Downbelow Station was C.J. Cherryh‘s major universe-building work that established the Cyteen, Merchanter, Union context.
As with lots of CJC’s science fiction, I found that there were significant stretches of the book where I felt distanced from the characters, with little visual context. There was a stretch in the middle of the book where it got really engaging, and then it eased back a bit for the big space-battle finale. Given that I read Merchanters Luck before I read this one, it helped to put that story in better context for sure.
I did enjoy picturing Mallory as Cane from the Battlestar Galactica series. She has the right hard edge.
The aliens are nicely done – excellent dialect. ‘Make warm we eyes’.
In some ways I got thinking of Red Mars, etc, by KS Robinson. That helped me throw myself into the political maneuvering and suspense. Also it reminded me even of Star Tide Rising by David Brin… though it’s nowhere near as visual.
You know, if I read this lots of times I might get to liking it more strongly. I certainly built a better visual appreciation of the Foreigner books after reading them umpteen times… but sadly, I just didn’t get into this one as much. And *bang* goes Illisidi’s cane on the floor.