Friday, September 2, 2011

Future History: Downbelow Station

C.J. Cherryh writes intensely convincing stories of things and places far in the future, with the immediacy of good histories although a bit heavy on overwrought and desperate young adults.  Not teenagers, real young adults struggling to deal with rapidly changing situations and demands, and operating with incomplete understandings of the situations, so that the reader also has to fit together what is happening and how.

Downbelow Station is a prime example of this; the first chapter gives a rapid overview of decades of history before plunging into a hot point of change, with refugees pushing the space station to its limit while many different factions strive to survive or prevail.  There are obvious villains and probably heroes, but also grey areas with people choosing among poor options.  It's a rather demanding book, as Cherryh keeps in the minds and fears of the characters, who are too busy with their own lives to stop and muse over the past few years of history leading them to this point.  One character even has a memory wipe to underscore how little information he can provide; everything he knows he learns from experience, and the reader picks up the pieces along with Tulley.  I love this sort of thing, so I'm a big Cherryh fan in general.  I've read this before, so I did this reread backwards and very slowly, which is not at all the best way to approach the dense, chaotic tapestry of this book, but even in small bites it grabbed me and held my attention.

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