. There is no narrative voice that explains everything - the reader experiences the same things the charcters do, and have the same doubts, questions, and confusions.

    Her writing can be difficult at first, but there is a rhythm to it and if you can stick with it then it becomes clear. She uses her language to make the differences of future and setting real. She imparts the information of how things work in the future is a clear and logical manner.

    She also does a magnificent job with settings. Though these ships, and stations don’t exist yet: when they do they will be exactly like this, from the chill, the metallic oily smell to the small spaces and similar set up and construction. The individual stories in this book either wrap up, or show how they will continue, but because it is a slice of a larger pie, nothing is ended.

    There is no resolution to the story of the Downers and Downbelow because it is an on-going story. It is a look at a specific time and specific events, and then life goes on. It has no ending.

    This book has so much going on, with so many layers and so many stories. It is an amazing job of juggling, and fleshing out many characters in a very tight manner, and telling a compelling group of stories with such intensity and economy.

  6. #21
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    History of conflict and technological advancement

    Downbelow Station is the first published book in the Alliance-Union section of the series, though the 3rd chronologically. Heavy Time and Hellburner both precede it logically. Those books take place earlier and closer to Earth. They deal with the in-system asteroid belt miners who are none-the-less Spacers, and who must deal with the economic repression of the Company, which spills over into the denial of personal freedom.

    These stories also resonate with the echoes of the political factions and battles that will shape the future of the interactions between the deep space humans. The decisions and actions will also set the parameters of the interaction between those in the deep beyond and Earth.

    These factors are in place with the start of Downbelow Station. Think mother England and the American colonies. Initially very dependent, but as they become successful they assume more and more control and are less and less interested in supporting an agenda that does not benefit them, and does not reflect their choices or their lives.

    Those in the deep beyond have split by function and environment, an expression of Darwin in action, they are either Stationer or Merchanter. In fact, the results of the conflict between Earth and the deep beyond will cause another split to be added to the situation and that is the application of technology to biology.

    The specter of an unmonitored tinkering with humanity that not only produces humans grown for specific political and military purposes, that predisposes them to accede to authority, but that must have left the generations littered with the human failures and cast-offs of the drive for perfection. These are not merely grown rather than birthed; they are also modified, molded, and programmed with drugs, and deep teaching.

    The humans of Union have turned their sights on technological advancement and they produce two civilization changing events. The ability not just to grow humans but to tailor them in looks, thoughts and behaviors, and developing the FTL drive that makes humanity free to roam the stars, and free to ignore the demands of a long distance authority.

    This book was written in the 70s and to me it appears that Union is the future representation of the Soviet Union of our past and the book’s present. I have yet to read Cyteen, so my opinions of Union are based on the view from outside, and through the prism of the non-Unioners who fear and despise them. From the outside, looking at their military, Union is a society that is socialistic, and that has no use for individuality or personal freedom. They also have no internal ethics to prevent tinkering and the use of humans as guinea pigs. It isn’t the evil empire of yesterday, but rather what type of future society that entity would be likely to produce.

    Cherryh has escaped the simplistic trap of reproducing in fiction the exact representation of the current ‘enemy’, just as she eschews endless battles and violence. She looks at the choices that produce those types of situations, and the reverberations they leave in their wake. I would also say that the vehement hatred and fear the non-Unioners have towards the biological developments of Union mirror the same type of technological advance and corresponding fear that the old Soviet Union produced in the West when Sputnik was launched.

    With so much going on, and so many characters and threads she doesn't have time to belabor points, or repeat themes. The book in its presentation behavior is very like the recent movie Gosford Park.

  7. #22
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Josh Talley

    Josh Talley is an incredible character, for all his simplicity. As a vat grown and tailored Union spy he has been programmed to infiltrate and destabilize or destroy the enemy from the inside. His ilk will either commit minor sabotage like the riot with Q, or as mentioned many times in the book, like Mariner, they will blow a station from the inside. Josh was designed to focus on those actions and to reject all emotions and any conscience that might object. He is picked up by Norway, from the authorities on Russell’s who have used drugs, and deep mental probing to interrogate him. Yet Josh is like an onion that has many layers. He has not only been programmed with his secret task and identity, but he has been given, to quote Blade Runner ‘the Cushion of Memory’ as a means of control. Josh actually believes his surface story and acts accordingly.

