William March's Reviews > Downbelow Station

Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
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Sep 24, 2011

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Read from September 20 to 24, 2011

Downbelow Station is categorized as Science Fiction but it would be more accurate to categorize it as Political Science Fiction, as the plot focuses mostly on the politics and nature of societies at war. The science fiction backdrop feels more like an afterthought than an integral part of the story.

The plot revolves around Pell, an independent space station orbiting a planet called Downbelow, that is caught in the middle of two warring colonial powers and a large group of mercantile shipping interests. Downbelow is inhabited by intelligent alien creatures, the Hisa or Downers, that are used as labor to keep the space station supplied with resources that are then shipped around the galaxy to further colonial interests.

The novel is action driven and has strong characters but the writing tends to be a little dry. It reads a little slowly but I found myself caring about the characters and interested in the outcome of their individual struggles. There is enough intrigue, plotting, backstabbing, shady dealings and changes in alliances to do Machiavelli proud. I also found myself thoroughly enjoying the Hisa and I believe the novel would have been missing a critical dimension without their inclusion.

It is impressive feat of writing for a teenager to have produced (as rumor has it she was 14 when she wrote this but I can't find anything to substantiate that claim). Overall, I think that science fiction fans would be greatly rewarded by adding this book to their reading list, but I would think twice about recommending it to anyone other than hardcore science fiction fans.
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