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Downbelow Station

(The Company Wars #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  12,061 ratings  ·  519 reviews
A legend among sci-fi readers, C. J. Cherryh's Union-Alliance novels, while separate and complete in themselves, are part of a much larger tapestry—a future history spanning 5,000 years of human civilization. A blockbuster space opera of the rebellion between Earth and its far-flung colonies, it is a classic science fiction masterwork.
Mass Market Paperback, 20th anniversary edition, 526 pages
Published December 1st 2001 by DAW (first published 1981)
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KF-in-Georgia Not explicit or descriptive at all. Signy is bad-ass, but it's "off-camera."

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3.91  · 
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Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 30, 2015 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
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Downbelow Station: Machiavellian intrigue in space
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
I’ve had C.J. Cherryh‘s 1982 Hugo Award winner Downbelow Station on my TBR list for three decades, and was glad I finally got around to it via Audible Studios, ably narrated by Brian Troxell. It’s an intense, claustrophobic, gritty space opera with a huge cast of hard-nosed characters battling to survive the Machiavellian intrigues of freelance Merchanters, Earth bureaucrats, Company fleet captains, Pell sta
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
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
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)
Mar 29, 2008 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
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
Stevie Kincade
“Downbelow Station” was a very good book but necessarily a highly enjoyable one. I can’t imagine there were very many claustrophobic, morally ambiguous, multiple-perspective space opera’s around in 1982. It certainly seems innovative in that regard. It also seemed like the longest 330 page book I have ever read. In the month it took me to read it never became a slog but it was a very dense read that required a lot of focus. It felt like a minor achievement in finishing it.

I am a sucker for any t
Megan Baxter
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the second C.J. Cherryh I've read in the past couple of months. I haven't tried her books since I was a teenager, when I stubbed my toe on one of her other books, found it opaque, and didn't try again. I'm glad I have given her another chance now, but I still find her books a bit, well, not opaque anymore, but a bit distant. Her characters seem kept at a distance from the reader, and that's a bit peculiar. However, under all that, they're really strong science fiction books, and if you c ...more
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t_finish, sci-fi
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
The world of the novel Downbelow Station is a realpolitik science fiction setting which resembles the how of high-level decision-making which has been historically made on Earth. I'm afraid sound-bite cultural intellectualism is not enough to read the book with understanding or 'down below' depth. If you naturally mine news stories for the true story behind the decision, this book is exciting.

Set in 2352, various businesses (which desire for money) and political (which desire for power) interes
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
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
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
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Maggie K
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, sci-fi, hugo-award
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
Sean Sullivan
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
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
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very good, loved it.

Great space opera, plus some wonderful alien life on the planet below. Good pacing and characters, descriptive and clever. One of the best parts of the story is the wonderful, truly beautiful "hisa" species - the aliens on the planet Pell.

Since this was written originally in 1980-81, the computer and technology "of the future" is very dated (with printouts being used etc), but this is still a great story, worth reading.

... Wish there were more of C.J. Cherryh "Alliance Uni
Margaret Sankey
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
They nodded, parted company, each to his own ship, and there was a peculiar flavor to the parting as well... that when next they met, they would be fewer. “See you in hell,” Chenel muttered, and Porey grinned.

Going in, I knew this was one of Cherryh's best-regarded books, and a Hugo winner, and the anchorpoint for the whole Company Wars/Alliance-Union/merchanter series that I love. The opening chapters lay the building blocks and foundations for her universe: covering mankind's expansion from
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Downbelow Station is a station on a planet where furry Native Americ... I mean Aliens live. Above it, there is Pell station, run by an emphatic family, Konstantins. The station is thrust in the middle of Union- Company - Fleet struggle, that leaves Pell with thousands of refugees they manage very poorly, and lack of resources which they try to gather... poorly.

We meet many chracters, of whom I grew to like the captain of Company's ship, and not only because she reminded me of The Chanur Saga. S
Jenny T
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 03, 2014 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.
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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

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)
“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.” 4 likes
“What the visual media could not carry into living rooms, the general public could not long remain exercised about.
Statistically, a majority of the electorate could not or did not read complicated issues;
no pictures, no news; no news, no event; no great sympathy on the part of the public nor sustained interest from the media: safe politics for the Company.”
More quotes…