    Cherryh has created a plausible diversion, so that the authorities are focused on his minor and less dangerous Union experiences. Yet Josh has another secret and that is because of how he has been designed and trained, he can go through Adjustment, lose the top layer of memory and still retain the drive and knowledge to be a station-killer deep down.

    He volunteers for Adjustment, goes through the process, and tries to put his life and personality back together afterwards – all without anyone, even himself learning the truth about him. He tries to reconstruct his memory and personality by using the false top layer of memory. He is aided throughout his time on Pell by Damon Konstantine, son of the most important man on Pell. Josh has glimmers of his false memory, and he clutches at them, that person is who he wants to be. Yet in one minute, meeting his Union partner in sabotage, Jessad, his deeper memories are triggered.

    Josh Talley is a weapon, a walking time bomb, a suicide bomber 30 years early. He is also the walking expression of Nature (what he was grown and programmed to be) VS Nurture (the care of Damon Konstatntine). Josh was not given the benefit of nurture in Union because it was contrary to his purpose, which was to be an emotionless killer. On Pell for the first time he was given the opportunity to feel the family love and concern of another human. Josh shows that even with a bad start, and with bad actions in his past, he can still choose to be different. He can change and become a better person. He shows that the combination of the will to change and the constant support of another person, who doesn’t abandon him when the truth comes out, give Josh the ability to overcome his programming. The message is the strength of humanity, the strength of love to overcome even damage that has been done intentionally at a very early age. Josh is an incredibly powerful character.

    He is not only a product of the biological/psychological technology, he is a victim of it, and on Pell he uses it to free himself. The processes that allow them to do evil by growing tailored-for-control humans has also produced a positive, Adjustment. They are two sides of the same coin, and like all tools are not evil or good in themselves, but are dependent on how they are used. In the non-Union sphere of influence they have turned to Adjustment to deal with the problems of criminality and dangerous mental and emotional problems.

    Life in space takes place in a fragile bubble and any breach can kill them all, not just the perpetrator. Those who may do harm to that bubble, whether intentionally or due to sickness can’t be allowed to roam free. Adjustment is the middle road between endless warehousing in jails and the final solution of the death penalty. It allows both society and the individual to have a second chance. But though Adjustment is not physical death it is still the death of the former personality to be replaced with a benign copy. It is viewed with horror and sadness, and used as a last resort by a just society, and allowed voluntarily only for those who truly need relief from a miserable existence.

    Josh undergoes Adjustment because it will free him from his past - or so he believes. And strangely it does, because it makes his dependence on the emotional connection with Damon stronger. That emotional connection kindles the desire to change, to be the person Damon can respect, and that gives Josh the ability to make choices for himself-- ignoring his programming, past and habit. A very tough road, as anyone who has tried to quit smoking or lose weight will know.
    Last edited by FicusFan; September 10th, 2006 at 09:22 PM.

  8. #23
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Characters and story threads

    Besides all the larger events in the story, Cherryh also works on the personal level. She shows Josh Talley, the Konstantines, the Spacers, Elene Quen, and the Neihart family, the Lukas faction on the station, Signy Mallory of the Norway and her crew, as well as the fleet, Kressich the refugee of Q. Her characters are very human. They have strengths and weaknesses. They care about both personal issues, and the larger events.

    She weaves an incredible background on which her characters live and breathe. They have wants, and desires, goals, and an idea of who they are and where they fit in their world. Cherryh’s method of storytelling is to force the characters into situations where they have to make choices. Will they act in accordance with their beliefs, even if it means a personal loss, or will they find they are really someone else? She also explores the impact of the choices not only on the character who made it, but on others.

    The Konstantines are a wealthy family, important, respected and powerful. They have specific ideas of who they are and how they should live – those ideas permeate how they run Pell. The events of the book challenge them to keep their ideals or give them up for not only personal safety, but the safety of the station and all on her. Eventually Damon decides that if they abandon their ideals they may survive, but they won’t be true to the spirit of Pell.

    The Spacers are an independent lot, who are only connected by family or ship’s crew. The book forces them to choose to remain that narrowly focused, or to expand it to all ships so that they can become a power, to give up some of their freedom to insure the future of all. Elene has made a personal choice, perhaps for only a year’s fling, to stay on station with a man she loves. Her choice becomes permanent when her family dies and she has to struggle with the guilt of leaving them, of not really loving Damon enough to have planned to give them up forever, and with the what-if, that maybe her presence could have saved them.

