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Downbelow Station (The Company Wars #1)

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,524 Ratings  ·  385 Reviews

The Hugo Award-winning classic, now available in a trade edition for the first time.

Pell's Station, orbiting the alien world simply called Downbelow, had always managed to remain neutral in the ever escalating conflict between “The Company,” whose fleets from Earth had colonized space, and its increasingly independent and rebellious colony worlds. But Pell's locationon t

Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 1st 1981 by DAW (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dirk Grobbelaar
There is an entry in Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia regarding Downbelow Station. It reads: "...a 'chamber' opera like Downbelow Station highlights human actors, stagefront, ashen with stress."

Downbelow Station reads like a classical historical epic, with a large cast of characters, many of whom are family, lots of intrigue, shifting allegiances, backstabbing (sometimes quite literally), and of course, tragedy. I'm mentioning this, because many reviewers complain about the novel's
Nov 28, 2015 Lyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was too damn long.

If you take a glass of whiskey and take a sip and it is too strong, add some water or ice and it makes it more enjoyable. But if you were to take the glass of whiskey and mix it with a gallon of water, then you will likely not even taste the whiskey.

If an author takes a great idea and then adds five hundred pages to it, it may be too watered down.

Too damn long.

C.J. Cherryh's Hugo Award winning space opera novel about a far future Earth and its far flung colonial syste
Jul 29, 2015 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

As a part of my "Summer of Women 2015" reading challenge, I feel I should say a few words about the importance of C J Cherryh in the storming of the gates of the 'boy's club' that was Science-Fiction in its early days. When she first started publishing her stories, she hid her gender behind those two innocuous initials. She then reached such heights of recognition and praise that she now has an asteroid named after her, deservedly acknowledging her stature and her influence in the field:


Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my HUGO WINNERS list.

This is the reading list that follows the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I loved reading the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners so I'm going to crack on with the Hugo winners next (but only the post-1980 winners, I'll follow up with
I’m becoming quite a fan of C.J. Cherryh. I really like the way she writes aliens and the Hisa/Downers in Downbelow Station were yet another notch on the positive side of the score board. I pictured their bodies as rather large baboon-like primates, with the faces of surprised baby orangutans. They definitely had their own thought processes and ways of communication, very foreign from those of human beings.

Cherryh’s interest in history became apparent quickly, with the humans’ treatment of the
Executive Summary: If you like politics and war in a sci-fi setting where the focus is on the people and not the battles, this book is worth checking out. If you're looking for a lot of space battles however, you may be disappointed.

Full Review
I read this book as the March pick for Sword & Laser. It's still early in the month but so far most of the discussion seems to be in the Is anyone else having a hard time getting started? thread. I must say I don't really understand this.

Sure this bo
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Superb world-building, fantastic character development and excellent writing are the highlight of this Hugo award winning novel. Nobody does complex geopolitical plots like Cherryh and this is a great example. Classic space opera by a master writer.

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1982)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1982)
David Sven
Detailed worldbuilding, engaging political intrigue, deep plot and story line, large cast of POV characters with complex relationships, macro socio-political and socioeconomic themes.
So why have I given this 3 stars instead of 5. I had a big problem with the style of narration, which was exacerbated by some very ordinary audio narration. I really wish I could have gotten an ebook or DTE for the Sword and Laser group read. I just found Brian Troxell’s voice narration flat and boring. Unfortunatel
Alex Ristea
This quote from the introduction by C.J. Cherryh grabbed me right away:

"So if you look up at night toward the Whale and the Great River, those of you who can find that view at night, you can see the very places I write about. And if you do see a bright flash out there, do tell me. Some of these people are armed and dangerous.
But space is wide. You don't need the Whale and the River. If you look up at any two starry points of light in your own sky, you can very easily think of ships going betwee
Sep 16, 2013 Terence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any SF fan
Shelves: sf-fantasy
PROLOGUE: Of late, I’ve been in a reading slump. Nothing on the to-read shelf calls to me, and I’m still trying to motivate myself to finish off several-too-many reviews that have been sitting on my desk. Though I’ll eventually return to newer prose, I’ve gone back to some old favorites, including the one currently under review. During my tenure at GoodReads, I’ve never passed up the opportunity to recommend this title to anyone willing to listen. I became a fan of C.J. Cherryh early in my life ...more
I got 76% through this and just can't bear to keep trying to read it. The basic premise is fantastic: the under-supported Earth Company Fleet battles the unending waves of Union's brainwashed clones. The Fleet is pushed further and further back, until at last the battle reaches the space station orbiting Pell. Pell's station tries to remain neutral while both sides try to take it over.

