Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

Cherryh takes us into a future in which Earth has established colonies in deep space—some are stations orbiting stars, some are stations orbiting planets. Over the centuries, as colonies have extended further into “The Beyond”, conflicts have developed. No longer the only livable planet, Earth has lost its importance as an anchor to its colonies—Earth Company, aka “The Company” has lost its influence. The Union, a faction first formed on the outskirts of the colonies, is extending its influence Earthward, taking one station after another. The Fleet, once the enforcement arm of The Company, now acts largely according to its own directives.

The Company and the Union have been at war for some time—and The Fleet is quite willing to destroy inhabited stations in order to keep them from falling into Union control. Caught in the middle of the war are The Merchanters and of course the stations. The Merchanters regard themselves as separate from both Union and Company—they only wish to haul goods between worlds and stations without interference. The stations fear both the controlling Union and the ruthless Fleet.

Downbelow Station begins with the chaos caused by the arrival of too many refugees on an already-crowded station. It’s a bit slow-going at first as we are introduced to the various players—keep reading! The pace picks up dramatically once the battle for Pell begins.

As a work of political science fiction, Downbelow Station is quite good—Cherryh realistically illustrates the economic and ideological forces that lead groups of people to oppose one another—she avoids simplistic portrayals of good and evil.

Downbelow Station is the foundation for Cherryh’s Union-Alliance novels. Each novel in the ‘series’ is complete in itself; however, together they are part of a story spanning 5,000 years. Downbelow Station received the Hugo Award in 1982.

For more on the Union-Alliance novels, please visit http://www.cherryh.com/www/univer.htm#Alliance-Union .

For more on the Hugo Award, please visit http://www.thehugoawards.org/

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