    The Lukas family and their adherents are the representation of all those who are more interested in profit than in people, and the wanton pursuit of power. They rationalize what they do as being best for all, but it is for their benefit and no other. They also assume that everyone else is motivated as they are, and develop grudges and hatred for petty slights.

    Signy Mallory is the representative of fleet, and though she is a killer, and can be merciless, she also has standards and ideals. She sees what Mazian and the fleet plan to do to Pell. What that change will make of her crew, their discipline, professionalism and how she and Norway will be pulled into the morass. She has many competing concerns: is she a good and loyal officer, is she doing the best for her crew, and is she letting personal issues cloud her judgment. What does it mean to be a good officer in a lousy organization; can she take the public censure and possible repercussions if she fails in her attempt to break free - will they even survive? She could have been frozen and unable to come to a conclusion about what she should do. She could have stayed with the fleet, hidden in the herd. But she steps out and makes a decision based on what she knows is right.

    Signgy and the fleet are an example of military used for murky political purposes, the ultimate in mission creep. They start out as a unit, and with the goal of enforcing Earth’s taxes on the deep space colonies. The fleet itself is torn by factions, and politics: from a group of equals, Mazian becomes the head. The fleet is then tasked to protect the very same former ‘rebels’ from Union and its attempts to expand. The Merchanters, who profess their independence from both Union and the Company are viewed as both those to be protected, and those who maybe smuggling against and spying on the fleet.

    Eventually Earth loses interest in the deep space colonies, the fleet, and the conflict. The fleet becomes not only the protector of deep space, but a predator on them too. The fleet survives by taking what is needed in personal and material from the stations and the Merchanter ships they stop. Once they lose their purpose most of them begin to indulge their baser instincts. They not only appropriate, they pillage, rape and kill. Once they begin to lose their battles with Union and are reduced in number, they drop all pretense of being ‘for’ anyone but themselves. They are willing to destroy Pell and sacrifice all the lives as a battle tactic, on their way to enslaving Earth.

    Not only does the story of the fleet show the danger of not having a clear purpose and allegiance, but it shows that without law, discipline and restraint a military force is nothing more than a barbarian operation. They have become confused which side they are on, and what they are fighting for, and whom to protect.

    Both the Lukas operation and the majority of the fleet also show that the erosion from what is right to what is right for them is a slow, step by step process. Or as my mother used to say – ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. When looking from A to Z the distance is long, but from A to B and then C is just a series of short hops. Each one is rationalized and found to be not too drastic in itself, but eventually you arrive at Z. At each step the participants have choices to make, will they make one or just go along with the flow (a choice as well). We see that Lukas never does, while eventually Mallory does.

    Kressich represents Q, and the many people who have lost their family and their homes. They exist on charity, and have no rights. Many of them descend into violence and preying on their own. Out of fear and an inability to accept the change, Kressich allows himself to be used as a figurehead. He received protection, personal comfort, and the occasional escape from the squalor. He, like the rest in Q have no hope and no goals except to survive. He excuses his weakness, and wallows in fear, then he is able to be manipulated by the false promise of rejoining his family. He and his aides and guards represent the 'fleet' (in miniature) to his people in Q. Going from protection to lying, manipulating and preying on them.

    Each of these threads, though some are smaller than other, is captivating, and believable. Each one has major and minor characters. When reading I didn't find one of them to be filler or a distraction from the story, but rather an enhancement.
    Last edited by FicusFan; September 10th, 2006 at 09:44 PM.

  9. #24
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Wrap-Up

    The Merchanters are set up like the classical traders in the Mediterranean. In the book there is also one big circle, all the ports from Earth and back. The individual ships create their own circle within the larger one. They develop specific trade for the ports they serve, often competing with each other. In order to survive, to become able to call the shots they have to change. They have to work together – so their threat of a boycott on goods has teeth.

    Yes the fleet can be seen as similar to the Roman generals with their legions, that answer to them personally. It isn’t really surprising given Cherryh’s academic background. The specific conflict may also actually be from a page of history, but, I haven’t spent any time looking for it.

    The Hisa are outside observers. They are aliens that the humans don’t really understand. They take on the coloration of what the humans in the story think of them, not necessarily what they really are. They also act in ways that are geared to human understanding and needs. They are not passive artificial constructs that exist just for the humans in the story. When they are with each other they are not always professing ‘love’, ‘love’ to each other. It is something they have determined that the good humans need: constant love, the Lukas humans don’t respond to it.

