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Downbelow Station

(The Company Wars #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  12,529 ratings  ·  573 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 location—on
Paperback, 426 pages
Published December 2nd 2008 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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Aug 18, 2015 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
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:

I’m finding it difficult to gather into coherent thoughts exactly how and why this novel affected me as powerfully as it did, but I was thoroughly compelled throughout, and ultimately I found it intensely — and surprisingly — moving. This is my first encounter with the incredibly prolific and popular C.J. Cherryh’s work, and it won’t be my last. Her style is highly unusual; she thrusts the reader into the middle of scenes, moments, and places with very little explanation, and she writes in a ...more

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
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
The world of the novel Downbelow Station is realpolitik - a science fiction novel, with a plot which resembles the high-level decision-making historically made on Earth. I'm afraid sound-bite intellectualism is not enough to read this book with 'down below' depth. If, gentle reader, you naturally mine news stories for the true story behind the publicly announced decision, then this book is exciting.

Set in 2352, various businesses (which desire money) and political interests (which desire power)
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
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
... well, no wonder this is a classic. Downbelow Station is a fucking epic, with at least as much in common with the best bloody political fantasy epics as it does with typical military sf and space opera.

The book starts slowly - honestly, the first 40% was a bit of a slog for me. However, although I am often one to complain about extraneous detail an author should have cut, in this case I actually felt that the extended descriptions and world-building in the beginning paid off in emotional
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
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.
Megan Baxter
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, this was 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. Or 3 for the first half and 4 for the 2nd half.

First the good: This world is so deeply realized. It feels very real. We are given glimpses of each POV character’s inner workings and thus understand their motivations for actions, good ones and egotistical ones alike. Anthony Rapp said something in a comment about this book, that really helped distill a good feeling about the scope of this book, which I was having trouble with: Cherryh’s unflinching
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
Jul 11, 2014 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
Maggie K
May 21, 2011 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
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, kindle
I think I would have liked this better if I had read it when it first came out. Unfortunately, it seems that I no longer have a taste for slow-paced space operas.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars, rounded up, cause I guess some of my problems with this book was the not-so-fortunate presentation of the audiobook. The narrator read women and Hisa with childlike voices which made me grind my teeth.

From "Cyteen" I already was prepared for the dry prose and the drawn out talky parts, so after not being able to connect with the characters I just let it flow. Other than Cyteen it took me nearly half of the book to get into the story. It felt a lot like a lecture on social, economic
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
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
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
Margaret Sankey
May 25, 2014 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.
Oh this book is so good! With caveats, but let's get there in a minute.

So. I had reservations going into this book because it was written in the early 80s by a woman who was hiding the fact that she was a woman because of how sexist the field was at the time. So the fact that this book was so good and not horribly, caustically sexist was a huge, huge surprise! In a very good way! Now, a caveat to that is that 90% of the main character POVs in this book (of which there are many) are male. So
Sean Sullivan
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
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.” 3 likes
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