I love this idea! It's like DS9 mashed up with Tolkein. But I found the execution so lacking that I couldn't en
Mar 06, 2013 Joseph rated it it was amazing
This remains one of my favorite books. Cherryh works on a large canvas here, combining interstellar war and political intrigue and complex, sympathetic (or not so sympathetic) characters, all in a future that feels "lived in" -- I almost feel like I've walked Pell Station's echoing docks, heard the crash of seals as merchanters came in to berth, been slammed against my seat as Norway pulls a high-G course shift. Fortunes rise and fall, alliances shift, loyalties are tested, and the end comes at ...more
Great world-building regarding political, social and cultural relations and history. Astonishingly, this space opera is a bit weak w.r.t technology and science - we don't see much of those at all, just some age diminishing or mind altering drugs. On the other hand, there are obsolete technologies like lots of paper printouts, central computers or magnetic cards to open doors.

But it works very good as a Hard-SF and I think I've never read a better example of live on a space station.

It is a quite
Slow burn military space opera with awesome ladies who are competent and complicated, arrogant dudes who pay and pay and pay, and also a cinnamon roll. It's been awhile since I exited a book going "I need OT3 fic ASAP." (As far as I can tell NONE EXISTS.)

The only downside to this book for me were the hisa, alien creatures which felt as if Cherryh went, "what if I just took this romanticized ideal of how plantation-era slaves reacted to their owners and vice versa and used that?" I LIKED some of
Sean O'Hara
I don't know why so many science fiction fans find this book off-putting. Sure, it's ultra-dense, and Cherryh prefers to build the world through subtle hints for an attentive reader to pick up and put together. But we're geeks. We're smart guys. We wear hats. This is how we should want our books. We don't need our mommies to cut up our steak for us, so why do we need an author to spoon-feed us big chunks of exposition to explain every last nuance.

I mean, here's how your typical sci-fi author wri
Maggie K
Jul 19, 2014 Maggie K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwechallenge2014
After giving up on Cherryh's 'Foreigner' series, I have been wanting to try something different of hers, and finally read this, and I was pleasantly surprised. This isn't the sort of book I generally like--being military sci-fi/space opera,but I enjoyed the politics and world building. This also follows several characters, which I also like.

Cons: It did start out a little dry, with an info dump of history, and the characters are all 'close to the vest' types, so there is not a lot of emotion her
Aug 01, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
This is described as a 'blockbuster space opera' and it certainly is that. This is the first novel by C.J. Cherryh that I've read and I was blown away by the scope of novel. She not only describes a very realistic view of life aboard a large and complex space station but introduces us to the politics around the Earth based Sol Company, which up to now has controlled space expansion and the space stations and the rebel Union, a new force aiming to free the stations from the Company's control and ...more
Apr 09, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Here's the reason I don't read sci-fi: While the characters are all involved in elaborate plots featuring fantastic technology (in this case, cloning, subliminal messages, and trans-dimensional travel), I spend the whole book thinking, "they can colonize the far reaches of space, but they're still using clipboards, dot-matrix printers, and those magnetic keycards you get at Motel 6?"

Nothing dates faster than science fiction, and nothing's weirder than the realization that we have FAR more advan
Jul 19, 2007 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’re going to say you know something about the science fiction genre (and for my own odd reasons I want to be able to say that*), you have to read C.J. Cherryh. She is one of the genre’s most respected writers both for the depth of her “world building” as they call it, and for the application of social and political theory that she brings to her works.

Downbelow Station is a book about war. The fact that it is war that takes place on spaceships and is fought with laser beams is really besid
Traci Loudin
As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't get anywhere with this book. Sometimes you just have to surrender and admit that a book just isn't to your taste. I started getting intrigued a little once we found out who Josh really is, but wherever I'd put the book down, I just felt no inclination to pick it up again. Time to move on.
Jul 14, 2011 Roger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I just finished C. J. Cherryh's "Downbelow Station". This is the first "foundational" novel of her "Alliance-Union" space opera series. This is NOT the first book in the series (that would be "Heavy Time"). According to the author, these books (with a couple of exceptions) can be read in any order. From her website...
"The novels in this universe, except Hellburner and Heavy Time, and Cyteen and Regenesis, can be read completely out of order...just like real history."

Having enjoyed her "Chanur" s
Dec 04, 2015 Xan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Para leer antes de la trilogía de Cyteen, una buena historia sobre como las personas acaban entorpeciendo las grande estrategias si están en el lugar y momento adecuado. Un ejemplo de cómo las naciones acaban abandonando a sus soldados en guerras olvidadas, en conflictos perdidos. Me recuerda a los Últimos de Filipinas.
I read this book the first time when I was quite young. After reading this I went on to others in the Alliance/Union universe a few years later. I remember that I really enjoyed the book, but I was maybe too young (not enough life experience) to really "get" some of the character motivation and what-not.