    The Hisa are seen as separate from human affairs, but those on station take action when the human dreamer, Alicia, is threatened. They value contemplation, waiting, and watching, their version of prayer perhaps. They are viewed as not having war, or violent conflict, but they are not helpless or uninvolved. There is no way to maintain their alien-ness and explore them too deeply. The very act will make them humans in alien suits.

    The book is called Downbelow Station – the actual space station is called Pell. Downbelow station is the planet – where humans, and Downers live and try to make a society beneficial to all. As the story progresses the humans begin to accept refugees from Q. They start out as less than, separate, and under restriction and guard, virtual prisoners. Eventually as the pressure on the planet increases the true nature of the Konstantines and Pell is revealed. Q will be accepted as equals and have a chance to make their own decisions. They can either go with the settlers or stay at the settlement and wait for fleet or Union and cooperate. They are given equal shares and standing. Consideration is given to those who need help, and they all have to accept the Downers, to trust them as they help them flee into the wilderness. They must fit their new place to the Downer’s pattern and beliefs. It is a fusion of people and culture to create something that values and supports them all. It is in short the hope for all life in the universe. But as nothng ever comes with answers or guarantees in life -- there is no way for the characters, or the reader to know if it will happen.

    I suspect that many readers here had a preconcieved notion of what the book should be like -- since it is often called military SF, easy reading and full of quick and simplistic battles. Nothing could be further from the truth and if you can accept it for what it is and take the time to figure it out you might not only like it, but end up in awe of the accomplishment.

    I'll go back to reading now. I am finally up to Cyteen, though now I have to read a couple of book group books first.

  10. #25
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Great effort, FicusFan. It's a valid interpretation of the novel. I can’t agree with the “Bona-Fide Masterpiece”, “incredible” hyperbole, though. I think the word “masterpiece” is thrown about far too often and easily these days. In this case I don't believe such labels are warranted.

    Firstly, I accept that Downbelow functions in the context of a larger series, but this is irrelevant. The copy I have (an early edition) came without any mention of wider canon. Even if it did, for this critical discussion I can only consider the novel as a standalone piece of work - and it must function as such.

    Secondly - I agree with your assessment of Talley’s function in the novel, but I don’t think this makes him an “incredible” character. If anything it affirms my belief that Talley is a missed opportunity. My biggest criticism of this novel is that the characters don’t support the complex and fascinating political and anthropological backdrop which you have described so adroitly. Picking up your point that Talley is a “walking time bomb” – for me this isn’t explored (or “belaboured”) to any satisfactory extent.

    I don’t believe that Union functions as a valid representation of Communism. As mentioned earlier, the Union characters in this novel struck me as kitsch, empty and cliché. Ditto the Lukas family (and their goons), who reek of the kind of cardboard “bad guys” that Asimov used to populate his Foundation novels with.

    I suspect that many readers here had a preconcieved notion of what the book should be like -- since it is often called military SF, easy reading and full of quick and simplistic battles. Nothing could be further from the truth and if you can accept it for what it is and take the time to figure it out you might not only like it, but end up in awe of the accomplishment.
    I didn’t have any preconceptions about Downbelow before I read it. I have no knowledge of the Cherryh canon other than Rimrunners and I can barely remember a thing about it. I suspect that you are underestimating the intelligence of those reading this novel who grasp Cherryh’s intentions entirely and still consider the novel flawed.
    Last edited by Mugwump; September 12th, 2006 at 01:56 AM.

  11. #26
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I didn't expect battles and fights per the usual Military SF. I'd known of Cherryh's reputation for creating interesting aliens and thoughtful writing.

    I'm all for careful considered reading, books that take effort on the reader's part. Downbelow Station; however, just didn't connect with me in any way. Or rather I didn't connect with it.

  12. #27
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FicusFan
    I suspect that many readers here had a preconcieved notion of what the book should be like -- since it is often called military SF, easy reading and full of quick and simplistic battles. Nothing could be further from the truth and if you can accept it for what it is and take the time to figure it out you might not only like it, but end up in awe of the accomplishment.
    Obviously we all have some preconcieved notion of what a book we haven't read may be like - it would be impossible not to. I don't think any of us who have commented gave the impression that we were expecting a quick and easy blasts-and-explosions read though. Like Rob, I found the book very difficult to connect with.

