Downbelow Station

I love C.J. Cherryh's style, but this is not a novel to be read casually. I recommend you carve out decent chunks of time to absorb this book, concentrate on it. Chapters are divided into sections and each section is told from the third-person point of view of a different character so if you pick at this book over the course of several weeks, you could get lost, forget what who is who and what they've done or had done to them. Cherryh packs a lot of information in tight spaces, sometimes sneaking into the heads of her characters and coming out with a sentence fragment of just a few words but that is intended to convey a thought process, a reaction to events, emotion. It happens quickly and if you aren't paying attention, you can miss these flavorful moments.

There is a large cast of characters in this novel and in the hands of lesser author, many of them could have easily been copies of one another, but Cherryh manages to make each of them distinct and clearly establishes their reason for existing in the story. Some are motivated to do what's right, some by personal gain, some by something they haven't quite figured out.

I enjoy Cherryh's vision of the future. It is messy, hazardous, lived in. Conditions on the station and on starships feel cramped, sweaty, and uncomfortable. These are not crisp, clean places with flawless machinery and on-station shopping malls full of viewing decks with gorgeous views of the stars. People die and when it happens it is quick and without fanfare. There is no slow-motion scene of them falling to the ground while those around them scream "Noooooooooo!" It just happens and that's that. And I love Cherryh for it. Her world feels real.