Thursday, March 2, 2023

Book & Audio Review: Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh

Downbelow Station

C. J. Cherryh
Narrator: Brian Troxell
Series: Company Wars (Book 1)
Publication: DAW; Reprint edition (December 2, 2008); Audible Studios (July 10, 2012)
Length: 430 p.; 19 hours and 13 minutes

Description: The Hugo Award-winning classic sci-fi novel about interstellar war.

The Beyond started with the Stations orbiting the stars nearest Earth. The Great Circle the interstellar freighters traveled was long, but not unmanageable, and the early Stations were emotionally and politically dependent on Mother Earth. The Earth Company which ran this immense operation reaped incalculable profits and influenced the affairs of nations.

Then came Pell, the first station centered around a newly discovered living planet. The discovery of Pell's World forever altered the power balance of the Beyond. Earth was no longer the anchor which kept this vast empire from coming adrift, the one living mote in a sterile universe.

But Pell was just the first living planet. Then came Cyteen, and later others, and a new and frighteningly different society grew in the farther reaches of space. The importance of Earth faded and the Company reaped ever smaller profits as the economic focus of space turned outward. But the powerful Earth Fleet was still a presence in the Beyond, and Pell Station was to become the last stronghold in a titanic struggle between the vast, dynamic forces of the rebel Union and those who defended Earth's last, desperate grasp for the stars.

My Thoughts: This Classic science fiction novel, which won the Hugo Award in 1982, is quite an example of a space opera. While it outlines how humanity came to the stars, its main focus is on what happens when Earth is too far away to influence events and humanity is splintered into rival factions. 

A lot of the action happens on a space station called Pell which orbits a planet inhabited by aliens - the hisa. Pell wants to remain neutral in the battle between the Company which was begun on Earth but which has gone off on its own and Union which controls the outer stars. 

There are a lot of memorable characters. Signy Mallory commands the Fleet ship Norway. She's at odds with Mazian who commands the remaining fleet begun by the Company on Earth. There's Josh Talley who was born and bred to be a Union man, but who is becoming himself and choosing his own loyalties. There is Damian Konstantin who is one of the founding family of Pell and is determined to protect his station's future. And there are the Downers, aliens who have adopted some of the people from Pell Station, and who are loyal and peaceful people.

I enjoyed listening to this Classic. Brian Troxell did an excellent job distinguishing all the different characters.

Favorite Quote:
Star after star after star...nine of them--until Pell, which proved to have a livable world, and life.

That was the thing which cancelled all bets, upset the balance, forever.
I bought the paperback in 1997 and never read it. I recently bought the Kindle and Audible editions. You can buy your copy here.

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