    I'm not impressed by authors who can stretch a story out over tens of novels going into minute detail about everything. I don't read enough to want to spend book after book reading about the same fictional universe so I suppose, as it is just "a slice of a larger pie", this book was never going to work for me. I think Cyteen would be worth looking at at some point though - that one sounds like a good stand-alone read.
    Last edited by Ropie; September 12th, 2006 at 04:54 AM.

  13. #28
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ropie
    I'm not impressed by authors who can stretch a story out over tens of novels going into minute detail about everything. I don't read enough to want to spend book after book reading about the same fictional universe so I suppose, as it is just "a slice of a larger pie", this book was never going to work for me.
    I agree - it's not a valid excuse. As mentioned earlier, my version makes no mention of a wider universe and canon (I don't know whether this is the case with later editions). Someone totally unfamiliar with Cherryh's work reading my copy could only think it's a standalone piece of work with no canonical backdrop.

    I know it's difficult for readers with knowledge beyond Downbelow, but I think you have to consider the work solely on its own merits and no others.

  14. #29
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    First of all, excuse for not having posted before. In fact, I *had* posted but it got lost and since then I've been really busy...

    I'll try to summarise what I had said and also to comment of the excellent posts that have been written since.

    I didn't like the book as much as I wanted. I had read "Cyteen" previously and I had really liked that one, so I was really looking forward to reading more books set in the same universe. However, "Downbelow station" doesn't seem to work as well as "Cyteen". To fully appreciate it, it must be put in a larger context in the way that FicusFan has done it. Then, most of the situations, character reactions... can be fully understand. But DS doesn't work well (at least for me) as a standalone novel.

    However, I liked some things of the story. For instance, Joshua Talley is a very intriguing character, specially for his relationship with what it's told in Cyteen. The process of Adjustement, for instance, is closely related to the social organization of the Union. Also, it reminds of classic books as "A clockwork orange" by Anthony Burgess or the more recent "Forever peace" by Joe Haldeman. A very interesating topic, though is much more deeply explored in "Cyteen".

    And, yes, I missed some battles to make the reading a bit lighter and I think the book could have used some more explanations about the political, economical, historical and social context in which the action takes place. I found the beggining of the book quite abrupt and it was very difficult to figure out by myself what was really happening at some points of the story (thanks to FicusFan to help me there with his posts!).

    Anyway, I think that the development of the characters and the complexity of the relationships among the different factions are believable and interesting, and constitute the strongest points of the book.

    All in all, it was a not-so-satisfying reading. I have "Rimrunners", "Heavy time" and "Mechanter's luck" in the to-read pile, but I don't plan to read them anytime in the near future.

  15. #30
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    First, I have to say that it's been some years since I read *Downbelow Station* and my memory of it is somewhat dim. It didn't then (and still doesn't) strike me as the best of Cherryh, and so I haven't had the urge to reread it. I much prefer *Cyteen* and even *Forty Thousand in Gehenna*.
    But I should attempt to answer the discussion points:

    (1) This novel being set on the sidelines of a war did not affect my interest in it. It wasn't the first Alliance/Union book I'd read, so I had a fair idea of the bigger picture ...

    (2) I'm very foggy about the characters -- none of them really stuck in my memory ...

    (3) Adjustment/tape ... What can I say? Another universe that I'm glad I don't live in, no matter how interesting it is to read about!

    (4) I've read not only the other Alliance/Union books, but almost all of C.J. Cherryh's work. In my opinion, she's evolved as a writer. When I first read her, it seemed to me that it took her three or four books to tell a story (got to admit books were much thinner twenty-five years ago!) -- I think she writes more directly now and has much better judgment of what details are essential to the plot. There seem to be fewer pages of irrelevant background.

    (5) When reviewers speak of how well Cherryh does aliens, I suspect they may be thinking of the *Foreigner* series ... Personally, I find the "Rider" world and creatures fascinating and I hope she returns to it with a third book ... The Chanur are really too like Norton's sentient cats, but other species are rather interesting ... But we're talking about the Hisa of Downbelow -- I really got much more of a feel for them in *Finity's End* than from *Downbelow Station*, and hey were convincing as different people with different priorities. Creating plausible aliens isn't easy, but Cherryh does better than most!

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