This time, I chose to re-read Heavy Time and Hellburner before revisiting this book. I think this was a good choice. The order change combined with being 20-something years older really pushed t
Jamie Collins
The 1982 Hugo Award winner. It has a really interesting setting: a space station which is trying to survive and stay neutral in the midst of an interstellar war. There are family owned and operated merchant ships which also attempt to stay neutral. The war is being fought by a fleet of warships built by Earth, and forces from a Union of human settlements further out in the galaxy.

The setting is the best part of the book, which is long and rather gloomy, without a flicker of humor. It’s readable
Jenny T
Oct 04, 2010 Jenny T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me about 200 pages to really get into this one: I'm not used to hard political science fiction, and keeping track of the various parties vying for control of a space station (and their ever-changing loyalties) was a bit of a challenge. One that definitely paid off--Ms. Cherryh managed to maintain the suspense for *hundreds* of pages and then top it off with a very satisfying ending.

Also, I have to note: this is how you write good female characters. Not the "kicks butt but secretly has a
Jan 03, 2016 Geoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Geoff by: Sword and Laser
Despite it taking me almost a month to read, I really enjoyed Downbelow Station. It just took me until the middle part to really get hooked by it. The evolving conflict between Company-Union was really interesting and its a world I would jump back into to see where it progresses. I didn't really understand the Downer 'dreamers' but that didn't seem to be plot-centric.

Fun fact: My favourite character was Signy Mallory, and I feel that most people would be inclined to dislike her. I just felt her
Margaret Sankey
May 25, 2014 Margaret Sankey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to me as part of my effort to read diverse and excellent science fiction, this really is a masterpiece. There's a three sided political space opera, internal conflict, dynastic animosity, economic realities, sociological implications of life in space stations, relations with indigenous primates on the planet below and very human flawed characters who react out of their developed personalities.
Paul Spence
Downbelow Station is an interesting political science fiction story about relations between three political groups of humans in space, plus some low-tech aliens. Many of the alien scenes seemed 'bolted-on' to the story. They act like chimps and think like parodies of tribal culture. I would have liked to have seem more development of their society and culture.

I thought the story was good, but I didn't care for the writing style. Despite the length of the book, the writing was dry and sparse. Hon
Michael Burnam-fink
C.J. Cherryh has always been an author I struggled with. I gave up on The Faded Sun trilogy and Merchanter's Luck, putting them in a very small list of book I've abandoned midread like Infinite Jest and Crime and Punishment. Having stuck through all of Downbelow Station, I think I would've rather picked the dead Russian.

Cherryh writes in a genre of deadly serious space opera. There are starships and battles and heroes, but the tone here is historical drama. Downbelow Station is set in a crisis p
Nikola Tasev
Downbelow Station has unusualy realistic space battles - which is great, but is not military SF and has very few battles. A pitty, since this was the strong side of the book. It has very realistic characters, but I don't think it uses them wisely. It is an above average politics and social SF, with a touch of space/planetary economy. The story went too slowly for my taste, and ended without the kind of climax that I was expecting. For that, I would give it 3 stars, maybe 3 and a half.
An then th
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Currently resident in Spokane, Washington, C.J. Cherryh has won four Hugos and is one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed authors in the science fiction and fantasy field. She is the author of more than forty novels. Her hobbies include travel, photography, reef culture, Mariners baseball, and, a late passion, figure skating: she intends to compete in the adult USFSA track. She began ...more
More about C.J. Cherryh...

Other Books in the Series

The Company Wars (7 books)
  • Merchanter's Luck (The Company Wars, #2)
  • Rimrunners (The Company Wars, #3)
  • Heavy Time (The Company Wars, #4)
  • Hellburner (The Company Wars, #5)
  • Tripoint (The Company Wars, #6)
  • Finity's End (The Company Wars, #7)

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“One tribe moves out and one tribe stays. History broadens, and philosophy shifts, develops a rift, splits one population from the other . . . and a schism happens, minor or major. It’s the way humankind has always proliferated. We go over the next hill, live a few hundred years, change our languages to accommodate things we never saw before—and before we know it, our cousins think we have an accent. Or we think they have a strange attitude. And we don’t really understand our cousins any longer.” 1 likes
“A bizarre hysteria, perhaps, that point which many reached here, when anger was all that mattered. It led to self-destruction.” 0 likes
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