This short story and essay collection contains some of my favorite stories of all time. For example Becalmed in Hell is about a man and his machine partner exploring Venus. It has a very clever psychological twist. Inconstant Moon, which won the Hugo in 1972, is about a couple of people inferring a great disaster on the far side of the world. Epic stuff. Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a hilarious essay about the problems Superman would have mating with the hypothetical woman “LL”. It may be one of the funniest things ever written. You can read it here in its entirety.
While he has written several good novels, Steele is at his best in the shorter forms, and this novelette is no exception. In fact it won the Hugo Award in its category in 2011. This story is both charming and interesting.
Stuck between the “old world” Terrans and the “new world” Union, Downbelow Station struggles to survive in an increasingly hostile universe. The book follows the denizens of the station and their machinations.
This novel won the Hugo Award in 1982 so I was expecting a lot. Sadly, I found it very dull. The story itself is very interesting, as is the setting. Unfortunately I dislike Cherryh’s style. It has been described as “limited third person”, meaning that the author only describes what the current point of view character thinks about. This is different from what the character actually sees, as for example things familiar to the character are ignored. I found that the lack of details stifled the novel, rendering the prose “claustrophobic”, for lack of a better word. A side effect is that events that happened “off stage” are often introduced rather abruptly. Scenes also proceed in fits and starts, jumping from one character to the next without much apparent structure. I gave up after about a third of the book.